Ross Atkins made several quotable statements on Thursday’s appearance with Pitch Talks, and we had a chance to learn an lot about his philosophy about roster building, free agency, and much more.
If you’re not familiar with it, Pitch Talks is a pretty neat concept that puts notable sports figures in front of groups of fans for live interviews. On their Twitter account they call it, “a touring interactive baseball event built for fans”, and it’s worth checking out if you get the chance.
For Blue Jays fans, Thursday’s event was all that more interesting because the main guest was Ross Atkins, and he wasn’t shy on providing noteworthy quotes for those in attendance, and also for those who caught up through social media. In fact, it’s worthy checking out the tweets that Pitch Talks released throughout the event, and even the ensuing reaction from Blue Jays fans after reading it.
There were a lot of things said that are worth addressing, but let’s look at a couple of the big ones:
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1- They’ve already discussed dollar figures internally re: Josh Donaldson
This was something that many of us speculated had happened, but we didn’t really know for sure. It’s hard to say whether or not they’ve relayed those figures to Donaldson and his agent at this point, but you’d think the discussions will happen sooner than later, if they haven’t already.
Things could change a great deal this season, whether it’s the Blue Jays’ outlook for the short term future, Donaldson’s performance and health, or even the growth of their minor leaguers. I know it sounds silly to think that a 19 year old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could factor into a decision about Donaldson’s future, but some of these kids are going to tear through the system faster than we bargain for, and it’s a real factor.
It would appear that Donaldson and his agent, as well as the Blue Jays, are comfortable heading into the season without an extension in place. While it would be nice to have some certainty with that massive upcoming decision, it also buys both parties more time to assess things and make an informed decision.
2. Atkins has considered Guerrero and Donaldson being on the same roster
When asked what he would do with Vlad Jr or Donaldson if they were both on the MLB roster at the same time (they’re both third baseman), Atkins gave the right answer if you ask me. First of all he mentioned that the “problem” wouldn’t be a bad thing, and that it wouldn’t mean one would have to sit on the bench.
Atkins mentioned that Guerrero could be positioned elsewhere until Donaldson got closer to the twilight of his career, and perhaps moved to first base or designated hitter. There have been plenty of scouts who have openly wondered if Guerrero would end up a corner outfielder or first baseman anyway, so perhaps that “problem” works itself out by the time Guerrero hits the big leagues.
3. Atkins dropped a dozy of a statement about free agency
When asked about his philosophy around free agency and the way things have played out this offseason, Atkins comments were pretty straight to the point, and will likely be heard in most circles around the game. He said, “….the trend of overpaying a player’s aging curves has come to an end across baseball”, in among other things, and that statement alone seems to ring true.
We’ve watched nearly an entire offseason go by and yet we’re still waiting for some of the best player’s on the market to find their next contract. Guys like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and more have waited things out until just weeks before pitchers and catchers report. That says something about the state of free agency in Major League Baseball.
Whether that’s just his philosophy or it actually rings true for all front offices across baseball, the statement will be noticed by other clubs, and likely the player’s union. Not that he’s going to get in trouble for stating the obvious, but things are starting to get testy in the MLBPA office as spring training draws near, and regardless of how true it might be Atkins’ statement is a bit of salt in the wound.
For Blue Jays fans, it’s something we already know when it comes to Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, that they’re not fond of overpaying for veterans. That was the case under the last leadership group and their rule of keeping free agency contracts to five years or less, so it’s nothing new for baseball fans in Canada. Now that the game is evolving more that way as well, maybe Atkins’ comments and viewpoints will be viewed more “savvy” than “cheap”.
We definitely learned a few things about his viewpoints on Thursday, however you happen to feel about them.