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Tuesday Bantering: Highlights from Atkins’ Press Conference

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On off season trades, a Donaldson extension, and 2018 goals

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Press Conference
This photo was from 2015, but he looks the same.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Ross Atkins, general manager of the Blue Jays, held a very formal “year end” press conference today. Here are the highlights:

You can say that again.

  • The Jays have much better depth in their minor league system (the rating has gone from mid 20s to 9th/10th), which should help when injuries hit. Their primary goal in the off season is to continue to build depth. In the last couple years, they couldn’t get past 15-20 names they were excited about...now this list is well over 30. Atkins named Borucki/Alford/Hernandez/Jansen/McGuire/Bichette/Guerrero Jr/Pearson in particular. They won’t go heavy on trades from their system until they believe the team is in World Series contention.
  • Regarding off season trades, there aren’t many players who don’t come up in discussion, and they are going to continue to conduct discussions that way (so we will continue to hear rumors about everyone). However, they will not be trading any of their elite players unless the return makes their major league team better, because they believe they have a group they can contend with next year.
  • They are absolutely open to negotiating an extension with Josh Donaldson. A fair deal for both sides would be a starting point for them. He said, “any time that a player expresses interest in staying is a great thing, and we are glad that’s the case.”
  • Cannot guarantee a departure from the on-going health issues of Travis/Tulowitzki in the future, so middle infield depth will be a priority. They will be seeking a very good major league player who can absorb many at bats. They would love to acquire a switch-hitter who can play multiple positions, but they are hard to come by. Richard Ureña is exciting to think about, but he needs more development. Atkins also noted that a healthy Devon Travis is very difficult to upgrade on.
  • They have learned a great deal about blisters this year, and are optimistic Aaron Sanchez will return to be a starting pitcher next year.
  • Justin Smoak was in a fair amount of pain over the last stretch due to severe bruising from a foul a ball of his toe, and a hit by pitch on his lower leg. Atkins also noted the record number of plate appearances for him as a possible contributor to his slump. They are expecting the same type of resurgent season from him next year, mainly based on the changes he attributed his breakout performance to. There are no other lingering injuries we don’t already know about.
  • They told Jose Bautista they weren’t picking up his option, and also told him they didn’t see a scenario where they could guarantee a spot for him next year due to the age of the position players on the roster. He was professional and respectful. Anyone can see what he’s done, and talk about what he’s meant to this organization. He will continue to be celebrated for years.
  • Vlad Jr and Bo Bichette may be invited to big league spring camp, but they haven’t thought about it yet. There’s a chance Vlad could make his debut in the majors as a teenager (aka next year), but it’s unlikely as they want to give him plenty of time to make sure he is maximizing his potential in the minor leagues.
  • Tesocar Hernández had a great run in September, and he has also been great in AAA. They asked a lot of him, and he handled himself well.
  • The Blue Jays have a really good pitching staff, both starting and relief. Atkins said the team’s starting pitchers in 2017 were in the top 5 in the American League - maybe top 4 in baseball. A top priority will be to pursue a significant piece in the pen, the rotation, or both. This could come via trade or free agency.

Another very interesting article came out this morning over at Sportsnet on Roberto Osuna’s season. It’s worth a read in it’s entirety, but here are some of the most interesting tidbits:

  • Osuna was very disappointed in his season despite the All Star appearance and 39 saves. He will make a return to his heater a priority for 2018
  • His back and neck injuries at the start of the season hindered his ability to hit his normal velocity on his fastball, so he turned to the cutter because he was afraid his fastball was going to get hit
  • As a result, falling in love with and relying on the cutter heavily hurt him, because the difference in wrist angle required to throw it impacted his ability to have a good feel for his change up and slider. This also prevented him from gaining back the strength he needed to get the velocity back up on his fastball
  • Darwin Barney should be accredited for instructing him to go back to his fastball, even if the velocity was only 93. It must have worked, because we saw over the past few outings that the velocity on his heater was back up to 96/97. You may recall, Barney also helped Devon Travis rediscover his offensive prowess earlier this year when he was struggling in April. If the Jays wanted to hire Darwin Barney as some sort of coach or consultant, I might be okay with that.

Also at Sportsnet, Mike Wilner polled all the Blue Jays players, coaching staff, and front office to see who they thought should be most suited for the following titles . Here are the results:

MVP:

Justin Smoak (40)

Josh Donaldson (1), Kendrys Morales (1), Marcus Stroman (1).

(Who on earth voted for Kendrys?)

Pitcher of the Year:

Marcus Stroman (33 1/2)

Dominic Leone (5 1/2), Ryan Tepera (3), Roberto Osuna (1)

Rookie of the Year:

Danny Barnes (42)

Richard Ureña (1)

Most Pleasant Surprise:

Justin Smoak (13)

Dominic Leone (12), Ryan Tepera (12), Danny Barnes (1), Joe Biagini (1), Kevin Pillar (1), Carlos Ramirez (1), Richard Ureña (1)

How would you have voted?


The American League wild card game is tonight.

Poll

I will be:

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    rooting for the Twins
    (380 votes)
  • 10%
    rooting for the Yankees
    (62 votes)
  • 5%
    re-watching last year’s wild card game
    (33 votes)
  • 21%
    doing something non-baseball related with my evening
    (133 votes)
608 votes total Vote Now