The last time Alex Anthopoulos attended Major League Baseball's General Managers Meetings, he was out of work, having just resigned as GM of the Blue Jays in the aftermath of a front-office makeover in which Mark Shapiro came over from the Indians to oversee the team's baseball operations.
Anthopoulos stopped by, however, to be recognized as the Sporting News Executive of the Year, voted on by his peers, for having overseen the rebuilding of a Blue Jays franchise that was coming off a late-season rush to claim the 2015 American League East title and advance to the postseason for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992 and '93.
Anthopoulos returned to the Meetings on Monday. And this time, he has a mission: He was announced earlier in the day as the new GM of the Braves, assigned to help a franchise that has what is considered one of the best farm systems in baseball.
The hiring comes 27 years after the Braves went outside the organization to hire GM John Schuerholz, who took over a franchise with a loaded farm system but recent big league struggles then embarked on a run of 14 consecutive first-place division championships, a pro sports record. Schuerholz was able to fine-tune the foundation built by predecessor Bobby Cox, who moved from the front office back to the dugout.
The Braves are counting on Anthopoulos to do the same thing he did in Toronto, where he never shied away from making headline-grabbing deals. In that division-winning season of 2015, he left no doubt about his focus when he made late-July deals that brought in David Price to fill out the rotation, Troy Tulowitzki to stabilize the middle infield and LaTroy Hawkins to provide a veteran influence in the bullpen.
In an era when teams have seemed more focus on hiring young lieutenants with an analytics focus, Anthopoulos is an outlier. He is a previous GM who has a background more similar to Schuerholz than the new breed.
Oh, Anthopoulos embraces analytics, having spent the past two seasons as the Dodgers' vice president of baseball operations. But he also values traditional scouting. In his five-year stint with the Blue Jays, Anthopoulos built the organization's scouting staff to 54, the largest in MLB.
Like Schuerholz, Anthopoulos never played pro ball, but he had a special affection for the sport and was determined to find a way to be a part of the game.
Anthopoulos broke into baseball with the Montreal Expos in 2000 as an unpaid intern who sorted the fan mail sent to players. However, he took advantage of the opportunity he had and sat with the scouts during games, watching, listening, asking questions and taking notes. By 2002, Anthopoulos was the Expos' scouting coordinator, and by the time he departed late in 2003, he had become the assistant scouting director.
Anthopoulos joined the Blue Jays as the team's scouting coordinator, and two years later, he became the assistant GM. In October 2009, he became the GM after the team fired J.P. Ricciardi, and the young Anthopoulos showed quickly he wasn't afraid to make bold moves.
Knowing the Blue Jays needed to undergo a rebuild, Anthopoulos dealt the late Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and in January 2011, he moved the popular Vernon Wells and the $86 million he was due over the next four seasons to the Angels.
Once Anthopoulos felt the Blue Jays had a nucleus in place, he also showed he was willing to make bold moves to add key players, beginning with trades that brought third baseman Josh Donaldson from the A's and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who had just won the National League Cy Young Award with the Mets.
And then in July 2015, with Toronto a game below .500 (50-51), Anthopoulos went into full-speed-ahead mode, making the non-waiver Trade Deadline deals that sparked a 43-18 season-ending surge, allowing the Jays to jump over the Yankees and claim the AL East title.
It was Anthopoulos' final activity in Toronto. But it opened the door for him to enjoy an encore, and he'll get it in Atlanta.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.