Ross Atkins: ‘Not up to Blue Jays’ whether or not they get Yelich

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins joined Prime Time Sports to talk about the off season, the Christian Yelich chase, and how he sees his starting rotation looking.

The Toronto Blue Jays have made a few moves this off-season, but they have yet to pull off the blockbuster the team’s fan base seems to desire.

With a clear need in the outfield, the Blue Jays have been linked to the Miami MarlinsChristian Yelich in recent days. A trade for Yelich would fit the bill as an aforementioned blockbuster, but the acquisition cost would surely be steep.

Speaking on Sportsnet 590’s Prime Time Sports Tuesday, Toronto general manager Ross Atkins confirmed the Blue Jays are indeed interested in the star outfielder, but tempered expectations by saying every MLB team would love to add a player of Yelich’s calibre.

“All 30 teams are in so it’s not up to the Blue Jays on whether or not we get him,” Atkins said. “We’ll do what we can. We are definitely going to do everything we can to consider how we can make our team better. Yelich is a remarkable talent and he’s going to impact the Marlins or whoever he’s playing for in a significant way.

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Yelich, 26, has posted a combined nine wins above replacement with his bat over the past two seasons and is under team control through the 2022 season. Miami would certainly be seeking a large haul in return as the team undergoes another rebuild under new ownership.

Acquiring that type of player would bolster the Blue Jays but even if it’s not a Yelich trade, Atkins is confident Toronto will have a better lineup come opening day with improvements ideally coming on the mound in addition to the outfield.

“We need to improve our outfield, we need to improve our pitching and which one of those two will largely depend on the acquisition cost,” Atkins said. “Hopefully it’s both. I think realistically it will be; we’ll improve in both of those areas. Which one is more important? Probably the outfield. We will almost certainly make moves to improve the organization and improve the team. To say it will absolutely be at this position and will look like X, Y and Z isn’t necessarily the best strategy for us. We need to stay open-minded and think about all our alternatives.”

With blue-chip prospects like Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., at the top, the Blue Jays have built up a deep farm system that allows them to trade from the minor leagues without stripping the cabinet bare. That pipeline, combined with approximately $20 million of remaining payroll to play with, gives Atkins and the Blue Jays opportunities to explore options through both trades and free agency.

“Fortunately we have the option to do both [spend and trade],” Atkins said. “We have a very good farm system that’s not the best but it’s nearing. We see our system as being in the top third. We have the ability to make trades. We’ve made a couple and feel like we haven’t hurt our farm system terribly by making those moves and have control in both players we’ve acquired; they’re not one-year players. We’ll continue to look to do that.

“If you’re trading for control then you’re willing to give up more, obviously depending on upside.