Gm of the Toronto Blue Jays, Ross Atkins, addressed the media and touched on what his club will do moving forward this winter.
It was an early than hoped for exit from the 2016 season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Fans have once again felt the taste of a contending team, but also the bitterness that comes from not winning it all. Once again, we’ll have to sit through a winter wondering how this club will set about improving on the success of the last 2 years.
To answer some of that, Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins spoke with media this afternoon and touched on some key points. So, as well as my fingers could keep up, here are the notes from his conference:
On a personal note, it would appear that Atkins has been touched by the support that fans have shown the club, not just in attendance, which led the AL, but through television as well. What had an even bigger impact on him was the crowds he would see in visiting parks. Think about the trip to Seattle and how many screaming fans were there. Perhaps not on the same scale, but it was like that everywhere. He says, “It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced”
Whether that translates into increased revenue remains to be seen. When asked about the “P” word, he mentioned that his team is currently formulating a plan to present to ownership and it is not clear if, and by how much, payroll will increase. But, there were some signs that you can expect money to not hinder the club. “We’re in the process of putting together a plan to ownership. We’ve had nothing but support form Rogers and we’re optimistic about pushing the needle forward” With regards to payroll: “I would expect that our presentation has an element of increased payroll…[pause]…it has the potential.” He later said: “TV ratings, etc is a testament to the fans. I can’t say enough about that. Gibby has done a good job of creating a good clubhouse, the fans, the attendance and the fact that we travel well is attractive to not only returning guys, but also free agents.”
When trying to decide exactly what their targets are, Atkins left a lot of room for possibilities. “We have an incredible core to build around. We’re returning our starting pitching. We’re open to R.A. Dickey, even. We’re not turning our backs on anyone. There aren’t many GMs that wouldn’t sign up for the opportunity we have right now.” When asked about a relatively weak market, Atkins touted the club’s position with starting pitchers being an area of strength for them, which could help them avoid spending high on the ever expensive pitching side of things. “We’re in a good position because of our starting rotation, which is a difficult place to add, especially how the market presents.”
Of course, the bullpen will feature some decisions for the club. As of right now, Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit all appear to be leaving. For Grilli, the club can pick up his $3M option, which “is as close to a no brainer as you can get.” So, that is one item checked off the list. Grilli wants to return, the club calls it a no brainer. Check. As for Benoit, that “will depend on his interest and everything else we have to consider.”
On top of the bullpen, the Blue Jays will have a long list of things to do. And, we can assume that addressing Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion would be at the top of that list. Atkins says as much: “We’ll have a strategy meeting and a presentation shortly after. Having conversations with guys we can talk with is at the top of the list. There isn’t one player that played here this year that I haven’t had contact with.”
#BlueJays will qualify both EE and Bautista barring something unforeseen per Ross Atkins
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) October 24, 2016
When asked about his lineup, Atkins downplayed the need for balance, even tough everyone and their dog, including manager, John Gibbons is asking for lefty hitting, speed, etc. Instead, Atkins expressed that to win, you need to score more runs and allow fewer. If you do that, you will win. “It’s our job to give John Gibbons the tools necessary. It is his job to collaborate with us to make the right decisions. Regardless of splits, health, confidence, etc go into how a player will perform that day. The more alternatives you have to do that, the better. But, that’s our job as baseball management. Idealistically, the more balance you have the better, but at what cost? If you have production, that’s the main thing. It comes down to scoring runs and preventing runs. There’s ideal and what your opportunities really are.”
In the spirit of preventing runs, Atkins addressed the need for defense: “When you are comfortable with what is behind you, it impacts the pitcher. The value of defense, I can’t speak enough to. It is a huge reason why this team had the success it did. What Russell Martin meant to the pitching staff in game calling, creating an effective strike zone, controlling the running game. There is not confidence in the league that you can steal off Martin.” Speaking of defense, Atkins also added that he would consider Bautista as an option to play in the outfield, “I think he can be a viable outfielder for the forseeable future. Good decision maker”
When asked about John Gibbons, Atkins continued the club’s line of supporting the manager. In all honesty, there is so much love being thrown Gibby’s way, it could actually make for a less comfortable feeling, rather than what it is intended to do. Regardless, Atkins says there is “an incredible amount of trust among us. Couldn’t have imagined it going any better. [Gibby] is always steady and consistent. Collaborative in decision making. Not shortsighted in game and from a leadership standpoint. We’re mutually motivated to work together.”
It might be best to end this with the response on what the GM learned about himself. “Things you knew were important, but didn’t know just how important. The importance of having a good team around you. Those are things I feel even stronger about today. This will always be about a team. This is Canada’s team and we’ll need a collective effort to bring a championship to Canada’s team.”
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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