With the World Series on hiatus as teams traveled to New York ahead of Friday's Game 3, managers and front office types took center stage Thursday.
The biggest and most surprising news came out of Toronto, where Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, architect of the Jays' roster that this season made its first postseason appearance since 1993, announced his intention to leave the organization. In a release, Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers said Anthopoulos turned down a five-year contract extension prior to exiting. Anthopoulos had been the team's general manager since October 2009.
The move came as a shock to many. Fresh off an ALCS appearance, the future is bright in Toronto for the first time in decades. The club will retain many of its core pieces from the 2015 squad, and young pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna should continue to get better in the coming years.
What makes the timing even more noteworthy is that Anthopoulos left the organization on the same day that he was named MLB Executive of the Year by the Sporting News. Anthopoulos made a number of high-profile moves to make the Jays contenders in 2015, trading from a deep farm system to acquire Josh Donaldson before the season and getting Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the trade deadline.
There was some speculation that his willingness to deal from the system led to his departure. The Jays will name Mark Shapiro as their new team president on November 1, and Rick Westhead of The Sports Network cited a source that said Shapiro "scolded" Anthopoulos in their first and only meeting for Anthopoulos' liberality with the team's future.
On Thursday, Anthopoulos said that wasn't the case.
"This decision is solely mine," Anthopoulos said. "Mark gave me every opportunity to return. He was sincere in wanting me back and I sincerely appreciate that as well. I had great discussions with him, great dialogue and I can say the same thing with ownership."
What's next for both sides is uncertain. Shapiro has extensive experience running an organization, including serving as the Indians' general manager from 2001 to 2010, so the organization likely won't be desperate to hire a GM quickly. Anthopoulos, still just 38 years old, will likely have his choice of opportunities in baseball after the Jays' 2015 success.
One potential landing spot for Anthopoulos could be the Marlins, a team that made news on a couple different fronts Thursday.
The worst-kept secret in baseball became a little more public, as Molly Knight of VICE Sports reported the team has hired Don Mattingly as its next manager. The team has been resolute in its intention to wait until after the World Series to announce anything, so Mattingly likely won't be introduced until next week at the earliest.
It ends a strange week for Mattingly, whose departure from the Dodgers last Thursday came as a bit of a surprise. In five seasons with the Dodgers, Mattingly never finished with a losing record and made the postseason in each of the last three years. All of those postseason teams won at least 92 games.
When he's introduced, it will be by a new general manager as well. Dan Jennings, who was the team's GM before ditching his suit for a uniform and becoming the team's manager in May, was let go by the organization on Thursday. The team will have president of baseball operations Michael Hill act as general manager with Jennings gone.
Jennings, like Anthopoulos a respected baseball executive, shouldn't be out of work for long. Just hours after his firing, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that Jennings had "already drawn interest from several teams to be assistant GM." That list likely includes Toronto, which recently had a front office spot open up.
Morneau, Rox Part Ways
Some news affecting players on the field actually happened as well.
The Rockies announced they have declined to pick up their half of Justin Morneau's $9 million mutual option for next season, making him a free agent. Morneau, 34, will try to find a home elsewhere this winter.
The decision came after Morneau was limited to 49 games this past season due to another concussion. Morneau was able to return late in the year, though, and batted .290 with three home runs and nine RBI in September.
It's been that way for Morneau, who has produced when healthy. He played 135 games and won a batting title with the Rockies in 2014, hitting .319/.364/.496 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI. In 2015, Morneau hit .310/.363/.458.
Letting Morneau go was made easier by the emergence of Ben Paulsen. The 28-year-old batted .277/.326/.462 with 11 home runs and 49 RBI in 116 games while making 66 starts at first base. Under team control at a fraction of the cost of Morneau, Paulsen will likely enter 2016 at least as part of a platoon at the position.
For Morneau, he'll likely find a landing spot as well. Multiple concussions have threatened his career, but assuming he can stay on the field -- or, even better, serve as a designated hitter for an American League team -- he still has enough life left in his bat to help a contending club. His days of starting 150 games a year are likely over, but there will likely be multiple teams calling about his availability to serve as a part-time player and premium bench bat.
Quick Hits: In a move that rivaled Anthopoulos' departure from Toronto for shock value, the Padres named Andy Green -- not Rick Sofield or Ron Gardenhire -- as manager Thursday. Green, 38, was most recently the Diamondbacks' third base coach in 2015 and was a two-time Manager of the Year in the Double-A Southern League in 2013 and 2014 ... Daniel Norris, who announced a few weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with cancer on his thyroid, underwent successful surgery and is cancer-free, the pitcher said Thursday. With the malignant growth removed, Norris should be ready when spring training rolls around ... With the series shifting back to a National League park, Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales will not start in Game 3. Morales will almost certainly make a pinch-hitting appearance in each of the three games in New York, assuming the series goes that long ... Mike Maddux will not return to the Rangers as pitching coach next season. Maddux was already receiving interest from other clubs by Thursday afternoon, and he should have his choice of destinations in a similar role ... The Tigers have hired Rich Dubee as their next pitching coach. Dubee, who spent the last few seasons as the Braves' minor league pitching coordinator, replaces Jeff Jones, who retired at season's end ... Edinson Volquez, away from the Royals to attend to his father's death in the Dominican Republic, told teammate Yordano Ventura that he'll be back with the team for Friday's Game 3. Volquez pitched well in Game 1 and isn't slated to start again until a potential Game 5 on Sunday ... Joba Chamberlain, removed from the Royals' 40-man roster earlier this week, elected free agency. He posted a 4.88 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings of relief this year ... Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford has a slight tear in his thumb ligament, an ailment that prematurely ended his Arizona Fall League season. The good news is that Crawford won't require surgery and is expected to be 100 percent by spring.