DUNEDIN, Fla. — Shortly after the Houston Astros won the World Series and parted ways with James Click, Ross Atkins reached out to pass along his best. The executives had crossed paths over the years and competed against one another as general managers the past three years and there was some mutual appreciation there.
Eventually, what was next for Click came up naturally and Atkins told him that once he was ready to think about his options, to consider the Toronto Blue Jays. That led to an extended set of meetings in January in which the 45-year-old from Durham, N.C., spent a day and a half at the club’s Player Development Complex meeting department heads and other staff, and finally his hire as vice-president, baseball strategy, a job he starts Wednesday.
“We were exceptionally excited that he chose us,” said Atkins. “I know he had choices and options.”
Click’s official job description says he’ll team with “Atkins and department heads on strategic planning, decision making, and evaluation. He will work across both professional and amateur levels to identify best practises, develop plans, and implement strategies.”
More simply put, he’ll take what he’s learned from his 15 years with the Tampa Bay Rays and time with the Astros — two of the smartest front offices in baseball — and apply that to what he finds underneath the hood with the Blue Jays.
That will give the organization “an objective view of things that we’re doing well, things that we could be doing better,” said Atkins. “We feel very, very good about where we are as an organization, but we’re always trying to get better and his perspective is one that we’re certain can help us from an objective standpoint and subjective standpoint.”
The Blue Jays have hired from both organizations in recent years, bringing Charlie Montoyo over from the Rays and Dave Hudgens, who’s worked in a few coaching and hitting roles, over from the Astros.
Atkins conceded that whenever someone comes over from another team, there “is a natural inclination for us to be asking questions about how things were done in certain ways.”
“But really we’re not looking just to learn from what has happened in the past, but more thinking about the best possible practises that could be,” Atkins added. “That is one lens of it where of course you learn from history, but then thinking about the best possible practises, whether it’s decision making, whether the tools that we’re using, the plans that we’re building, how can we think about that more systematically and more strategically to be above what others are doing.”
Beyond building up their roster, the Blue Jays have also beefed up their knowledge and experience base around the club, from adding Don Mattingly as bench coach, to hiring Victor Martinez and rehiring Paul Quantrill as special assistants to baseball operations, with plans for Edwin Encarnacion and Pat Hentgen to spend time with the team this spring exploring larger roles, too.
Atkins said that wasn’t part of any concerted effort, but “I suppose there’s some level of us becoming more and more attractive with winning seasons and advanced resources continuing to be built out, and a good environment hopefully that people are attracted to,” he said. “Maybe the resume’s credibility seems higher.”