While officially bidding bon voyage to a franchise icon, general manager Ross Atkins laid out some of his plans to turn around the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
As baseball rolls into the excitement of the postseason, the Blue Jays find themselves sidelined from all the tumult for the first time in three years – and Atkins said he doesn’t like the vantage point.
“It’s obviously been a massive disappointment for us this year,” said Atkins, who saw his aging baseball team plummet to a fourth-place finish in the American League East with a 76-86 record.
“The emotions you feel on a losing season are seemingly more intense than you [get] in a winning season,” Atkins said. “You expect to win and it’s been painful in many ways.”
Atkins has already taken care of one difficult task – cutting ties with fan-favourite right-fielder Jose Bautista. Atkins confirmed on Tuesday that the club will not be picking up the mutual $17-million (U.S.) option on his contract next season.
While Atkins did not rule out the possibility of Bautista returning to Toronto down the road, the move was almost academic after the once-feared slugger hit just .203 on the season, with 23 home runs, while striking out on a franchise-high 170 occasions.
“We sat down, we met with Jose, a couple of weeks ago and made it aware that we would not be picking up his option,” Atkins said while sitting down with reporters at Rogers Centre. “I don’t believe in closing any doors and speaking in absolutes, but based on the construction of our roster, we feel he’s unlikely a part of the solution moving forward.”
At or near the top in almost every meaningful offensive category for the franchise during an overall splendid 9 1/2 seasons, Atkins said the organization will not forget Bautista’s contributions.