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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Toronto Blue Jays have talked the talk, now it’s time for them to at least start walking the walk, too.
If the organization wants fans to start flocking to the Rogers Centre again, they can’t just say they are interested in a quality pitcher or two, as Ross Atkins mentioned at Day 1 of the GM meetings Monday night. They need to actually make a splash, even if it’s not as big as many fans would want.
There are a bunch of talented young, controllable position players on hand now and while nobody expects them to be ready to contend in the viper’s den that is the American League East in 2020, it’s time to take some steps in the right direction.
They need to make sure it isn’t just a guy on the hill or an opener going twice a week. That’s not going to fly. Not where the fans are concerned, nor where the standings are either.
On Monday, Atkins — who has 2020 and 2021 remaining on his deal, a year more than team president Mark Shapiro — expressed confidence that players would take the team’s money.
Why? Atkins pointed to more “financial flexibility” from the bean counters at Rogers to go out and acquire talent as one potential carrot. He declined to get into specifics about what type of pitches will be made though, saying even revealing small recruiting things strategy-wise would make pitches “less individualized.” The Jays would rather keep that information between the team and the players.
The reports that superstar fee agent Gerrit Cole might not sign until December isn’t great for anybody, including the Jays. He’ll help set the market and, even though nobody expects the Jays to be in the mix for starters of that calibre, it all usually trickles down too.
Besides adding more players, Atkins also believes having a deeper 40-man roster and minor-league system should go a long way to making sure a run of injuries doesn’t blow things up again when the season has barely started.
The buzz here in Arizona is that the Jays have been far more active than in recent years in trying to suss out options, be it trade or free agency-wise and Atkins himself admitted to being “exceptionally busy on the phone” ever since the MLB quiet period ended shortly following the World Series.
Don’t expect the Jays to just go crazy, though, and land a collection of impact players. It’s not yet all-in time.
Atkins referenced legendary former executive Pat Gillick’s work with the Jays in building up the system and cultivating young talent, before really powering up and turning his teams into contenders.
“Every single off-season all we’re thinking about is getting better. And we’re not putting any increased pressure on individuals here so that we have to do something (or) we must do something, now, today, or yesterday, or tomorrow,” Atkins said.
“We’ve always operated with urgency … We just focus on getting better and we have to balance long-term, short-term and how we can get better as in multiple ways. And sometimes that’s being extremely patient with the talent that’s on your 40 man (roster),” Atkins said.
“It’s interesting, I think all the time about how ahead … like Pat Gillick was genius, I mean the way how far ahead of his time he was and how patient he was with a young core,” Atkins said. “And once that started to bubble up. That’s when the aggressiveness came and trades and via free agency and look at some of the recent models that have been very patient with their core, sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the highest sense of urgency.
“Free agency doesn’t equate to us with urgency. So I think they’re not hand-in-hand.”
DOWN ABOUT DEVON
The Blue Jays had to make a tough decision last week, outrighting Devon Travis to triple-A Buffalo, resulting in the veteran electing to become a free agent.
Travis was one of the most popular Jays with those around the team, but the second baseman had unfortunately been plagued by injuries since his 2015 arrival.
“Yeah, I mean, Devon’s incredible, man,” Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week.
“He’s just really had a tough run with his knees and the procedures that he’s been through and he’s worked exceptionally hard to get back and it just didn’t work out in time so we’ll see (what the future holds for Travis).
“One of the easiest guys to pull for by far and I’ll be pulling hard for him,” Atkins said.
Travis batted .274 with 35 home runs, 135 RBI and 78 doubles in 316 games with the Jays. He missed the entire 2019 season.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019