Baseball executives have a talent for saying a lot without saying anything at all. Alex Anthopoulos was the master of giving a six-minute answer to a question without providing any morsel of information whatsoever.
Fielding questions from the media and spinning them into noteworthy quotes is a necessary part of a GM’s job; something which Ross Atkins is settling into. Whether he meant to do this or not, he left a few hints behind in the aftermath of his many media appearances.
Yesterday, the Blue Jays General Manager met with the media for a postmortem on the 2017 season and he mentioned a few key things about dire needs on the roster and provided some insight into the club’s offseason priorities.
“We need to think about middle infield depth”
I hate to say it, but the way Atkins was pushing the emphasis on middle infield depth, it sounds like the status of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki is really up in the air.
It’s reached to the point where the Blue Jays need to find themselves a middle infielder to back-fill where Travis and Tulowitzki may come up short. Atkins tipped his hand towards the kind of player the Blue Jays are looking for this offseason:
“In the case of Devon Travis, we need to think about middle infield depth. I think that’s similar at shortstop. We need to plan and account for a very good Major League player getting significant player getting reps and short and second base.”
If Ben Zobrist were available, he’d be the perfect prototype here; a fielder who can play the infield and outfield well enough and can handle the bat at the plate. The Blue Jays may be forced to settle for a Ben Zobrist-lite: someone like Dee Gordon or Eduardo Nunez.
“Addition and Subtraction”
To the best of my knowledge, this is the second time this year that Atkins has alluded to the fact that the club could make itself better by simply taking certain players off the big league roster.
Of course, he didn’t indicate which players those were (it may have been Francisco Liriano at the deadline), but Atkins mentioned it again yesterday:
“It could be in the form of addition and subtraction. Maybe there’s a piece that comes off our Major League team. A lot people have asked us a lot of questions about the potential of trading very, very good players – and I won’t mention them by name – the only way we’re going to do that is if we make our Major League team better”.
Stoeten made reference to this at Blue Jays Nation, but Kevin Pillar is the front-runner for the type of player that fits the mold, here. Atkins could also be referring to Roberto Osuna, maybe someone like Marcus Stroman (but not very likely); areas where the club could afford to give up in order to boost up another position.
If the Blue Jays had to trade Pillar to shore up the middle infield? I’m all for it. If they need to deal Osuna to acquire a stud outfielder? Sure, go for it. Just so long – as Atkins mentioned – it improves the Blue Jays’ overall roster. It sure sounded like Atkins was preparing folks for the likelihood of trading away a big name player this winter.
“Inefficiency of communication”
I believe this part of the presser was open to the writers only, but John Lott had a great piece at The Athletic in where he attempts to decipher what Atkins was trying to say.
Along the way, the Jays GM made reference to “inefficiency of communication” between the front office and Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis.
Atkins on Travis and Sanchez: “I feel like I let them down” b/c of “inefficiency off some of our communication” involving staff. #BlueJays
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) October 3, 2017
This is just pure speculation on my part, but I’m guessing there was some disconnect between the players the front office in terms of timelines for returns for Travis and Sanchez. At multiple points, we heard these players would be coming back, but found out only weeks later that they’d be shut down for the season.
Perhaps Travis and Sanchez were under the impression they’d be returning this year, only to discover their injuries were more significant than originally thought. In that sense, I can see why Atkins said there was a breakdown in communication.