Ross Atkins Addresses Blue Jays Offseason

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins addressed reporters following the team’s playoff exit at the hands of the Mariners. With a manager still holding the interim tag, a young core that’s getting more and more expensive, and veterans dealing with injuries there’s plenty of question marks going into the offseason in Toronto.

Atkins didn’t make any firm commitments at manager just yet. Asked about the status of interim skipper John Schneider, Atkins noted that it would be “very difficult for us to find better than [him]” but cautioned he “wants more time to work through the (hiring) process” (via Julia Kreuz of The Jays fired Charlie Montoyo in July with the team 46-42. Schneider was handed the team through the end of the season, and the Jays went 46-28 with him at the helm. While the improvement under Schneider is evident, the team did still fall well short of expectations in the playoffs. Atkins and his front office staff certainly wouldn’t rule Schneider out because of two games, and there’d seem to be a good chance he’s retained, but he wasn’t prepared to make any move at this point.

On the playing side, Atkins seemed to indicate running back the current core to be the best path to a championship for the team. The GM both downplayed any urgency to make a core-altering trade and indicated the club had laid the groundwork in extension talks with some core players in hopes of further discussions this offseason (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). Atkins didn’t divulge any specifics, but it stands to reason players like Alek Manoah, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette would fit into that group. Guerrero has three more seasons of arbitration control but is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $14.1MM next year after qualifying for early arbitration as a Super Two player in 2021. Bichette is projected for $6.1MM in his first year of eligibility and is likewise controllable through 2025. Manoah is controllable through 2027 and not yet arbitration eligible, although he’s likely to qualify for Super Two at the end of next season.

Atkins was non-committal on how active the Jays will be in free agency, but Nicholson-Smith mentions they’re expected to pursue starting pitching help. Kevin Gausman is a lock to lead the rotation, but Jose Berrios struggled to a 5.23 ERA in 2022, while Yusei Kikuchi pitched his way out of the rotation with a 5.19 ERA. Berrios will get a chance to turn things around in 2023, while Kikuchi is expected to get another crack at pitching out of the rotation next year. However, Ross Stripling is an impending free agent and Hyun Jin-Ryu will miss most, if not all, of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Atkins also addressed the status of George Springer, who left the Jays final playoff game after colliding with Bichette while pursuing a shallow fly ball. The Jays announced this morning that Springer had sustained a concussion and a strained left shoulder. Atkins indicated today that Springer also has a bone spur in his right elbow and could undergo offseason surgery (Nicholson-Smith). In any event, the expectation is that he’ll be ready for spring training, although given he’s 33 with a checkered injury past and declining defensive numbers it’s fair to wonder how long the Jays will count on him as an everyday center fielder.

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