Rejoins Mark Shapiro after 15-year relationship with Cleveland Indians
New team president Mark Shapiro is turning to a close friend to fill the Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager position.
Longtime Cleveland Indians executive Ross Atkins was named GM and executive vice-president of baseball operations on Thursday. Atkins most recently served as the Indians’ vice-president of player personnel under Shapiro.
Assistant general manager Tony LaCava, who served as interim GM after the departure of Alex Anthopoulos, has been promoted to senior vice-president of baseball operations, the team also said in a release.
Shapiro and Atkins will hold a media availability Friday morning at Rogers Centre.
Shapiro, a former general manager with Cleveland, became Toronto’s new president last month. He succeeded Paul Beeston, who retired at the end of October.
Atkins, a 42-year-old native of Greensboro, N.C., will be the seventh general manager in franchise history. The former pitcher was drafted by Cleveland in 1995 and spent his entire pro career with the Indians organization.
After a five-season playing career in the minor leagues, Atkins started working with the team’s pitching prospects before becoming the assistant farm director in 2001. He worked as the club’s director of Latin American operations for three years and ran the farm system from 2007-’14.
He interviewed in the past for GM openings in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
The 81-80 Indians finished third in the American League Central last season while the 93-69 Blue Jays won the East and made their first playoff appearance in 22 years. Toronto advanced to the American League Championship Series before falling to the Kansas City Royals in six games.
A few days after Toronto was eliminated, Anthopoulos stunned many baseball observers by declining to sign a new contract to remain as GM. He was named executive of the year on the day he announced his decision.
Anthopoulos turned down a five-year extension amid reports of a difference in vision with the new president. The 38-year-old Montreal native would only say he didn’t feel like it would be the right fit, adding it was his choice to leave.
Anthopoulos became very popular in Toronto after making several big moves at the trade deadline last summer. The Blue Jays responded with a strong second half to end their long post-season drought.
Atkins will have a solid nucleus in place next season. Most key position players will be back and the team boasts arguably the most feared offence in the major leagues.
However, the pitching staff has a few holes. Ace David Price was lost to free agency, with the Boston Red Sox expected to announce his signing Friday. Another key member of the starting rotation, left-hander Mark Buehrle, is expected to retire or play closer to home.
The Blue Jays recently signed left-hander J.A. Happ to a three-year contract and re-signed Marco Estrada to a two-year deal.
Courtesy – With files from CBC Sports