It took me a little while to get to this, but, as you all surely know by now, the Blue Jays quietly inked general manager Ross Atkins to a contract extension. Atkins was set to have his contract expire at the end of this season and this extension will take him to the end of the 2020 season.
The interesting thing here is how quiet the Blue Jays were about Atkins’ extension as the club didn’t make any formal statement in regards to the matter. Instead, it just kind of came out in the midst of last week’s MLB draft.
When contacted, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro declined to comment on the contract status of any front office employees.
Shapiro joined the Blue Jays on a five-year deal running through the 2020 season while manager Charlie Montoyo signed a three-year deal through 2021 with a club option. – Ben Nicholson-Smith, Sportsnet
As Nicholson-Smith reported, Mark Shapiro’s five-year contract comes to an end after the 2020 season, so that would explain why Atkins’ deal only goes that far. If the Blue Jays aren’t happy with Shapiro’s work at the end of his five-year deal, I would imagine that Atkins would be going out the door with him, so it makes sense for Rogers to not want him on the payroll beyond Shapiro.
But, as I said, it’s interesting that the organization just kind of let this slip under the radar. It’s pretty obvious that they’re aware of the poor public perception that the front office has among the fanbase and that a big press conference in the midst of such a horrendous season would cause a big shitstorm.
The response to Atkins’ extension from the fans was predictably negative, but Gregor Chisholm offered a smart and balanced take about the situation:
Atkins hasn’t done nearly as much [as Alex Anthopolous] in a similar amount of time, but at least part of that is because of circumstances. He deserved the extension because he has a right to see this through until the end. The fact that the new deal was so short also indicates the end might not be as far off as some people might think. It’s not going to be this month, or this winter. Next season might be a different story.
It’s not overly surprising that Atkins would be the target of angst from the fans as the Jays trudge through their worst season since their expansion days. Fans want to see at least a somewhat competitive club put on the field and Atkins didn’t deliver that.
But when you take emotions out of the equation and look at the bigger picture, this move isn’t really surprising. Honestly, it would be a lot worse if the Jays decided to cut ties with their general manager under a year after the organization finally dove head first into a full-on rebuild. It would mean the organization believes this rebuild is a failure and that we would be looking at them potentially starting from scratch with somebody else at the helm.
I’m not overly ecstatic with the job Shapiro and Atkins have done since taking over in 2015, but I do agree with Gregor that they deserve the opportunity to see out their plan. They’ve done some things well, like drafting a group of good prospects, and they’ve done some things poorly, like getting an underwhelming return for J.A. Happ and holding on to Josh Donaldson for too long.
Atkins is half way through his fourth season as GM. By that point in AA’s tenure José Reyes was on the DL and we were starting to learn that the acquisitions of Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Emilio Bonifacio, and Melky Cabrera were not all they were cracked up to be. https://t.co/UPfJJ1sdWn
— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) June 7, 2019
We all love Alex Anthopolous for the work he did to help the Blue Jays have their incredible 2015 and 2016 runs, but our memory of his tenure before those seasons might be a little foggy.
As Stoeten points out, four-and-a-half years into his tenure, which is where Atkins is now, we were watching one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Just one year after that, which was five-and-a-half years into his tenure, we were all complaining that AA wasn’t aggressive enough at the trade deadline. It was his sixth year in the gig that he did his incredible work of acquiring Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and David Price.
So if AA was given that much time to do his thing, you kinda have give this front office the same opportunity.
Also, to be fair to Atkins, we don’t know the extent to which he’s been allowed to do his thing in this gig yet. When AA took over for Riccardi, everybody viewed his predecessor’s work as a failure, and he was able to blow it up and start from scratch. Atkins inherited a much more precarious situation. There was enough of a good thing there to keep the ball rolling, and, if I had to venture a guess, ownership wanted to milk it as long as they could.
At this point, though, there aren’t any excuses anymore. Ownership has given the green light for this front office to blow it up and rebuild their way. If it doesn’t work out, it’s on them. Still, they need some time to see it through. Pulling the plug shortly after going all-in probably isn’t the best idea.