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Blue Jays GM Atkins says he's close on a deal, sees opportunity in market – CBC.ca

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Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins had just started a media conference call on Thursday when a call came in on his mobile phone.

Some 15 minutes later, it was his iPad that started ringing. In between those unanswered calls, Atkins told reporters that he had recently “been close on another deal.”

After a turnaround season that has the franchise and fanbase brimming with optimism, this could be a busy and very interesting off-season for Atkins.

“I think there is opportunity in this market for sure,” he said. “We see opportunity for us to get better and it’s very important that we have a very disciplined approach towards it.”

For the first time in years, the Blue Jays have been mentioned as potential landing spots for big-name players either via trade or free agency.

The signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu was the big splash last winter. The four-year contract worth $80 million US showed the Blue Jays meant business after a three-year rebuild.

The left-hander was the ace of the rotation and finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting.

Potential for activity

So what will Atkins do for an encore? He didn’t tip his hand on the 35-minute conference call as the four-day GM virtual meetings came to a close.

But for a team that seemingly has money to spend, a youthful nucleus with real potential and prospect capital to make big moves if desired, the calls to Atkins should keep rolling in.

“One of the most encouraging feelings and things that we’re hearing from other teams is that we have the farm system to make those trades if it presents itself,” he said

Atkins wouldn’t say if the deal he was ‘close’ on was of the trade or free agent variety.

He struck quickly to sign left-hander Robbie Ray last week to a one-year deal worth $8 million, making him the first free agent to sign this off-season.

Atkins said this week that he felt good about the team’s chances of acquiring another free agent in the starting pitcher market. He added that he’s working on the trade market “simultaneously” as the Blue Jays look to improve team defence and on the mound.

Holes in the rotation

The Blue Jays lost starters Taijuan Walker and Matt Shoemaker to free agency. Toronto also declined the option on Chase Anderson’s contract, leaving a starting five – at the moment – that will likely include Ryu, Ray, Nate Pearson, Ross Stripling and Tanner Roark.

Team payroll plans are expected to be finalized after president Mark Shapiro makes a presentation to the Blue Jays’ ownership group this month.

In addition to trying to improve the roster, team brass must also consider alternate plans in the event Rogers Centre is not an option for home games in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team played most home games last season at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field due to border restrictions that prevented games from being played in Canada.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in about three months. The pre-season schedule is set to begin Feb. 27 against Philadelphia.

The Blue Jays will open the regular season April 1 against the New York Yankees. The 2021 home opener is set for April 8 against the Los Angeles Angels.

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New Rockets’ coach expects Harden to be ‘all in’ this season – Sportsnet.ca

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HOUSTON — New Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t talk a lot about James Harden and the rumours that he’s unhappy in Houston on Thursday.

But he was clear about one thing — he expects Harden to be there when the Rockets open camp this weekend.

“I’m confident that he will be all in,” Silas said. “That’s where I’m leaving it. As I said, I’ve given him the space to to do his thing. But I’m confident he’ll be here when we get started.”

Reports that Harden wants out of Houston have swirled since another early playoff exit by the Rockets when they were eliminated by the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. It was rumoured that both Harden and Westbrook wanted to leave the team. Westbrook got his wish Wednesday night when he was shipped to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick.

Westbrook lasted just one season in Houston playing with Harden and an unconventional small-ball lineup. Now both Westbrook and that small-ball lineup are a thing of the past, with Westbrook heading to the nation’s capital and centre DeMarcus Cousins joining the Rockets.

Silas is a longtime NBA assistant in his first job as a head coach after being hired to replace Mike D’Antoni, who told the Rockets he wasn’t returning at the end of the season. Silas said he hasn’t spoken to Harden since the trade and that he’s employed a hands-off approach with the superstar so far.

“When stuff like this kind of happens, where there’s a little indecision and stuff going on, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space,” Silas said. “So from my perspective, my communication has been I’m giving you space. And that’s kind of where it’s been as far as my communication with him. And guys like that need that.”

Silas is excited to add a player of Wall’s calibre to his team, but admitted that he had some mixed emotions when he learned of the trade.

“If it weren’t for Russell Westbrook, I probably wouldn’t have this job,” Silas said. “So the fact that he vouched for me in the interview process was one of the first things that I thought of when the trade was made.”

Then he remembered all his years as an assistant in Charlotte when he had to plan to defend Wall four times a year.

“The second part of it is how dynamic John Wall has been in his career and some of the nightmares that I’ve had trying to defend him and pick and roll and all the pick and roll passes that he’s able to make,” Silas said.

Also on Thursday, Cousins spoke to reporters for the first time since signing with the Rockets earlier in the week. The 30-year-old said he’s healthy and can’t wait to get started after missing all of last season recovering from a knee injury.

“It was a tough task, mentally, physically, but at the same time, I was able to rest my body and it was much-needed rest,” Cousins said. “Coming back off of that, I feel incredible, my body is in a great place, my mind is in a great place and I’m just ready to get back on the floor and play the game that I love.”

He’s also ecstatic about being reunited with Wall, his college teammate at Kentucky. Cousins said he’s known Wall since he was 14 and that the point guard was a groomsman in his wedding.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Cousins said. “It’s something me and him planned and dreamed about for a long time. So I’m pretty sure he’s just grateful for his moment as I am.”

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Thursday Bantering: Jays Bits – Bluebird Banter

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There isn’t much for news or rumors today.

There is a rumor that the Blue Jays have been talking to the Phillies about Jean Segura. I am putting that into the Blue Jays kick the tires on anyone who could be up for trade.

Segura played third and second last year, after being a shortstop for his career before that. He had been pretty much a league average shortstop defensively, but he had a very good 9.4 UZR/150 this season. Generally shortstops moved to second look better with the glove.

He’s hit well in his career. From 2016 to 2018 he hit .308/.353/.449 in 422 games. This season wasn’t as good, hitting .266/.347/.422. He has 183 stolen bases in his career, but then only 2 this year.

He turns 31 in March and has two years, both at $14,859,000. And there is an option year at $17 million. I’m thinking that, if they traded for him, they would expect the Phillies to take some of that money.

They could look at him as a very good utility player, or could be thinking that his glove is a big up grade at second or third.

I wouldn’t be excited about getting him, but depending on what we shipped to the Phillies I’d be ok with it.


There were a few interesting players non-tendered. You can see the whole list here. I used to be interesting in Kyle Schwarber but he isn’t someone I’d like the Jays to chase after now. Delino DeShields is a good glove CF and would be a good 4th outfielder type, and could pinch run, but I don’t know home much of an upgrade from Jonathan Davis.

The one player I’d like to see them look at is Carlos Rodon. When he came up, we all thought that he was going to be a very good starting pitcher. His career has been damaged by injuries, but there is still potential there.

Our old friend Ryan Tepera is on the list. I’d be ok with a minor league contract.


Minor Leaguer has updated the Roster Route Map:


The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers of America (insert annual joke about there being a Canadian chapter of the BBWAA) have released the results of their annual award voting.

  • Teoscar Hernandez was named most improved player and player of the year.
  • Hyun Jin Ryu is pitcher of the year (they should rename this the Halladay award).
  • Jordan Romano gets the rookie of the year.
  • Anthony Alford and Mike Wilner get the John Cerutti award for ‘displaying goodwill, cooperation and character;’.

It is worth noting that both the ‘good-guy’ award winners are no longer with the team.


In the past the Tip O’Neill award award has gone to a major league player, but it is kind of cool that they widened the net this year.

Romak hit .282/.399/.546 with 32 home runs in 139 games for SK Wyverns. The team didn’t have a good season going 51-92 this year.

Congratulations Jamie.


Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they are having their annual Holiday Auction. There are many things I’d love to own, but I only bid on a couple of them (don’t bid against me).

There are many signed balls, bats, jerseys, some very nice artwork and much more. If you were looking for a Christmas present for your favorite site managers, there is no end of good choices.


Over in the Sun, Rob Longley tells us that Vladimir Guerrero isn’t a lock for third base, but there is this quote:

“It’s just because of his arms and his hands,” Atkins said when asked how Guerrero can be successful at his original position. “If he’s coming in at the overall body (composition) and weight and agility he was in Double A, it’s realistic to think of him being an impact player at third base.


Gregor Chisholm, in the Star, writes about the first five years of the Shapiro/Atkins reign. And he also goes through the 70 (!) trades they have made and takes a closer look at the ‘top 25’ .

He lists 10 as wins, 9 as losses, 3 as draws and 3 as TBD.

A couple I might argue:

  • Pearce for Espinal is listed as a loss, but, to me it is TBD, Pearce was great in the World Series, but Espinal might be a handy player to have in the long run.
  • He had Merryweather for Donaldson a win. We were trading only a couple of months of an injured Josh, but it was just a weird and poorly done trade.
  • Stroman for Kay and Woods Richardson is listed as TBD, but I count that as a win.

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Knicks Only Had Interest In Russell Westbrook If Rockets Attached Assets – RealGM.com

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Russell Westbrook was an All-NBA selection in 19-20, but he received very little trade interest as he sought a trade from the Houston Rockets.

“There. Was. No. Market. For. Russell. Westbrook,” said Zach Lowe on his podcast one day after the trade. “I kept saying this over and over again. The Clippers were not interested. The Knicks were not interested unless they were incentivized. I don’t know where the Hornets noise came from. Maybe it was credible. All I can say is from the people I know there, I never heard they were interested. There was, to my knowledge, nothing.”

Westbrook has $132 million remaining on his contract over three seasons and has fit issues.

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