For years as Blue Jays fans we’ve been waiting for a leadership group that was a little more candid. Lately, Ross Atkins has been exactly that.
There hasn’t been a lot going on in the world of the Toronto Blue Jays over the last few weeks, but that hasn’t stopped Ross Atkins from grabbing a few headlines this week.
First it was discussion about the future of Troy Tulowitzki and whether the Jays can rely on him for anything going forward. Atkins said what we were all thinking, but it was surprising to hear him admit out loud that he doesn’t think it’s realistic to expect the 5x All-Star to be able to play at an above-average level for 140 games.
Then came the questions about the futures of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, both of whom feel a lot less certain than what we can expect from the rest of Tulowitzki’s career. Each starter has just two years of contract control remaining with the Jays, and realistically each/either would need to be extended in order to be around by the next time this team is truly competitive.
I don’t think that scenario has been taken off the table just yet, and it’s smart if the Blue Jays keep their options open over the next couple of seasons. It’s hard to say how valuable either pitcher will be in a couple years from now, as each have flashed front of the rotation potential, but also greatly disappointed at times. Sanchez in particular has thrown just over 140 innings over the last two years while dealing with chronic issues with his pitching hand. There are a lot of variables at play here.
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Which is part of why it was so surprising to hear Atkins openly admit that either of his holdover starters could be had on the trade market, for the right price of course.
There’s nothing wrong with that statement being true, but I’m not sure how I feel about it being said publicly like this, at this time. While Sanchez has been very quiet about his upcoming free agency in recent years, Stroman has expressed a great passion for the organization and an interest in sticking around. I’m not sure that he would love Atkins talking about how the team could conceivably trade him.
Which takes us back to the whole being candid thing. I absolutely appreciate that Atkins is willing to be honest with the fan base, even in his assessment of when he sees the team being back in a competitive window. But I think he may have benefitted from biting his tongue a bit on this one, as it’s usually been done in Toronto in the past. Maybe Stroman won’t care, or it’s something that the two men have already discussed, but it just seems like weird timing.
In 2019 the Blue Jays will hope for bounce back years from both Stroman and Sanchez, and if they do pitch well enough to warrant being a part of the future of this team, there’s good reason the Blue Jays could enjoy an extra year of exclusive negotiating rights. At this stage, I’d likely be angling to make the players feel good about their standing in Toronto, and as a part of the successful build of this roster. Even if there are no plans to extend either pitcher, there’s no reason to lean that way now.
Like I said, I’m not sure how I feel about this one, mostly because I do appreciate a little more honesty from the Blue Jays’ front office. However, I hope that Stroman didn’t see those quotes and file it away for future negotiations, either in arbitration, extension talks, or his eventual free agency. If anything, I’d already be working on selling him (them) about the future and why he should stick around for a lot more than two years.