Blue Jays: Ross Atkins comments on big-ticket extensions


Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins joined MLB Radio on Sunday and expressed the organization’s desire to extend Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion

The rioters seem to be receding from the gates surrounding the Blue Jays front office after Friday’s Drew Storen deal, perhaps due to both exhaustion and a realization that the new regime prefers winning to the other option. On Sunday, general manager Ross Atkins spoke with the crew on MLB Radio about the Blue Jays two biggest contractual question marks: Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

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Much like the average takeaway from a scheduled press conference, remarks on contract situations such as these can often be taken as vanilla. A politically correct or “right” answer at the time. Atkins did express a more determined or pro-active stance than I’d expected, however, so does this mean something concrete for the negotiations going forward?

If anything, it means there’s a pulse, and that’s worth something. Blue Jays fans have quickly grown tired of the more business-like vocabulary featured by the new regime, something that Atkins’ interview wasn’t completely void of.

“What we’ve been focused on to date is how do we make this team better without sacrificing our future,” Atkins began, but thankfully he took a more direct approach to each individual case.

Atkins said that the team has spent time with Encarnacion in person, something we knew back closer to the MLB Winter Meetings in December, and that they have spoken over the phone with Jose Bautista. In fact, the organization plans to meet with Bautista at some point next week.

“Would we like to have them here longterm? Absolutely,” Atkins continued, but did suggest that these conversations have centered around establishing a value and expressing their desire to negotiate. To this point no formal offers have hit the table, and that’s unlikely to happen quickly.

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What this does show, however, is that Shapiro, Atkins et al are looking to get out ahead of this situation if at all possible. This is a good thing, regardless of whether the end result is positive or negative for the Blue Jays. Allowing either situation to play out naturally over time while the new president and general manager continue to acclimate themselves would be a mistake, and could potentially hamstring the Blue Jays in other areas of their decision making.

Essentially, these conversations should establish the dollars for Toronto. Encarnacion’s situation could come to a head earlier than Bautista’s due to his Spring Training deadline, but if the club has a mental number and term for each, that can factor in to other decisions. For example, a potential pre-season or in-season addition can then be met with the more fact-based assessment of: “If we take on Player X for Y term, there will no longer be room for the contract structure we know Jose Bautista is seeking.” It’s no guarantee that this comes into play, but the more information this front office has, the better.

It also shows some level of commitment, or at least seriousness, to the players themselves. That they are still a priority despite the change in the faces across the table. So while Atkins’ comments may not raise the likelihood of extensions, they do give the situation some potential for improvement over the coming months. Baby steps.