TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays quietly extended the contract of Ross Atkins recently, a move that will keep him in place as general manager beyond the current season.
The Blue Jays named Atkins the seventh GM in franchise history on December 3, 2015, at which point he signed a four-year deal that ran through 2019. While specifics of the new extension aren’t known, it covers at least the 2020 season.
When contacted, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro declined to comment on the contract status of any front office employees.
Shapiro joined the Blue Jays on a five-year deal running through the 2020 season while manager Charlie Montoyo signed a three-year deal through 2021 with a club option.
With Atkins as GM, the Blue Jays have undergone significant transition in a relatively short period of time. In 2016 they reached the ALCS before losing to Cleveland. In 2017-18 injuries and poor performances undermined potential contenders and led to the trades of Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar and others.
As for the 2019 Blue Jays, they’re clearly a team geared toward the future with a 23-38 record entering play Thursday and an offence that ranks 27th among the 30 teams in runs scored.
Evidently there’s lots of work ahead, but beneath the surface the Blue Jays’ farm system has improved considerably in recent years. Baseball America ranked the Blue Jays’ farm system third in MLB before the season thanks in part to players such as Bo Bichette, Nate Pearson and Cavan Biggio, all of whom were drafted with Atkins as GM.
At the big-league level, Atkins has acquired controllable big-leaguers including Teoscar Hernandez (for Francisco Liriano), Trent Thornton (for Aledmys Diaz), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (for $22 million), Randal Grichuk (for Dominic Leone and Conner Greene) and Joe Biagini (Rule 5 Draft). In each case, the Blue Jays added talent without giving up much.
Other deals will go down as misses. The three-year, $33 million contract for Kendrys Morales falls into that category, as does Jaime Garcia’s one-year, $10 million deal. In hindsight, the Blue Jays’ return for Donaldson (Julian Merryweather) also looks light.
In general Atkins has spent conservatively as GM, and the Blue Jays now have little on the books in the way of long-term commitments. To this point, Grichuk’s $52 million extension represents the biggest commitment yet.
Behind the scenes, the Blue Jays have also added extensively to their analytics, player development and high performance staff during Atkins’ tenure as GM.