I recently had the very cool opportunity to interview Ross Atkins for Blue Jays Nation, and there were some thoughts that he gave during our interview that are worth critically thinking about.
Whenever I go into an interview, I’m obviously very prepared with a list of questions that, of course, take some time to write. However, there really is no telling where the conversation will go while in that moment.
And when the interview began, and Ross asked me if I grew up in St. Catharines, I knew that he had read some of my work over at Blue Jays Nation before agreeing to do the interview, which I thought was pretty rock n' roll.
We shot the ol’ baseball breeze before we got into the ‘formal’ questions, chatting a bit about how our love for baseball came to be. I shared a few memories about going to watch the St. Catharines ‘baby’ Jays in the late eighties and early nineties, who played in the New York-Penn League at that time. And he shared some memories about watching Miami University’s baseball team as a kid growing up.
Once we got into the actual interview, we began to talk about his time in the minors, and then our conversation transitioned to where the Blue Jays are in the present moment. There were some things that he said that, I believe, are telling of what the Blue Jays still want to address during the remainder of the offseason.
Shi Davidi was recently on the Fan and he said that he thinks that the organization will invest most of their money in an outfielder. He goes on to say that the Blue Jays will give Joe Biagini a shot in the rotation and won’t block him – so there’s that. And after talking to Atkins, it seems that Biagini might just be the 5th man in the rotation to start the season.
And my good friend, Cam Lewis, from Blue Jays Nation offered some great thoughts and questions about where the Blue Jays are right now and what they might do next, as he examined the current outfield situation:
The outfield is the spot the Jays need to upgrade most when it comes to position players. Kevin Pillar is very likely going to be your center fielder. Steve Pearce is a righty who crushes lefties (he has career .836 OPS against LHP) and Curtis Granderson is a lefty who crushes righties (he has a career .854 OPS against RHP), so that’s a nice platoon option that can play in one of the corner outfield positions. Then is, uh, Zeke going to play every day?
That is a very good question. And if the Blue Jays invest the rest of their money in an outfielder, you would think that they are probably going to do so on an everyday starter, but who could that really be? Cain? I dunno. Maybe they will accomplish this via trade, maybe - just spit ballin'.
So now as I sit here reflecting on my conversation with Atkins, I think that the FO is quite hopeful *fingers-crossed* that Aaron Sanchez will bounce back from the arduous ‘blister’ year that was 2017. Sanchez recently said in an interview that he’s %100, he’s been throwing for four weeks now, he’ll be throwing off a mound next week, and … everything feels good.
And when I asked Atkins if he feels comfortable with the depth that the Blue Jays have with guys like Ryan Borucki, Chris Rowley, Thomas Pannone and company potentially fronting the Bisons’ rotation, he made it clear that they have an incredible starting point with Stroman, Happ, and Estrada. But, more importantly, he added that they are optimistic that Aaron Sanchez will be much closer to the 2016 pitcher than the 2017 version. And let’s hope this is the case, amirite?
Atkins did say that they would like to build around the pitching depth that they already have and that they will look to do that via trade, or free agency for the remainder of the offseason and maybe even into the season.
Now, if the Blue Jays were seriously worried about how Sanchez’s rehabilitation is coming along and weren't optimistic, one would think that they would make it a priority to go out there and get a proven MLB pitcher. So maybe they are comfortable with the depth that they already have and with how Sanchez has come along this offseason, but depth is depth and a team can never have too much of it – that’s for sure. It might not be sexy, but it's smart.
So let's assume that the Blue Jays will add another depth guy into that rotation, but who that might be is a damn good question. Shaun Doyle from JfTC suggested a possible reunion with Brett Anderson, and it’s kind of hard to not like this idea. He would be a great depth guy to add to the rotation, but it’s near impossible to know what the FO has up their winter sleeves.
One thing that did stand out to me during my talk with Atkins is when I asked him how close the farm system is to being strong at all levels, and – not surprisingly – Atkins told me this:
I think that if we don’t trade away any of our bigger pieces — and there’s no plan to do that — then we have a real good chance to have one of the better systems in baseball, or a very well-balanced one within two years.
So I think that we can all stop talking about potential 'Yelich-kind-of-trades' and all that sort of nonsense because the FO values their top prospects, and it will take a whole hell of a lot for them to part with any of them. They are committed to strengthening the pipeline and trading away the best from it is not going to happen anytime soon – just sayin’.
It’s difficult for me to honestly predict what the Blue Jays’ next move will be, but it seems that all signs are pointing to adding another outfielder, unless the organization is content with Zeke running out there everyday.
I think that they will add another pitcher into the rotation mix and will continue this offseason approach to adding depth. And even though the moves aren’t salivating on paper to satisfy the offseason savage in many Jays fans, they are smart moves that will give the ol’ skip Gibbers plenty of options with which to be creative and switch up the lineup.
This 2018 team is not going to be a team that runs out the same lineup card every night (minus the rest night). The depth that the FO has added is going to allow for the team to let the analytics dictate who will start.
Spring training is coming folks, so take a deep breath and trust what the FO is doing, as they move forward in shaping the 2018 roster.