TORONTO -- Now that president and CEO Mark Shapiro and manager Charlie Montoyo have their contract extensions, GM Ross Atkins is next up for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Ross and I are in active conversations about keeping him here,” Shapiro said during an interview Sunday. “I obviously feel extremely happy about and proud of the job he's done in building out infrastructure and, most importantly probably, acquiring and developing talent, and leading the baseball organization. I see Ross as part of a long-term future here and want him to be here, and that's shared at the ownership level.”
Shapiro signed a five-year extension that runs through the 2025 season back in January, while Atkins revealed last week that the club option for 2022 on Montoyo’s original three-year contract had been exercised.
The Blue Jays gave Atkins a four-year contract in December 2015 when he was hired over Tony LaCava, the assistant general manager named interim GM after Alex Anthopoulos declined an extension. Atkins then signed a two-year extension in 2019 that runs through this year.
The next contract will put Atkins, 47, in position to become the second most tenured general manager in Blue Jays history, behind Hall of Famer Pat Gillick’s 18-year run. J.P. Ricciardi ran the team eight seasons (2002-09), Gord Ash seven (1995-2001) and Anthopoulos six (2010-2015).
Should Shapiro complete his current contract, he’ll become the second-most tenured team president behind Paul Beeston, and at 10 years have the longest consecutive run. He believes such continuity of senior leadership really matters.
“If you look at the most successful sports franchises, there are ones that react year-to-year, season-to-season on fast cycles and they're kind of perpetually spinning,” said Shapiro. “The ones that have the strength and resilience to stick with some stability and continuity, even through the down times, gives those people the ability to make adjustments because things rarely go the way that you think they're going to go. Continuity gives you the ability to course-adjust and to adapt a plan, because a plan will almost certainly have to be adapted and adjusted."
“When you turn it over, it just takes so much time to deal with a new style, a new set of values and new leadership expectations, building trust back again,” he continued. “If you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, if you look at the San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, there's usually a lot of stability at the top. That's a very difficult model to maintain in professional sports, where emotion and momentum factors into so many decisions. But if you have the strength to do it, it usually is a benefit.”
Under Atkins’ watch, the Blue Jays rode a roster largely built by Anthopoulos to the 2016 wild card and a second consecutive appearance in the American League Championship Series, but then steadily declined, leading to a 95-loss teardown in 2019.
The club recovered last year to win a wild-card spot in the expanded playoffs that followed the shortened 60-game season, and over the winter augmented a talented young core by signing George Springer, Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray and Kirby Yates, among other free agents.