Should the Blue Jays Consider Replacing GM Ross Atkins?
By Charles Kime
Talent Destruction Via Trades
In a Jays Journal analysis for this article of all trades made by this front office since Mark Shapiro was hired as team president in October 2015, the Jays have traded away players and prospects that have gone on to a cumulative bWAR of 63.9 in MLB since being moved.
That’s not to say they should have – or could have – retained all of those players; but what’s damning is that the players and prospects acquired in return for those players have only posted a cumulative bWAR of 36.2 over their post-trade tenure as Toronto Blue Jays (not including Robbie Ray’s 6.6 bWAR in his AL Cy Young winning 2021 season, because he’d been resigned as a free agent after being acquired via trade in 2020).
That’s significant value destruction in terms of talent loss. While good players have been acquired, including current Jays RF Teoscar Hernandez, 2B Santiago Espinal, RHP Ross Stripling, 3B Matt Chapman and RHP Adam Cimber, the players who’ve been traded away have created much more value in their post-Jays careers in terms of wins above potential replacement players.
Much of the blame for this again falls on GM Ross Atkins, who just doesn’t seem to have much creativity or ability to unearth hidden value with his trades, especially those where he’s trading away existing MLB players like LHP J.A. Happ, 3B Josh Donaldson, or RHP Marcus Stroman.
This is especially worrisome given the looming payroll squeeze means he’ll likely have to trade away current Jays outfielders like Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who will both be free agents after next season, as well as from their surplus of catchers, with Danny Jansen a pending free agent after the 2024 season and potential trade partners looking for catching, like St. Louis and Cleveland.
Will he be able to turn those solid MLB talents into effective MLB starting and relief pitching depth? Or balance out the hitting lineup with a left-handed power bat to make opposing managers think more in terms of game planning and strategy?
He should be able to do all of the above given the MLB trade capital at his disposal. For example, Danny Jansen led all Blue Jays hitters this season with a .855 OPS and OPS+ of 141. He’s a 27-year-old former Gold Glove finalist at catcher, has two years of team control via arbitration left before becoming a free agent, and is only projected to cost $3.7 million in 2023.
Teoscar Hernandez is a two-time Silver Slugger in RF, with a career OPS of .819, including .870 in 2021 when he was an All-Star and slugged 32 home runs with 116 RBIs. He just turned 30 on October 15th and is projected by MLBTR to make $14.1 million in 2023.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has averaged an OPS of .797 over his 5 year MLB career and just turned 29 earlier this month, as well. He’ll make $5.8 million next year.
Unfortunately, Atkins’ record of trading away MLB talent like those players listed above leaves much to be desired. He either waits too long and destroys value (see Josh Donaldson, Ken Giles, Justin Smoak, etc), or doesn’t identify and acquire players with high ceilings and MLB-level talent (see Anthony Kay, Derek Fisher, Julian Merryweather, Socrates Brito, Alen Hanson, Mitch White, etc).