DUNEDIN, Fla. – Given the chance to address Jose Bautista’s aggressive negotiation stance and a second failed attempt to acquire outfielder Jay Bruce, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins decided to punt Tuesday morning.
The gist of his 10-minute availability with media before the club’s workout was that he has no comment on either front.
Also, he really likes Bautista, the all-star right-fielder who revealed Monday that he’d named his price and won’t negotiate off it, as well as Michael Saunders, part of a proposed three-team deal with the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels that reportedly fell apart over a prospect’s medicals.
Basically, the message was carry on, nothing to see here.
"What I can say is we’re really glad that Jose is here, love the fact that he’s a Blue Jay, and beyond that, I can’t comment on negotiations," Atkins said in regards to Bautista. "There’s really nothing we can say and there’s really nothing more to it than that."
As for the potential trade, he said: "There are a lot of trade rumours, there are a lot of trade discussions, we have them constantly. And there’s really nothing I can comment on about them."
Despite that, what’s clear is that the Blue Jays like Bruce, a left-handed batter who’s hit at least 20 homers in seven of his eight big-league seasons, and enjoyed his best years when Brook Jacoby, the current hitting coach in Toronto, was in the same role with the Reds.
In the past Bruce had the Blue Jays on his no-trade list but changed that this past off-season and is said to have been very excited about the possibility of heading north. It would have happened but there were concerns over a Blue Jays prospect involved in the trade, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Word that the sides were working on a deal filtered out Monday night, and Atkins said that his first thought was about Saunders, who would have been sent to the Angels.
"I immediately communicate with him and say, ‘Hey man, I’m here for you, is everything OK, is there anything I can do for you, do you need anything?’" said Atkins. "And he was fine, he was great."
Saunders said he spoke with both Atkins and John Gibbons and appreciated their reassurances.
"That’s kind of the human element of it, they made sure I wasn’t paying any attention to the rumours and they assured me they’re just rumours and nothing more," he said. "I expect to be a Jay, they expect me to be a Jay, and that’s how I’m approaching this spring training. Going into this season I want to be every bit a part of bringing a championship to Toronto."
As for his feelings as the process unfolded: "I can look at this in one of two ways: Pay heed to it, not come into work today and kind of mope and worry, but I’m trying to be professional and like I said, I’m a Blue Jay, I’m here to work, help bring a championship to Toronto and that’s where I want to be."
In terms of Bautista, Atkins praised his slugger repeatedly, saying "all of my interactions with Jose have been incredible, I love being around the guy, I love talking baseball with him, I love to hear him talking about his career, it gets me fired up. But in relation to the negotiation, out of respect for him, out of respect for the Blue Jays organization, we just can’t get into the specifics of it."
He also shot down a question suggesting Bautista’s situation had cast a cloud over the team.
"To me it’s not a cloud, to me really it’s clear we’ve had really clear, effective communication and there is no ambiguity," said Atkins. "We can focus on playing baseball, Jose feels good about doing that. Relative to a negotiation, to me it doesn’t need to be public, and it won’t be from our end."