(Toronto) Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was barely seated for a press conference in a Toronto restaurant when questions about Shohei Ohtani were already flying from both sides.
The Japanese star, capable of throwing and hitting, is the best player on the free agent market and will earn an astronomical salary. Will the only Canadian team in major baseball try its luck?
“I wish I could give details on free agents,” Atkins began by saying at the Toronto meeting of members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. For several reasons that you know, we cannot do this. I feel very good with the team in place and with the opportunity to improve it. »
“Moving away from that specific question, we’ve always had incredible support from the owners to make this team better, we have a good team and we work hard to make it better. »
The Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be the favorite to deal Ohtani, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player. But Toronto would also be among the possible destinations.
There were also rumors that the Blue Jays would try to move on from Bo Bichette, but Atkins indicated the team was committed to keeping the shortstop.
“We’re very fortunate to have him and he’ll be our shortstop moving forward,” the GM said.
It should be an interesting off-season for Atkins, who has been the team’s GM for eight years. The Blue Jays were swept in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
The club wants to win now and the pressure will be on to reach the second round, which has not been the case since 2016.
On the pitching side, the Blue Jays can count on one of the best rotations on the circuit, but the offense must improve.
Third baseman Matt Chapman, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and reliever Jordan Hicks are among the team’s players granted free agency at the end of the campaign.
Refusing once again to go into details, Atkins nevertheless confirmed that he had met with free agents and that he would meet others. The CEO added that the team was open to many possibilities.
“This very good team that we want to rely on,” he said. If we have to make trades for players that we only have the rights to for one season, or if we have to offer one-season contracts like we’ve done before, we’re absolutely open to that. »
“But we are also willing to do longer contracts and get players who will be here for many years, and that costs money. So we’re in a position where we’re able to do both, fortunately. »