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Atkins on Gibbons: 'He's a part of our solution'

Blue Jays GM discusses coaching staff, Donaldson, 2017 injuries
October 3, 2017

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins held his year-end availability with the Toronto media on Tuesday afternoon, and he touched on just about every aspect of his 2017 team.From Jose Bautista to Josh Donaldson, to injuries to the depth in the Minor Leagues, and how the Blue Jays

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins held his year-end availability with the Toronto media on Tuesday afternoon, and he touched on just about every aspect of his 2017 team.
From Jose Bautista to Josh Donaldson, to injuries to the depth in the Minor Leagues, and how the Blue Jays can become relevant again after a down season in the American League East, here are some of the highlights:
On the 2017 season:
"This year was obviously a massive disappointment for us. The emotions you feel in a losing season are seemingly more intense than you feel in a winning season, and it has been painful in many ways. ... Obviously, health has been a massive topic for us and something that hurt us in a significant way. ... Defense, unfortunately our offense, and our defense, did not perform to our expectations. That is certainly on the front office and on us to make sure that doesn't happen again."

On Donaldson suggesting Blue Jays lacked fundamental execution in 2017:
"If we are healthier, that will be one thing that helps that area. We were not able to sustain the injuries this year. Our players that had to come in and step in across the entire organization were not enough. We have to put ourselves in a better position to sustain injuries. We will have them. Specifically about the fundamentals of the game, when we do have our best players on the team, it's something that [manager] John Gibbons and I have talked about. How can we do a better job of preparing these guys to execute better in season? And that starts in Spring Training."
On possibly more fundamental work in Spring Training:
"I don't think it's as simple as just saying more fundamental work. I think it's about how can we be smarter about it and including [players] in the process. Not just creating change, but thinking about -- not expecting or assuming -- that because guys are experienced veterans that they don't need specific drill work. It often times happens in professional sports, the more veteran your roster becomes, the more individualized the work becomes because of routines. That's what we need to dig into."

On the lack of durability from Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis:
"Absolutely, we need to focus on depth there. We can't rely that we will have an absolutely healthy Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis for the entire year, and we need to build depth around them."
On Gibbons and the entire big league coaching staff returning in 2018:
"We align in just about every way when it comes to treating people the right way and making sure that we are putting players in positions to have success. He has done a remarkable job of managing the bullpen. He has done a remarkable job of getting a core group of talent, two of the last three years, into a near World Series team. He has a list of strengths that are long, and there's not a lot of guys in the game who have as much experience. ... I feel strongly that he's a part of our solution, and I love going to work with him every day."

On Donaldson saying he would be "tickled pink" if Blue Jays tried to lock him up long term:
"It's awesome. Any interaction with our players that we can have is better than not. We want them to feel comfortable coming to us on any issue. It really was a very casual discussion about his desire to remain in Toronto, which is great for us to hear. ... You're constantly thinking about what makes sense for the organization, and you have to do that with more than one individual. Obviously, he's an extremely important one, and we will definitely spend time thinking about [an extension]."
On payroll parameters for 2018:
"We'll go through a process where we consider all of our internal alternatives. That's throughout player development, what's on our Major League team now. We've discussed that at length, well over 100 players to start our offseason plan. I'll leave in a day for Dunedin, [Fla.], to meet with all of our professional scouts, to begin to talk about their objective view of internal alternatives, and in addition to that, our external ones. After that, we'll present what we feel is our best strategy after we've discussed with a smaller group what our strategies will potentially be to [club chairman Edward] Rogers, and after that we'll have much more clarity."
On needs for the 2018 team:
"The way I think of it right now is add one impact position player for sure. We have to do that. Whether or not that impact position player is a right fielder, or plays another position, depends on all those alternatives. We'll be open to trades, we'll be open to any possible way we can make our team better. Whether that individual is an impact reliever, impact starter, I think it's an incredible starting point to go into an offseason with five guys we feel like could start. Several guys potentially in Triple-A that could provide some depth, one or two of them with significant upside. We will likely add to that, but to say right now, 'Absolutely we have to add a free-agent starter,' maybe there's a trade for a Triple-A starter that's good enough where we feel we're increasing our depth and have enough depth."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.