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Atkins says Blue Jays sale rumours won’t affect off-season plans


TORONTO – The bombshell public pronouncement by chief financial officer Tony Staffieri that Rogers Communications Inc. is considering a sale of the Toronto Blue Jays among other assets will have no impact on the club’s pursuit of players this winter, insists Ross Atkins.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon during the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual awards luncheon, the club’s general manager said he and his staff continue to operate on the plans they’ve already laid out with the winter meetings set to open Monday in Orlando.

“We have so much freedom and flexibility the way that we do operate and the way we’ve articulated our strategy, our resources, our goals to agents, other teams, nothing has changed on that front,” said Atkins.

On Tuesday, Staffieri told the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York that the telecommunications giant – which owns Sportsnet – was seeking ways to “surface value” from the Blue Jays, a phrase Rogers CEO Joe Natale also used during a conference call with analysts in October.

“To be clear, there isn’t anything imminent that we are about to announce, but we’re certainly looking at the alternatives. Again, would like to get the content without necessarily having the capital tied up on our balance sheet,” Staffieri said during an on-stage interview, according to a transcripts of the event Thomson Reuters provided to The Canadian Press.

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A sale of the Blue Jays would be no simple task, as the pool of potential buyers for the club would be relatively limited. If a transfer were to occur, Major League Baseball would likely prefer the team go to an individual, as opposed to another corporation, with Edward Rogers, currently the club’s chairman and son of the telecommunication giant’s founder Ted Rogers, making the most sense.

Edward Rogers is currently listed as the Blue Jays’ control person with Major League Baseball.

When reached for comment, Rogers director of media relations Sarah Schmidt provided the following statement:

“We have terrific sports assets including the Toronto Blue Jays that have performed really well for us. As we have said, we would like to surface value and get credit for these assets in our overall company valuation.”

Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro was in New York for meetings and unavailable, and a team spokesman referred questions to ownership.

Still, Staffieri’s comments created an immediate buzz and raised some questions on how potential free agents targeted by the Blue Jays might view the suddenly public uncertainty.

Atkins played down any of those concerns, saying, “I can only speak from the Toronto Blue Jays’ perspective, but not at all,” he said of the news having a potential impact.

Atkins praised Rogers, Natale and Staffieri for their support and for “having helped us be a better organization. That will remain to be the same, as far as I’m concerned.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans inside the Blue Jays and around MLB with news, analysis and interviews.

The club’s plan for this off-season remains to try and compete for a post-season berth in 2018 and the news won’t cause the team to alter its course.

“My respect for the way our set-up exists and the direction we’ve been given and that Mark gives me, and Edward, Joe and Tony give us, is sound and clear. We feel we have everything that we need to run a good business and a good baseball team,” said Atkins, adding later: “We understand what our resources are and what we have to operate with – they are plenty. We are comfortable with where things stand.”

Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is the only major add the Blue Jays have made so far in a largely slow moving market, and much work remains augmenting a club that finished 76-86 in an injury-riddled 2017.

There are holes at multiple spots in need of upgrading and the club remains on the hunt for another versatile player to bolster Diaz, who is coming off a difficult 2016 and has an option remaining.

“We know we need to complement our infield further, our outfield further, our pitching further,” said Atkins. “Potentially even complement our catching situation in some way.”



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December 6, 2017

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