TORONTO – John Gibbons is in position to become longest-tenured and winningest manager in Toronto Blue Jays history after reaching agreement on a two-year contract extension that includes a club option for 2020.
The deal, described to Sportsnet as basically finished by an industry source, keeps the 54-year-old coming off consecutive trips to the American League Championship Series from entering the 2017 season with lame-duck status, and now gives him three guaranteed contract years at the helm.
Gibbons heads into 2017 with a 644-614 career mark as Blue Jays manager and should he finish out all three of those years, he’d surpass Cito Gaston’s 1,731 games managed late in the final month of the 2019 season.
Gaston’s 894 wins are also in range, but the Blue Jays will need to remain a power in the American League East for that to happen over the next three years.
Word that the sides were nearing a multi-year agreement first filtered out Tuesday via a report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Speaking to reporters after a 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Gibbons said: “It’s common knowledge we’ve been talking about things. We’ve made progress. Hopefully it all falls into place. These guys have been good to me. I have no complaints.”
The extension cements Gibbons’ place not only in franchise history, but also with the current front office of president and CEO Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, who inherited him from former GM Alex Anthopoulos.
The initial perception was that Gibbons would make an easy sacrifice at the first hint of trouble, but over the course of the 2016 season, he won over his new bosses. Before the Blue Jays were eliminated by Cleveland in Game 5 of the ALCS last October, Shapiro told Sportsnet: “There’s a level of consistency with him in approach that is unflappable and I think that translates into toughness. He’s the same guy and in a role like this, when people tend to go with the wind and get so impacted by the emotion that flies all around us, that stability, that strength and that toughness from a leader is a real asset.”
“There’s no panic,” Shapiro continued. “He believes in the talent, he believes in his players, he believes in the process and he believes in all the work that’s been done to date. That gives us confidence, that gives the players confidence and the belief to hold true to the bigger picture. That’s a separator.”
The sides first discussed an extension after the season but agreed to shelve the matter during what was an especially busy off-season for the Blue Jays. At the beginning of spring training, both sides expressed confidence that they would be able to complete an agreement before opening day.
Gibbons is in his second stint as manager of the Blue Jays, getting rehired by Anthopoulos ahead of the 2013 season after John Farrell was traded to the Boston Red Sox. He’s 339-309 over the past four seasons.
Former GM J.P. Ricciardi was first to hire Gibbons, naming him interim manager when Carlos Tosca was fired after an 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Aug. 8, 2004. The interim tag was removed after the season and he remained manager until he was fired on June 20, 2008, with the Blue Jays 35-39.
Gaston replaced Gibbons and served as manager until his retirement after the 2010 season, when Farrell took over.