On Friday, the Blue Jays will reveal the former vice president of player personnel of the Cleveland Indians, Ross Atkins, as their new GM and “executive vice president of baseball operations.” As expected, the Jays’ new president, Mark Shapiro, has gone to his former club to bring in his own GM to serve as his #2 man. But what does this mean for the Jays’ front office?
As has been discussed and written about by many people (here, here, here and here), the fact that Atkins, 42, is coming in to be the Jays’ GM under Shapiro is a clear example of “title inflation.” Alex Anthopoulos was a classic general manager with the authority to make moves autonomously. With the hiring of Shapiro, the Blue Jays are moving to a title-inflated model wherein the president calls the shots rather than just runs the business (as Paul Beeston did). While none of the principal actors has commented directly, it is believed that coming back into a diminished role was one reason why AA left the Jays (in addition to a difference in philosophy from Shapiro).
Atkins, at least, is coming into a situation in which he isn’t being forced to give up any degree of autonomy. Atkins cut his teeth on the player development side of things for the Indians which leads to questions about what kind of portfolio he’s going to be handed under Shapiro. Is Atkins going to handle contract negotiations? Is he going to handle trade talks?
Further complicating matters is the fact that Tony LaCava, the interim GM who recently signed a contract extension, is going back to his “assistant GM” position that comes along with a title promotion to senior vice president of baseball operations.
Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Shi Davidi belives that LaCava will still be the club’s point man in the winter meetings coming up, giving Atkins some time to come up to speed on his new duties and with the Blue Jays but is there going to be tension between LaCava, another player-development man, and Atkins with competing opinions about the club, the players and the direction? Will Shapiro be able to keep them both satisfied and feeling like they’re contributing?
The latest trend in baseball front offices is to bring in as many smart and talented people as the club can afford to hire, using title inflation to attract them. The question is whether Mark Shapiro, occupying the top spot on the flow chart, can get the most out of his people to make the Blue Jays a World Series winner.
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