Ross Atkins’ 2016 Postmortem: Part IV, Minor Leaguers and the Coaching Staff

Ross Atkins
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke to approximately half of my Twitter timeline on Monday afternoon, offering his take on a wide-ranging number of issues that the Blue Jays will face this offseason and going forward.

Naturally, there was plenty that Atkins didn’t say — that he couldn’t or that it wouldn’t have been prudent to say — but that still leaves us with a whole lot to parse. So much, in fact, that instead of writing one giant, unwieldy post about everything he said, we’re going to break it down into sections. (Which is definitely not what I originally intended, but oh man, it’s about time I get posting some of this already!)

Up fourth: minor leaguers and the coaching staff.

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Pompey, Jimenez, and Triple-A relievers cited as potential big leaguers * Atkins still wants to add to minor league system * Doesn’t see it as a “top tier” system and feels it lacks trade chips * Not likely club will trade MLB pitching, but willing to if they can add depth plus MLB talent * Rowdy Tellez, despite strong Double-A season, not expected yet *

I don’t think anybody is going to be rushing out to buy an A.J. Jimenez jersey because of it, but I guess it’s maybe nice that the Blue Jays’ GM feels like he can pretend to be at least somewhat serious about the idea of the club’s heir to the backup catching throne finally potentially getting a chance to sit on a big league bench next year, after first reaching Triple-A four seasons ago in 2013. Except… not really.

Jimenez had a .290 on-base at Buffalo, Pompey had a worse year than last, and whichever relievers Atkins is speaking of here are mighty fungible. So what’s most interesting about his comment about big-league readiness is how it fits with some of the other things he’s saying about the system, and what we know already about this regime’s philosophy and how it compares to their predecessors’.

The Shapiro-Atkins Jays are in no rush with their prospects the way that Alex Anthopoulos was. They are much less inclined to throw their best young players into the fire on a “stars and scrubs” roster, preferring instead a deeper and more balanced (but less top-heavy) roster, and a longer path from the minors to the big leagues.

Or, at least, that’s what we’ve seen from them so far, and that’s what I take from the comment about maintaining pitching depth and the GM’s unwillingness to tout someone like Tellez, or any of the club’s other top prospects — none of whom were on the big league fast-track like they might have been under Alex Anthopoulos anyway.

All of that, of course, is fine. And it might have been what Alex would have ultimately begun to do anyway, as the gaps on his big league roster got filled in with better and better players (ideally). What might give fans pause, though, is the comment about still wanting to make the system better. Though the draft isn’t for another seven months or so, there ways at this time of year for a club to beef up its system, or at least to set the wheels in motion. I think trading big league talent for prospects is well out of the question, but reaping high picks when players receiving qualifying offers sign elsewhere? And avoiding signing any free agent that requires them to relinquish a pick? That certainly seemed to be their m.o. last winter, when they made Marco Estrada a qualifying offer and zeroed in on mid-tier-with-upside in the form of J.A. Happ.

This kind of approach — both with prospects and with winter additions — isn’t terribly sexy, of course. But at least they can say it worked out pretty well last year…

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The Blue Jays have invited all of their 2016 coaching staff back, with one exception * Secondary hitting coach Eric Owens deemed “redundant” and let go * Will replace Owens but tweak role toward an “all-encompassing” offensive coach * A contract extension with John Gibbons has been explored *

Lastly we have this coaching staff stuff, which… is pretty close to impossible to comment on. I have no idea what Eric Owens did, so… sure, OK. And I like the vote of confidence in Brook Jacoby, despite the odd howling moron in the fan base insistent that the hitting coach needed to be turfed after the Jays’ bats looked so limp down the stretch.

The hitters that frustrated Jays fans in September and October the most were either hurt or were simply doing a lesser version of what they pretty much always do. It’s not on the coaching staff to completely rebuild guys on the fly, and vague talk from the stands about bad gameplans or “approach” is impossible to swallow without specifics, and too often veers into “bad results equals bad process” territory.

So… there’s that.

There’s also the fact that the club seems to really like John Gibbons, which makes sense because who doesn’t? (Morons! That’s who!). Of course, they also get to avoid some heat by keeping the previous regime’s guy around, though I want to believe that’s less what this is about.