The Toronto Blue Jays are “open to bringing back” pitchers J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, Ross Atkins told media in his end-of-season press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Happ, traded to the New York Yankees just before the trade deadline in July and currently part of New York’s postseason roster, worked extremely well with coaches in the organization — most notably, Pete Walker — and set a strong example for other players, Atkins said.
Atkins feels that Happ enjoyed his time with the Blue Jays and will strongly consider them as he heads into free agency.
Happ, with the Yankees, posted a 2.69 ERA and 4.21 FIP while not losing a game. Despite posting a better ERA than his 4.18 rate for his time in 2018 with the Blue Jays, Happ’s FIP with the Yankees is worse than his 3.85 FIP with the Blue Jays.
Estrada had a tough season. Struggling with back issues, Estrada posted a 5.64 ERA, his highest of any of his full seasons in the majors. And despite a slightly better 5.44 FIP, it was still his worst of any full major league seasons.
Elsewhere in Atkins’ press conference, he said that the decision to part ways with manager John Gibbons was a mutual decision. As the search for a manager continues, the Blue Jays are looking for someone whose “tough, smart and passionate,” Atkins said. The search will likely start within the next week with phone interviews, and progress with about five in-person interviews.
Speaking on qualities that a future manager may have, Atkins said that they may not hire someone with lots of experience, but certainly experience wouldn't hurt. He also mentioned that being able to speak Spanish would be a positive
For the offseason, Atkins expects to bring in some veterans to guide younger players, as the Blue Jays will have some financial flexibility. Some of the position player depth that the Blue Jays have may be traded to acquire pitching.
Next, he turned to veterans. Atkins told reporters that Russell Martin will be the preliminary catcher next season, assuming he’s healthy, because of his ability to manage a pitching staff. Troy Tulowitzki will receive playing time if healthy, but if he can’t perform, preference will be given to better players in the organization.
Atkins also provided more detail on Aaron Sanchez’s finger surgery, which was completed a week ago. Mike Wilner described it this way: “Sanchez’s UCL ligament, on the outside of the right index finger, was repaired. We feel as though he’ll be ready for spring training. Different views/opinions as to whether pitching after the initial injury led to ligament damage.”