Blue Jays: Looking back at the first 18 months of the Ross Atkins Era in Toronto

David Corcoran
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages
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International Free Agent Signings in 2016

Now rewinding all the way back to 2016 trade deadline Atkins was not resting after bringing in Liriano as he made three significant International Free Agent signings.  The first signing came on August 3 when he signed a 16-year old Venezuelan catcher who would rise to be the top prospect in the organization by the name of Gabriel Moreno.  The signing bonus to bring Moreno to the Blue Jays was just $25,000 and this past season the club used him as the main trade piece to acquire Daulton Varsho.

Almost two months after signing Moreno, Atkins added to the organization catching depth when he signed soon to be 18-year old Alejandro Kirk.  Kirk cruised through the minor league system and made his debut as a 21-year old catcher in 2020 when he played in nine games.  The Mexican-born hitter has become a fan favorite and is coming off a 2022 season that saw him selected to the All-Star Game. He finished off the year with the Silver Slugger Award as the top hitting catcher, posting a slash line of .285/.372/.415 with 33 extra base hits and earning more walks than strikeouts. 

The final international free agent had Atkins taking a bit more of a chance on a 23-year old Cuban-born player when he signed Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to a six-year deal worth $22M.  Gurriel spent a year and a half developing in the Blue Jays system and after originally coming up as a second baseman, he would eventually find himself in left field. Had Gurriel stayed healthy he would have potentially be an American League All-Star during his time with the club.  Over his first 150 games in the majors split between 2018 and 2019, Gurriel hit 31 home runs paired with 85 RBI.  Over his five-year Blue Jays career, he posted a slash line of .285/.329/.468, however played more than 121 games just once.  Gurriel was most recently used as a trade piece, along with Moreno to acquire Varsho.

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