Will Ross Atkins lose his job if the Blue Jays miss the playoffs?
Let’s start this article off by taking a look at Ross Atkins and his history as the Blue Jays general manager.
Atkins was hired to be the general manager in December of 2015, replacing the popular and recently departed Alex Anthopoulos. He was highly respected in Cleveland, holding the post of Vice President of Player Personnel prior to arriving in Toronto.
Atkin, along with Mark Shapiro, inherited a fascinating situation. They took over a club coming off of a phenomenal postseason run for the first time in 22 seasons. They stuck with the manager and the core intact for the 2016 season. They made some additions at the deadline to improve the club and returned to the American League Championship Series to lose in six games.
From later 2017 onwards, the rebuilding direction of the team allowed Atkins to move some key veteran pieces. We would see the departure of Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, Kevin Pillar, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson to name a few. Eventually Atkins and current manager John Gibbons would part ways. That is when the rebuild and the Atkins area would fully begin.
Some questions have come out of the woodwork about Ross Atkins and his job security if the Blue Jays do not make the 2022 postseason
For the 2019 season, the Blue Jays and Ross hired Charlie Montoyo from the Tampa Bay Rays. He wanted to bring someone in who had an intimate knowledge of one of Jays’ biggest rivals and could connect with the younger core. Atkins and many within the Blue Jays organization admired how the Rays do things. The general manager would fill the coaching staff with individuals like Guillermo Martinez, Dave Hudgens, and Mark Budzinski while promoting John Schneider from the Minor Leagues to take on the role of a quality control coach.
There was a ton of excitement about young prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette. Fans were clamouring for Vladdy to come up at the start of 2019 but he was held back until later in the season, starting the year on the IL with the club also gaining an additional year of contract control. The team struggled as expected to a 67-95 record while these young players got their feet wet.
In 2020, Atkins surprised Blue Jays fans by bringing in beloved Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu on 4 year/$80 million dollar contract. Atkins also signed veteran pitcher Tanner Roark to a 2-year, $24 million dollar contract. The Blue Jays were dealt a tough hand with COVID-19’s arrival and somehow, they started to contend for a playoff spot. To Ross Atkins’s credit, he added at that deadline as well in an attempt to get the Blue Jays into the expanded postseason and accomplished this, however, they were bounced in the Wild Card.
In 2021, the ante got upped. Atkins and his team brought in George Springer and Marcus Semien via free agency while also resigning Robbie Ray to a one-year deal. He again made some intriguing additions at the deadline, acquiring Corey Dickerson, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, and Jose Berrios. The Jays would finish one game out of the playoffs while playing in three different home ballparks.
After the last two seasons of improvement, Atkins was looking to go further.
With the loss of Semien to the Texas Rangers, the Jays front office would move four prospects for Platinum Glove-winning third basemen, Matt Chapman. He also tried to replace 2021 Cy Young winner Robbie Ray with NL Cy Young finalist Kevin Gausman, inking him to a long-term contract. Atkins also brought 2021 All-Star Yusei Kikuchi in to replace Steven Matz and extended Berrios to a seven-year deal. The Jays were one of the favourites in Vegas to win the World Series going into this season after such a busy offseason.
Blue Jays fans felt that this was the season. Unfortunately, baseball can be very cruel sometimes. The club was 46-42 holding a playoff spot when they fired manager Charlie Montoyo just prior to the All-Star break. If you asked fans in late 2021 if this team had a possibility of looking super flat at times in 2022, the thought would be unimaginable. Unfortunately, they did and Ross felt it was time to move John Schneider into the manager’s office.
The Blue Jays were in a playoff spot towards the deadline. The starting pitching situation was in a bit of a flux with Ryu on the IL and Kikuchi severely underperforming. 2020 deadline acquisition Ross Stripling has been outstanding since Ryu went down. Unfortunately, the Jays had no one to step up and take over for Kikuchi, as Nate Pearson has battled injuries all year and Thomas Hatch has been terrible this season.
At the deadline, Atkins would acquire Dodgers swingman Mitch White to chew up some innings created by a struggling Kikuchi. He also traded for Anthony Bass, who has been very good in the bullpen, and Zack Pop, who is currently in Buffalo. The Blue Jays finished the deadline by adding Whit Merrifield in exchange for RHP Maximo Castillo and infielder Samad Taylor.
Atkins contract was extended to 2026 at the beginning of 2021. You would have to consider 2022 year four of a five-year plan.
I believe that if the Blue Jays do not make the playoffs this year Ross will have to answer for some of the moves he made or didn’t make to get the team to the playoffs. He will also need to answer for one of the worst contracts in team history with Yusei Kikuchi.
2023 would be year five of the five-year plan. He will have an opportunity to ensure he has the right coaching staff to get this team deep in the playoffs. If the Blue Jays don’t meet great expectations in 2023, the Ross Atkins era may be over.