Atkins was ‘disappointed’ to learn Ohtani chose Dodgers over Blue Jays, recalls difficult phone call to receive

Photo credit:Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
3 months ago
Missing out on the most box office-worthy free agent in baseball history was devasting for the Toronto Blue Jays, particularly for general manager Ross Atkins, who expressed his disappointment regarding the outcome on Wednesday.
Atkins confirmed for the first time that Ohtani visited the organization’s player development complex in Dunedin, Flordia, during his interview process last month. But he wouldn’t say if the meeting was the reason that caused his media availability during Day 1 of the Winter Meetings to make a last-minute switch from in-person to remote.
The Blue Jays GM believes Ohtani’s interest to sign north of the border was genuine, which made it all that more heartbreaking upon learning he had signed a record-shattering 10-year, $700-million contract – with $680 million of that figure deferred – later that week.
“We were obviously very disappointed with the outcome and it was a very difficult phone call to receive, one of the more difficult ones in my career,” Atkins said to reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “At the same time, (it was an) incredible process and group effort and collaboration that I feel so good about, not only that process but what it meant to be in that position for the organization, for the city, for the country. There’s no doubt in my mind he was exceptionally attracted to this country, this city, this team. We felt incredible about the process, but we moved on.”
According to several reports, Toronto was considered among the finalists for the two-time American League MVP’s services, joining a group that reportedly included the San Francisco Giants and Angels. The Chicago Cubs were also believed to be heavily involved, although some felt their interest wavered toward the end.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the club made a “very comparable if not identical” offer to Ohtani’s camp before he announced his decision to sign with their NL West Division rival.
Many Blue Jays fans wondered if the club was used as a stalking horse to drive up the bidding in the Ohtani sweepstakes. Atkins denied those accusations and said none of his interactions felt disingenuous.
“Absolutely not,” Atkins said. “I feel strongly otherwise. We feel really good about the process. It was an incredible effort from ownership to business to baseball, people coming together. Not the outcome we wanted, but feel really good about the process and absolutely felt like it was authentic and real.”
In the weeks since Ohtani’s signing, the Blue Jays have pivoted to a pair of run prevention-related moves, bringing back centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier (one-year, $10.5 million) and acquiring utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa (two-year, $15 million).
Atkins is excited about where his team is positioned at this point of the off-season. Having said that, he’s still looking to make a few more additions, targeting another outfielder or, perhaps, a designated hitter, but they aren’t “actively looking to trade away from our major league team.”


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