It was December 3rd, 2015 that Ross Atkins was named the Toronto Blue Jays executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager. It’s taken all of 3 years and 4 months for Atkins to take the franchise right down to the screws, and create a clean slate for himself and Mark Shapiro to do with as they wish.
There’s been an albatross over Ross Atkins time with the Blue Jays due to the mess that he walked into in Toronto in 2016, with many lengthy veteran contracts on the books, and a farm system depleted from the previous regimes love of trades. That 2016 Blue Jays roster was the oldest one in baseball, and it has been a monumental task for Ross Atkins to flip over that roster for a more youthful one.
However, on the brink of the 2019 regular season, and with no more Alex Anthopoulos era contracts on the books, Ross Atkins should finally be held accountable for what transpires this season and going forward. He should be able to start shaping his vision of what a championship team should look like soon, but that may have to wait a little longer as not enough of our prospect core appear MLB ready yet.
Blue Jays fans are already showing signs of ticket fatigue early on, with the home opener still having many seats available three weeks before the season kicks off. It sparks questions about how strong of a fan base the Blue Jays will even see in 2019 at Rogers Centre.
That may be why we have seen the acquisitions of Bud Norris and Clay Buchholz recently. It gives Ross Atkins another two pieces of tradable talent to bank on for some prospect returns at the deadline. Something he can hold up to the media at the trade deadline and say “Hey, we did something!”.
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It’s going to be hard for Ross Atkins to appease a notoriously fickle fan base during a season when they are not expecting to compete. The media in Toronto are unforgiving, and there will be questions throughout the season about what Blue Jays management will be doing to make the team more competitive. There will be no more excuses about Troy Tulowitzki‘s unmovable contract, or continued “competitive windows” to keep the casual fans distracted from the fact that it’s a full on rebuild this season.
Though this start of full roster accountability for Ross Atkins doesn’t come without some excitement. We should finally get to see the kind of mega deals the Shapiro/Atkins brain trust have in them. Something tells me the stopgap Kendry’s Morales signing from November 2016 isn’t going to go down as Ross Atkins biggest move during his time in Toronto, and Mark Shapiro himself went on the record last November stating:
"“I’m 100 per cent confident that when we say the foundation is there, that we need to spend and surround these players with other players, that the support will be there to spend more on major-league payroll,” Shapiro told Stephen Brunt and Jeff Blair. “Whether that puts us at third or sixth or seventh (in MLB), it should be enough to win and win a World Championship. I don’t see that as a concern or excuse.”"
We probably won’t see any of those types of high-profile signings until at least next off-season given what we are to expect of the Blue Jays in 2019, but nevertheless, it’s a clean slate now for Ross Atkins where the clock is officially on for him to start shaping what will be the Blue Jays roster of the future.