Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins bets his future on an underwhelming trade deadline

After backfilling for injured players, Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins seems to be betting big on a mean reversion from the underperforming bats of his stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer and Matt Chapman down the stretch, while also counting on the pitching holding up.
Arizona Diamondbacks v Toronto Blue Jays
Arizona Diamondbacks v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages
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But did the Blue Jays Do Enough?

Using ZiPS projections for playoffs, division, and World Series for each of the 30 teams, how did the trade deadline change Toronto’s postseason probability? According to FanGraphs, Houston, Texas, Baltimore and Tampa all did more to improve their playoff odds at the trade deadline. Of course, the Jays will need to go through those teams to win the ALCS and advance to the World Series.

Certainly Hicks and Cabrera both have ‘swing and miss’ stuff, and should help with bullpen depth. Adding back starter Hyun Jin Ryu and reliever Chad Green from the injured list is a similar boost to trade deadline adds, and they’ll be counted on as key contributors as well.

As Blair notes, if Guerrero Jr.’s production takes off and he starts carrying the team towards a postseason ticket, and Bichette’s IL stint is relatively short, the trade dud-line will soon be forgotten. But to paraphrase Blair, if those two things do not happen, we will look back at the trade deadline and say Atkins should have done “whatever it took” to add that extra piece to help improve the offense.

Will that put pressure on Ross Atkins as the GM?

This is his 8th season in the role as Blue Jays’ GM, and the current competitive window with Vladdy and Bo isn’t going to stay open forever. Guerrero Jr., and Bichette could both leave in free agency after the 2025 season. That likely means Atkins has been under pressure to build a better roster since the ALWC game two meltdown last fall.

As things stand, Atkins would leave his successor a roster that is one of the oldest in MLB, with the 9th highest payroll in baseball in 2024 at $155 million with the 34 players on the 40-man roster that are team controlled or under contract next year.

Of course, that figure doesn’t include any longer-term extensions yet for the younger, homegrown stars like Vladdy, Bo, Alek Manoah, Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Jordan Romano. And the cupboards are pretty bare in a poorly ranked farm system.

To their credit, both team president Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have said that this 2023 Blue Jays team will be measured by how far they progress in the postseason. If they don’t take a step forward after zero playoff wins since 2016, could Atkins be fired? Questions like these will likely be amplified if the Jays fall out of a wild card slot this weekend in Boston against a Red Sox team that has so far swept the head-to-head season series 7-0 against Toronto.