Blue Jays: Winning ways gives Ross Atkins early vindication

Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA;Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins looks on at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2018; Dunedin, FL, USA;Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins looks on at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Blue Jays made a gutsy call to be buyers ahead of this year’s trade deadline, and so far Ross Atkins and co. have to be feeling pretty good about the direction this team is headed in.

When the Jays headed home to the Rogers Centre for the first time in nearly two years they were just 51-48 and looked to be fading from the postseason race. However, they had a lot of ingredients for a contending team with a MVP candidate in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., three other All-Stars heading up their lineup, and the return of George Springer after an extended absence. Throw in some solid pitching performances from most of the starting rotation and it felt like this team was a lot better than their record, and their run differential agreed.

With that in mind, the front office brought in six new players to compliment the big league roster including their prize piece in Jose Berrios, who has another year of club control and will help headline their rotation in 2022 as well. On top of Berrios the Jays acquired Brad Hand, Joakim Soria, Adam Cimber, and Trevor Richards to boost the bullpen, and Corey Dickerson to give the outfield a left-handed option. That group has already helped to make the Blue Jays better, but importantly, the message that their arrival sends might have been even more significant. Add that on top of a long-awaited return to the Rogers Centre and it’s a recipe for an exciting time.

Since the July 30th trade deadline that coincided with the Blue Jays’ home stand, Charlie Montoyo’s club has gone 9-2 after sweeping the Royals, and then taking three of four each from Cleveland and Boston. In the process the Jays have closed the gap with the Red Sox to just 3.0 games, who are now tied with the Oakland A’s for the two Wild Card spots.

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There is still a lot of work to be done before the Blue Jays can secure their spot in the playoffs, but just the fact that they’ve turned things on already has to be a big sigh of relief for the front office. Even if it was a necessary trade in order to improve the starting rotation, Atkins and his team took a fair bit of heat for the price they paid to acquire Jose Berrios. Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson have both been rated as top 100 prospects, and many of us thought that they might even be untouchable. The fact that the Jays made both of them available in one swap was a shock to almost everyone.

That said, you don’t acquire frontline starters without paying a big price, and this acquisition could be a tenure-defining move for Atkins. For his part, Berrios has been outstanding over his first two starts as a Blue Jay, going 1-0 and giving up just one earned run over 12.0 innings. The 27 year old looks like he’s fitting in right away, and his presence has already made a big impact on the mound, and from the look of things, in the clubhouse.

This young team is energized in a way we haven’t seen them for extended stretches this year, and you had better believe that the front office’s decisions are part of the reason for it. Making an impact trade like that sends a message to the team, the fans, and the rest of the league that the Blue Jays plan on opening their window of contention immediately.

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It could have gone either way and there is still plenty of time for things to go sour, but at this point Atkins has to be feeling good about the aggressive deadline decisions. The Blue Jays have responded exactly how we all hoped they would, and with 52 regular season games to go, they have the chance to do something special.