Atkins: Toronto wants to add on all fronts

Blue Jays GM talks Winter Meetings, personnel changes, Donaldson contract, Biagini

December 7th, 2017

TORONTO -- General manager Ross Atkins will head to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., later this week for the annual Winter Meetings needing to do a little bit of everything. Hitting, pitching, defense, it doesn't matter; the Blue Jays need it all.

Atkins has a lengthy to-do list and it doesn't matter what order everything gets done, but the plan is starting to come together this week.

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"We know we need to complement our infield further, our outfield further, our pitching further, potentially even complement our catching situation," Atkins said. "How that comes to fruition from this point not only depends on priorities, but also what [that costs]."

Poulis leaves for Atlanta

Longtime Blue Jays head athletic trainer George Poulis left the organization earlier this week to take a job with the Braves. Poulis had been with the Blue Jays for the past 18 years and now joins his former boss -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos -- in Atlanta as the club's director of player health and head athletic trainer.

Atkins admitted the timing of Poulis' departure was less than ideal, but the Blue Jays did not want to stand in his way after his preference for the other position was expressed to the organization.

"We're always working to have the best resources in the world across sport for our players," Atkins said. "Baseball experience is a very large part of that and we need to make sure we have it. That's a big hit for us, losing George Poulis, and that level of expertise and experience.

"The timing also is very difficult. It's not as clear cut, just to cast the largest net. We're not going to be asking for permissions on other teams at this point of the year. We may, but we're likely to be denied. So we have to do what we can to offset that experience, but the timing is difficult."

Tinnish stays put

Blue Jays front office executive Andrew Tinnish was supposed to be joining Anthopoulos in Atlanta as well, but instead had a change of heart at the last minute. Atlanta officially announced Tinnish as its new assistant general manager at the end of November, but just a couple of days later the Braves announced that Tinnish would not be taking the job after all.

"If someone calls and asks permission to talk to one of our employees we always say yes," Atkins said. "He wasn't the only employee requested on this year. He wasn't the only employee requested on by the Atlanta Braves. We are transparent and we asked several individuals if they had interest in talking.

"Andrew Tinnish specifically decided to have the discussion, decided to accept the position, realized and owned that he had made a mistake to accept it, and called us and asked if he could have his position back here, to which we immediately said 'yes.' Fortunately, there wasn't a contract signed and he came back into the environment and we're elated to have him here."

Latest on Donaldson extension talks

The Blue Jays still aren't saying much about the status of star third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is eligible for free agency at the end of 2018. Donaldson previously expressed his desire to sign a possible contract extension, but it won't be cheap. He's eligible for arbitration this offseason, but whether Toronto focuses on a one-year deal or tries for something longer term remains to be seen.

"He's been awesome and we'll remain in contact over the course of this year," Atkins said. "We have a one-year deal to certainly talk about and both parties want to see if there is something there long term."

Crucial offseason for Biagini

Atkins said the Blue Jays gave right-hander a very detailed workout routine for the offseason with the hope that he comes to Spring Training prepared to be a starting pitcher. If the season started today, Biagini would be Toronto's No. 5 starter, but the club has expressed a desire to potentially add another pitcher this offseason.

Biagini transitioned to the bullpen in 2016 and spent time as both a starter and reliever this year. He likely will have a similar role again in 2018, but the Blue Jays want to make sure his body is in a better position to handle a high number of innings and have enough stamina to pitch deep into games.

"It was more just about his approach to starting pitching and what that means physically, fundamentally, mentally. We have given him some clear goals for this offseason and if he meets them, he's going to be in a great position to earn that spot," Atkins said.