TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced a five-year extension on Wednesday for executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Ross Atkins.
Atkins joined the Blue Jays prior to the 2016 season after spending 15 years with the Cleveland organization, his final position being vice president of player personnel. The extension keeps Atkins aligned with the contract of club president and CEO Mark Shapiro, who also signed a five-year extension with the organization in January.
“Coming to Toronto with my family has enriched our lives in countless ways and having the opportunity to remain a Blue Jay is something I do not take for granted,” Atkins said. “I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Edward Rogers and the Rogers executive team, Mark Shapiro, and the talented individuals that I am fortunate enough to work with every day. I cannot wait to continue our pursuit to bring World Series championships back to Canada and celebrate with our fans when that day comes.”
Under Atkins, the Blue Jays have made the postseason twice -- in 2016 and 2020 -- but those two teams represent drastically different points for the organization. In ’16, Atkins had inherited a postseason roster that the organization worked to keep competitive, but it was clear that a rebuild was coming.
From 2017-19, the Blue Jays focused on acquiring and developing young talent, eyeing the goal of “sustainable winning” in the future. This is when much of the current young core came into the organization, developing together through the Minor League system. There were lean years, most recently with the 67-95 season in ’19, but the Blue Jays’ young roster pushed their timeline in ’20, returning to the postseason.
“Simply put, Ross makes the Blue Jays better," Shapiro said. "I am extremely pleased that he will continue leading our baseball operations group during this exciting era for our players, staff, and most importantly, our fans, as we move closer to building a sustainable championship contender for years to come.”
Now, Atkins and the front office trust they have reached the fun part. Winning.
The organization’s shift from rebuilding to contending began, at least publicly, in the 2019-20 offseason when the Blue Jays inked ace left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu to a four-year, $80 million deal. This past offseason, they landed star outfielder George Springer with a six-year deal worth $150 million, the largest contract in franchise history, and added second baseman Marcus Semien on a one-year, $18 million deal.
With the foundation in place, the Blue Jays are now in a position to continue adding. The club’s payroll offers flexibility moving forward, especially next offseason, and the upcoming July 31 Trade Deadline is expected to be another major opportunity to add talent. Adding high-end starting pitching behind Ryu will be the club’s next challenge.
A point of pride for both Atkins and Shapiro, though, is that they’ve reached this point of the Blue Jays’ competitive arc without sacrificing their farm system, which is ranked the No. 7 system in baseball by MLB Pipeline. There will come a time, potentially soon, when the Blue Jays will need to trade from their prospect pool, but keeping the pipeline strong is a top priority.
“You cannot take an eye off that,” Shapiro said, “both in terms of the environment you're developing players in, that you're focused on getting the most out of them and helping them be the best they can be, and regardless of where you are in the cycle that there are still people in your organization who are obsessively focused on acquiring talent.”
The Blue Jays recently picked up the 2022 option on manager Charlie Montoyo’s contract, too, keeping him with the organization through at least next season. These next steps will be challenging for the organization as it looks to move from good to great, but it’s clear now who will be making the Blue Jays’ big decisions as they pursue their first championship since 1993.