The Blue Jays have signed general manager Ross Atkins to a contract extension, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports. The exact length of the deal is unknown, but it’ll keep Atkins in place through “at least” the 2020 campaign, according to Nicholson-Smith.
Toronto’s in its fourth season with Atkins, a former Indians executive who joined the Blue Jays in December 2015. He assumed his post a few months after the Blue Jays hired Mark Shapiro as their president. Atkins and Shapiro previously worked together in Cleveland, and they were at the helm of a Toronto franchise which earned a playoff berth in their first season at the controls. The Blue Jays, who were coming off an American League Championship Series bid in the prior season, made it back to the ALCS in Atkins’ first year with the franchise. However, they’ve gone into a rebuild since and are all but guaranteed to extend their playoff drought to three years in 2019.
In the Jays’ first four offseasons under their current regime, they made noteworthy free-agent investments in J.A. Happ, Kendrys Morales, Marco Estrada, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Jose Bautista, Steve Pearce, Jaime Garcia, Curtis Granderson and Freddy Galvis. Each of those players secured at least $5MM in guaranteed money, but as you’d expect with free-agent signings, some of those moves didn’t work out. Gurriel, who was a much-ballyhooed international prospect when the Blue Jays signed him, and Galvis are the only players from that group who are on Toronto’s 2019 roster.
Gurriel’s one of many promising young players whom the Jays have developed during Atkins’ run with the organization. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the most obvious example, though he signed with the organization shortly before Atkins and Shapiro came aboard. Seven of the team’s other top 10 prospects at MLB.com – including Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio – have joined the Jays since Atkins did, and the club now boasts one of the majors’ highest-rated farm systems.
Aside from Guerrero and Biggio, all of Toronto’s absolute best prospects are in the minors. It’s anyone’s guess how the team’s big league roster will look when more members of its system start pouring into the majors. Atkins & Co. may ship out key veterans Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Justin Smoak and Ken Giles this summer, as all are potentially valuable trade chips with dwindling club control. With the exception of Giles, whom Toronto acquired from Houston last summer for disgraced closer Roberto Osuna, all of those players were in the organization well before Atkins came on the scene. He did help oversee a shrewd extension for Smoak in 2016, though.
In other notable moves under Atkins, the Jays acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk in a January 2018 trade with the Cardinals, picked up righty Trent Thornton in a deal with the Astros last November, and sent third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Indians last August. To this point, the five-year, $52MM extension the Blue Jays gave Grichuk in April ranks as the largest financial commitment they’ve made to a player since Atkins’ hiring.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.