Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins met with the media shortly after Teoscar Hernandez was traded to the Seattle Mariners to explain the move, break down what he likes about the new additions, and discuss where the team goes from here.
- What did you like about the trade, and how hard was it to give up Teoscar Hernandez after all he's done for the organization?
ROSS ATKINS: Yeah, I mean Teo has been incredible for us. I mean, from 2017 from when we acquired him, the excitement he's brought to the field. He's been a huge part of this transition for us, from going to an interesting team to a contending team. Obviously, has a lot of strong relationships here, including one with me.
I think the world of him. So we will miss him. We got to the point where we felt like the acquisitions on the run prevention side would help us. It does create some flexibility for us as well, in terms of resources and thinking about where we had depth. There was an opportunity to move. There was a pretty decent market for Teo, as you would expect.
And so the opportunity made sense for both teams. No trade is ever easy and always comes down to all the alternatives for both sides. And fortunately, it worked out that it made sense for both teams.
- You mentioned the flexibility. This would seem to set you up for some future moves. Do you already have an idea of what those moves looking real nice in the be or is this more about opening a bunch of doors, and a bunch of scenarios for you as this offseason plays out?
ROSS ATKINS: I mean, I think closer to A than B in terms of your questions. You know, I think we have a decent idea over the last several weeks of where the opportunities are going to be, via trade, via free agency, to make our team better as we continue to look for pitching and continue to look for a more versatile offense and to complement our defense. So we-- a lot of our focus has been on the run prevention side, and this created an opportunity for us.
- Thanks, Ross.
ROSS ATKINS: All right.
- Next we'll go to Ben.
- Thanks for the time. Can you hear me? Can you hear me, Ross?
ROSS ATKINS: Hey, Ben. Can you turn your volume up a little bit.
- Let's see. Any better? Can you hear me?
ROSS ATKINS: Little higher?
- That worse? Sorry.
ROSS ATKINS: There you go.
- Yeah, better? OK. So yeah, so wondering, how do you see your outfield at this point Teoscar gone? Is that something you identify as a clear need? How would you assess that?
ROSS ATKINS: I see it more of an opportunity. We have five players that we feel very good about going out there on a regular to semi-regular basis. Obviously, with George and Lourdes, feel very good and feel like there's opportunities with Whit Merrifield, with Cavan Biggio. There's going to be playing time with the group that is here already.
So we'll continue to look to complement that. Also, we know that we recently protected Nathan Lucas who we're excited about. But there are opportunities to add to our team there, via trade and free agency. And we're in a better position to do so now from a resource, and from just playing time and recruitment standpoint.
- For sure. And then on the bullpen side, I mean, last week it seemed like you guys were being pretty aggressive in that market. But at the same time, it's not as though you have like five openings to fill in the bullpen. So with Swanson in place, how do you assess that? I mean, do you guys take a step back on that part of the market for now? Or how do you characterize it?
ROSS ATKINS: Yeah, I think we'll keep trying to get better. I mean, I can take I think out of that sentence, we will keep trying to get better. And depth is everything in that market. And with Eric Swanson coming off a really remarkable year, getting both sides of the plate out and a regular basis, a very high strikeout rate with a well above average weapon in his split.
We feel is fastball plays above average with a slightly above average slider that attacked right handed hitters and left handed hitters exceptionally well. He'll compliment us well. Could pitch really in any inning for us. And the strikeouts are big. That's been talked about a lot, obviously for some good reason. That's an opportunity for us to improve. But at the same time, we're never done. But the more depth you have, sometimes does create a little bit of opportunity costs, or lack of flexibility that will always have to be factored in.
- For sure. Thank you.
- OK, Ethan?
- Hey, Ross. With Swanson, do you have any concerns with his track record maybe? I mean, he was great last season, but beyond that he's still relatively unproven.
ROSS ATKINS: Yeah, his peripherals have been good. The strikeouts have been there. The stuff has been improving and feel like we have them at a very strong point in his career. And he's still very young. So I think that the case with relievers sometimes is that there is some level of transition, especially through a pandemic. But his weapons project to be continuing to pitch well. And what he did over the course of an entire year last year is very encouraging for us.
- And then I guess on the outfield side of things, with Taylor gone is, how does that affect George Springer's position in center field? Is there an opportunity, let's say, for him to move to right field if a better option at center field presents itself?
ROSS ATKINS: It's a great position to be in. Feel very good about him in center field. And if that does present itself where there's an everyday center fielder, or center fielder that can add, that we can add, if it makes our team better, I know George will be open to it.
ROSS ATKINS: All right.
- You're up, Ethan.
- Ross, on the financial aspect of this, obviously with Teo had been heading for a big arbitration year, how big of a factor was that for you? And what opportunities does that open up for you now? How are things different for you financially.
ROSS ATKINS: Well, the great thing is that we didn't need it. We've had so much support from Rogers that wasn't a driving factor, but it's still a benefit. Now that is increased flexibility and increased opportunity on our roster.
- And in terms of the bullpen as a whole, how you view that group right now, obviously a lot of depth coming from last year. But do you see a need or a complementary piece, or a reliever type that you still need in there? Or how do you look at that group?
ROSS ATKINS: Yeah. I think in an ideal world that we're not competing against 29 other teams. And if we could just have our way with acquisitions, then we would be look to acquiring at the higher end of that market for more significant impact. But don't feel like we absolutely have to, or need to, by any means.
- Thank you, Ross.
ROSS ATKINS: All right, Keith.
- Your turn, Caitlin.
- Hey, Ross. Last week we were talking about how at the GM meetings there was maybe a lot more discussion on trades happening, just because of the nature of it. I just wondered as much as you're willing to share how this deal maybe came together. Was groundwork laid out last week or--
ROSS ATKINS: Sure. Yeah, there was a lot of-- there was a lot of interest. And then you work through exchanges to determine just how significant the interest is. It came down to three, maybe, you could say four teams that had that level of interest. And in the end, it worked out that Seattle put the best offer in front of us, or accepted the best offer that we made.
But there was several teams that had interest in this market for right handed bats like Teo. He was one of the better hitters in it. And we are fortunate to have some depth in that area.
- And just on moving on from Teoscar, specifically, you spoke a little earlier just about how all trades feel big. But certainly with him, he's kind of been a core piece of this team, and how you guys have been building. I just wondered with him moving on, does it feel more significant for you?
ROSS ATKINS: Well, any trade is difficult. All relationships over time, when you're parting ways, , it's always difficult. The thing that's been so exciting about Oscar is the level of joy that he plays with, and the smile that he brings to this game, and what that means for the Toronto Blue Jays, what that means for his teammates.
And the clubhouse has been significant. He's also been extremely productive, especially over the last three years. He was remarkable in the shortened year, had a well above average offensive year last year, or the year before, in 2021, and had a very solid year in 2022. So he's been a big part of our transition, and towards contending, and he will be missed.
I mean in terms of significance for me, I think of it in terms of the organization and what we can do to be better, what we can do to take a step forward, and sometimes it comes with tough decisions.
- Thank you.
ROSS ATKINS: Sure.
- You're up, Jay.
- Hey Ross, moving Teoscar, I'm wondering one how you anticipate replacing some of that lost production, or where do you envision some of the lost production that he provided coming from? And with moving him off, does that prevent you or maybe change your perspective on perhaps moving other established players off your roster, from your lineup at this point?
ROSS ATKINS: So one, I think we will be able to replace it with some of the players that are either not playing as much last year, or from within, and from the player development system. But there will also be other opportunities via trade and free agency, as I mentioned earlier. And we will exhaust those. Secondarily, making it more difficult, sure, somewhat. But it just depends on the return. If the return is towards your Major League team, then it doesn't really-- this past trade doesn't impact the next one.
- And just in terms of Teoscar, you mentioned the interest in him, which is understandable. And obviously he is coming up on free agency. How much of this was perhaps you, or your consideration in terms of moving him, you guys perhaps not aligning on a longer term extension, or a sense of making sure that you needed to get something significant on the asset before it potentially expired?
ROSS ATKINS: There really wasn't that much of a factor. I felt like that could have been there and still is. So we the potential of him being a Blue Jay in 2024 still remains, unless he gets extended by Seattle. So that wasn't a driving factor for us.
- Right, thanks Ross.
- That's finie.
- Oh you're up, Mike.
- Hey, Ross. We were talking a lot about Swanson and about Teoscar, how does Matt go figure into this? Is he more than a lottery ticket? Is he someone that you guys have had an eye on?
ROSS ATKINS: We loved him in the draft and continued to value him. Our pro scouts have really good reports. The pitch grades are fantastic on him. So the overall evaluation of the objective measures of his arsenal are all above average. He has three above average secondary weapons with an above average fastball.
He has not logged in and an entire season of innings, would be probably the reason he was available. So I think if we can put him into a position where he can sustain and haul a full season of innings, he could become easily one of the better prospects in baseball.
He's got the arsenal to do that. So like with any trade, there's risk. And he was a prospect that we've had our eye on for some time. And we're very fortunate that he was available.
- And earlier, you mentioned that there are five-- five guys throw it in the outfield, and then Lourdes, and George, and Calvin, and Whit. Is the fifth guy Lucas, or Otto Lopez, or somebody else?
ROSS ATKINS: Lucas.
- Thank you.
- All right. Well, thank you Mike, and thanks, everyone, for joining us today. And thank you, Ross, for your time.
ROSS ATKINS: All right. Thanks, everyone.