While ownership of the Toronto Blue Jays may be in play, the team's general manager said that will not affect how he tries to improve the on-field product heading into baseball's winter meetings.
The annual gathering of executives from all 30 Major League Baseball clubs begins Monday in Orlando. It is considered the launching pad for most of the serious off-season trades and free-agency signings.
Toronto GM Ross Atkins will head to Florida with a lengthy shopping list he would like to fill in order to improve upon a calamitous 2017 Blue Jays campaign.
And he will have to do so under the cloud of a possible ownership change after a senior executive with Rogers Communications Inc. floated the possibility that the company might be interested in selling the baseball club.
But Atkins said the news will not affect his job in Florida of trying to make a trade, or a pitch to a free agent.
"I can only speak from the Toronto Blue Jays perspective – not at all," Atkins said on Wednesday during a meeting of the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
"We have so much freedom and flexibility the way that we do operate and the way that we've articulated our strategy, our resources, our goals to agents and other teams," Atkins said. "Nothing has changed on our side."
However, Atkins knows he will likely have to field inquiries about an ownership change from the multitude of player agents who will be floating through the lobby of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, looking to secure lucrative deals for free-agent clients. Agents are unlikely to want to tie their player to a club where the ownership issue is not on solid footing.
The Blue Jays ownership became a topic of discussion after Tony Staffieri, the chief financial officer at Rogers, floated the idea on Tuesday that the company might be willing to sell its ownership of the baseball club. Staffieri, speaking at a meeting of the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York, said that Rogers is considering the sale of some of its assets to free up capital for other investments. He added that no deal is imminent.
Forbes Magazine has recently pegged the worth of the baseball franchise at $1.6-billion Canadian.
Wednesday's BBWAA gathering in Toronto was also to include Mark Shapiro, the Blue Jays president and chief executive officer. But Shapiro was in New York and was unable to return in time to attend, according to a Blue Jays spokesperson.
The team has already started retooling for next season. On Friday, the Blue Jays declined to tender a contract to popular utility infielder Ryan Goins, 29, which made him a free agent.
Later that day, the Blue Jays said they had acquired Aledmys Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for a low-A outfield prospect J.B. Woodman, a former second-round pick.
Diaz, 27, who has primarily played shortstop, is not as defensively savvy as Goins, but his bat is more intriguing. During his rookie year in 2016, he hit 17 home runs and batted .300.
His production fell off considerably at the beginning of 2017 and after three months at the major-league level was optioned to the Cardinals' Triple-A outfit in Memphis.
The Blue Jays believe that Diaz can also be used at second base and that he will provide better insurance up the middle should shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and second baseman Devon Travis get injured.
The Blue Jays also dipped their toes in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes but the Japanese pitching and hitting sensation last week ruled out Toronto as one of his potential landing spots.
While disappointed that Ohtani spurned Toronto's overtures, Atkins said it makes his job a bit clearer heading into the winter meetings.
The team's needs, he said, include trying to land another middle infielder and a pitcher, preferably a starter, along with another outfielder. The Jays, who finished the past season fourth in the American League East at 76-86 and missed the playoffs, want to add spark to an offence that was worst in the majors.
Atkins said that he is happy with the anticipated rotation, which should return intact with Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and, the Jays hope, a healthy Aaron Sanchez.
The fifth spot in the rotation will fall to Joe Biagini, the on-again, off-again starter – provided he meets the team's off-season conditioning orders.
Atkins said Biagini, who has also been used extensively out of the bullpen, has never really built himself up for a full season as a starter.
"You have to train your body differently to haul – and he did it in the minor leagues – seven or eight innings 28-32 times [a year], whatever number that's going to be," Atkins said. "It is very different from pitching in one- or two-inning stints."