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Ross Atkins breaks down Blue Jays' trade deadline

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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins met with the media to discuss the moves the team made at Tuesday's MLB trade deadline.

Video Transcript

INTERVIEWER: Ross, just how about a week ago or a few days ago at least, you were talking about how a lot of the prices were pretty steep high going into this year's deadline. Did they lower it all? How did that come into today in terms of what it was a few days ago?

ROSS ATKINS: Every year, I think, whether it's a deadline or free agency, everything's a bit relative. It's about finding opportunities that fit either in free agency. If you're looking to acquire a free agent, obviously you're in a trade, finding what works for two organizations. So fortunately, we were able to do that on several fronts and we're exceptionally excited about the group that we've added to this exciting young core that we have so much confidence in.

And to add a group to that team that can be a part of this for some time, each of the individuals could be here for extended periods of time. We've seen huge benefits in that the continuity of these guys being together and caring about one another and it being special is important to us, and we've seen power in that. So exceptionally excited that we were able to line up with the acquisitions that we made.

SHAUN: Ross, how does Whit Merrifield fit into your roster? And what information do you have on his vaccination status and ability to enter Canada?

ROSS ATKINS: He's such a good player, first and foremost, and he is very accomplished with incredible experiences. The versatility, the contact ability, the speed, playing multiple positions, incredible base runner. I feel very good about him at so many different positions that that versatility will help us down the stretch. Between he and Calvin and Rimel and others, we feel like we can really protect and keep guys from time to time off their feet in the event of the injury we're very well covered.

But Whit we see someone as an everyday player and hopefully we'll be able to balance that. Well, I know John Schneider and his staff will work hard to balance that well for everyone. And on the vaccination status, he was acquired right at the deadline. So this is a very fresh acquisition and so because of that, I'm not going to comment more on that process for him and let him work through that with his family.

SHAUN: So the expectation, Ross, is that as things stand right now, he won't be available to you for the homestead when you return from this road trip?

ROSS ATKINS: Again, I'm not going to comment further on that out of respect for him. We have said hello to one another and I just want to be respectful of that.

KAITLYN MCGRATH: Ross, I just wondered, how did the status of George's elbow play into the acquisition for Whit Merrifield? You've mentioned his versatility and I assume you think he can play center field.

ROSS ATKINS: I mean, not really. Really the opportunity to acquire Whit was very exciting for us. I think the versatility protects us in many ways, but George's status was not weighing heavily into that.

ROB: Ross, obviously he made some adds to the bullpen. How would you describe the overall build of the bullpen now with the two?

ROSS ATKINS: It's very exciting for us to think about adding to Jordan Romano, congratulations to Jordan on winning reliever of the month, bullpen that over the last stretch has been very effective for us. And thinking about building out and Tim Mesa and Zimmer, and Jimmy Garcia, and David Phelps, and how well that they've performed. I'm complementing them with Trevor Richards, I'm now complementing them with Zach Pop, Mitch White will be a part of that in some way somehow, and Anthony Bass as well.

That's exciting. Zach has a power sinker and a very good slider that we think will complement that pen well. And Anthony Bass, his slider has been exceptionally effective in a tough division in the NL east and really excited about those two pieces coming into the fold. And Mitch White complements our rotation in the bullpen.

INTERVIEWER: What was a pretty crazy afternoon all around major league baseball. Were you involved or close in any other big deals as the deadline approached?

ROSS ATKINS: I mean, nothing's done until it's done, and define close. It's so difficult to do. We obviously over the course of the last month we're in many discussions with several different organizations and many different players. Really it's not that productive to talk about how close we were on player A from certain organizations and really would rather focus on the players that we were able to acquire that we are so excited about.

INTERVIEWER: Thanks, Ross. Ross, following up on Rob. It was a pretty active deadline, the Yankees, and twins, and astros are among the teams who have made some noise. How confident are you that you guys have done enough to not only hang with those guys but maybe surpass it?

ROSS ATKINS: We are so excited about this team and the acquisitions. I think the continuity aspect of it being able to think about complementing this core, the work we've done on the teammates and the character, the present value and the future value of each of these individuals is really exciting for us.

SHAUN: Ross, one more for me. Is it fair to characterize Mitch White as potentially being able to fit into that Ross stripling type of role where he goes to the bullpen and can be pulled out to start as needed or do you see him more in one area than the other?

ROSS ATKINS: Well, he's certainly done that and I think that's a fair assessment to think of someone filling that role. You see it more and more in the game today and it really comes down to the ability to start that is so attractive. Someone that can go five or six innings, throw 100 pitches, has the ability to get right-handers and left-handers out. Obviously, he has the arsenal to do that and the athleticism to hold up and the durability are all things that aren't easy to acquire.

SHAUN: Thanks.

ROSS ATKINS: All right, Shaun. Thanks, Kaitlyn.

MODERATOR: We'll go over to Mitch then for a bit. And if you have more questions in that group there in Tampa, just raise your hands again will be fine. OK, go ahead.

MITCH BANNON: Ross, You mentioned continuity a couple of times there. I think every single player you got today has multiple years of control. Was that something you went into today trying to do or is that more speak about the rental market?

ROSS ATKINS: Well, I think it starts with the players that we were so excited about - their ability, the teammate in each of them. We knew these guys really well. Historically, some more on a personal level than others but just from scouting them over time and as much as you can learn from your research and learning second hand from a lot of it.

Most importantly, we're excited about their impact, their potential impact, and the present and the future, but we've seen the power of keeping this young core that we're so excited about that's already here together and then growing together. It is attractive to us to think about adding to that young core in a way that is sustainable.

MITCH BANNON: Or what you've seen from them recently impacted, how you viewed starting pitching as a need today?

ROSS ATKINS: I couldn't hear the first part of your question, Mitch.

MITCH BANNON: I was just wondering if you saw his most recent start co-coaches or what you've seen from him recently impacted how you went about adding starting pitching today?

ROSS ATKINS: Well, certainly, was encouraged by his last outing in much of his years. I think to say that all of it has some impact on how we make decisions. And again, I'm exceptionally excited about Mitch White. I feel like he's a really good complement to that group. Ross Stripling has had a really, really solid year for us and feel like we're in a good position to feel like we made a very good team better today.

MITCH BANNON: Thanks, Ross.

ROSS ATKINS: All right, Mitch.

MODERATOR: We'll go to Ben.

BEN NICHOLSEN-SMITH: Hey, Ross. Thanks for the time. I'm wondering, defensively, as you guys scouted Whit Merrifield and got a feel for what he's able to do, what do you see as his best defensive positions?

ROSS ATKINS: The best thing about his defense is his versatility, and that's not taking anything away from his ability at all of the infield positions, mostly second and short would feel fine with him going to third. I feel good about him in all three outfield positions. But is working with him and putting him in the best position to be successful?

That involves preparation, that involves reps, that involves where he's been most recently. And that that's the thing about his athleticism and experiences is that could change year to year. I think, as long as we're thinking ahead and putting him in positions to be successful and comfortable, that versatility is going to be powerful for us.

BEN NICHOLSEN-SMITH: So he's a he's a legit candidate as you guys see at the end to play center field, shortstop, second base?

ROSS ATKINS: Yes.

BEN NICHOLSEN-SMITH: And then, I guess broadly, it was a busy deadline around baseball. I'm just curious if you liked having the August deadline as a GM if you like having that, I don't know if you call it like an escape hatch or what, to have that second chance that things? Or do you just like having, all right, this is it, it's over now?

ROSS ATKINS: I mean, it's a tough thing to-- there are pros and cons to both. I feel like this system as it is. It being so defined is it does create a lot of energy and excitement around the game and that's good for baseball.

MODERATOR: OK, thanks for that Ben. Back to Kaitlyn's laptop. Again, Neander is available in the back of the press box.

KAITLYN MCGRATH: Can you hear us?

ROSS ATKINS: I got a question for Eric Neander.

ERIC NEANDER: For 72 degrees outside temperatures 91.

KAITLYN MCGRATH: I'm just wondering, Ross, about I guess the talent going out of your organization, it's obviously been a couple of years now where you've traded from your farm system. Where do you feel like your farm system still is? And how tough is it to again part with another first rounder in Jordan?

ROSS ATKINS: Jordan Grossman's and obviously Nick Frasso and Castillo, they're all very talented players and hard to part with, I'm also very excited about the players that are still here. We had so much discussion and dialogue because of the interest in our farm system, and feel like it's in still in solid shape. I'm excited about this year's draft.

I'm obviously excited about the players that are still here but never easy to part ways with players, and especially first rounders. But consolidating a lot of our talent closer to the major league team and shifting some of it from positional fits to pitching and vise versa worked out for us in a way. Again, we're so excited about this group that we've added to already young and very exciting team.

KAITLYN MCGRATH: With them, Anthony Bass in particular, obviously he's pitched for you guys before two years ago. In what ways is he a different pitcher now and what made you want to go back to him?

ROSS ATKINS: He's been great. He really has. I think we were really impressed with his time here and have been really impressed with his career over its entirety and certainly over the last year, year and a half. I think one of the things that's a bit different is his slider usage and the effectiveness of that pitch. Him pitching late in games for us and complimenting Jimmy and Sember and Timmy is exciting to think about.

ROB: Ross, just about back to your comments on Merrifield and how it relates to the status of Georgeham. How concerned are you guys right now about his physical state and how are you going to manage it going forward? George I'm talking about.

ROSS ATKINS: Not overly concerned, we just want to make sure that he's not pushing too hard and that he is honest with himself. And that will be George is an exceptionally driven individual and a very high pain tolerance. So just making sure that we're not pushing too hard and he's not pushing too hard and we're not overly concerned and very confident that we'll be able to manage it.

ROB: Thanks, Ross.

ROSS ATKINS: All right, Rob.

MODERATOR: Great. We'll check in with Ethan here. Go ahead, Ethan.

ETHAN: Hey, Ross. You touched on it a little bit earlier. With Zach Pop, he has the good sinker. I think there's some decent peripherals on his slider too. With him, where do you see room for growth or some untapped potential?

ROSS ATKINS: Much of it will come from experience and him getting more exposure to the major league baseball. He's already been more than effective at this level. But the consistency around that power sink in the zone is enough to be very excited about.

I think it will come with being even more consistent with the location of it and the usage against different styles of hitters and different types of hitters. Opportunities with the slider, it's already a very good one, he's very sinker heavy. And we don't see lots of things that we see as changes, we see small opportunities that will work with him on.

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