TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays named longtime Cleveland Indians executive Ross Atkins the sixth full-time general manager in team history Thursday, choosing him over finalist Tony LaCava to succeed Alex Anthopoulos under new president and CEO Mark Shapiro.
LaCava, a member of Toronto’s front office since October 2002, had been serving as interim GM and received a promotion to senior vice-president of baseball operations and assistant general manager.
He’ll remain an integral part of the club’s decision-making process and given the timing of Atkins’ hiring, can be expected to act as the point man at next week’s winter meetings in Nashville, and probably through the rest of the winter, too.
That will give Atkins, who gets the title executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager, some time to get up to speed with the organization, thrown for a loop when Anthopoulos declined an extension in October, citing concerns over the “fit” with Shapiro.
Other appointments in the coming weeks are likely as the Blue Jays continue to build out the front office in the coming weeks. None of that would have been possible until the GM was in place.
Atkins will be introduced during a news conference Friday morning at Rogers Centre, where he’ll discuss his plans for the defending American League East champions. The team faces numerous short- and long-term challenges, from fortifying the bullpen and addressing the team’s bench, to deciding the long-term fates of walk-year stars like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Atkins, a 42-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., has a long resume in player development, a strong breeding ground for general managers because countless decisions and evaluations must be made on players, coaches and staff. He also has experience in Latin America, an area the Blue Jays plan to continue prioritizing despite international director Ismael Cruz’s departure for the Dodgers.
A right-handed pitcher who spent five seasons in the Indians system before topping out at double-A, he’d been expected to join the Blue Jays in some capacity under Shapiro, as the two became close in Cleveland.
Atkins served as vice-president of player personnel in 2015, helping negotiate big-league deals, working on arbitration cases, dealing with roster-management issues and participating in off-season planning. Prior to that, he worked in the club’s player development department as a director from 2007-10 and vice-president from 2011-14.
Players developed under his watch include Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Kyle Crockett, Tyler Holt, T.J. House, Jason Kipnis, Roberto Perez, Jose Ramirez and Danny Salazar.
The bilingual Atkins ran Cleveland’s Latin American operations department from 2004-06, and worked under John Farrell, the former Blue Jays manager, from 2001-03 as the assistant director of player development.
Peter Bavasi, who held the title in name only in 1977, Pat Gillick, Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi preceded Anthopoulos as Blue Jays general managers.