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Atkins: You just have to do the best possible job you can to make your team better

Ross Atkins Toronto Blue Jays Ross Atkins - The Canadian Press

It’s no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays are a suitor for two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. The team is “believed” to have met with the free agent on Monday at the team’s spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

The Jays have been linked to Ohtani throughout the off-season as the team looks to make a splash after a disappointing exit in last year’s playoffs.

Speaking with TSN’s Steve Phillips on Tuesday, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins addressed the speculation that the Jays are involved in major talks with Ohtani and in trade discussions with the San Diego Padres for outfielder Juan Soto.

“Any deal, acquiring George Springer, trading for Jose Berrios, signing Kevin Gausman…these deals that are of some significance are exceptionally complex, exceptionally competitive, and exceptionally difficult to execute,” said Atkins.

“There are so many stakeholders that you have to balance and respect and just do the best possible job you can to make your team better.”

Ohtani won his second American League MVP this season despite being shut down with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow late in the year. The 29-year-old finished with a career-best .304 average to go along with 44 home runs and 95 RBI in 135 games. He also made 23 starts in 2023, posting a record of 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings.

Manager John Schneider spoke with TSN’s Scott Mitchell on Tuesday and also addressed the possibility that the best player in baseball could be joining a lineup that struggled offensively in 2023.

“For one, I feel really good about the team we have now. Secondly, it’s exciting that we’re in the mix for it,” said Schneider. “There are a lot of different ways to make our team better and he’s obviously a great player."

“It was a unique year offensively, with a lot of guys with huge track records that didn’t get to where they had been. But if you look at our pitching and our defence, you feel really good about where that landed. Hopefully with some tweaks we can make the adjustments offensively.”

Ohtani underwent elbow surgery in September and is not expected to pitch during the 2024 season but should be ready to hit as of Opening Day.

The Blue Jays finished last season with an 89-73 record and finished third in the AL East before being swept by the Twins in the wild-card round.