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Published January 3, 2024

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins expressed regret Shohei Ohtani turned down Toronto

Toronto - The Associated Press

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins expressed regret Shoehei Ohtani turned down Toronto after meeting with the team and chose to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Atkins for the first time confirmed Ohtani visited Toronto’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but wouldn't say whether the meeting occurred on Dec. 4, when Atkins spoke reporters at the winter meetings via Zoom rather than in person in Nashville, Tennessee. Ohtani announced his agreement with the Dodgers five days later.

’We were obviously very disappointed with the outcome and it was a very difficult phone call to receive, one of the more difficult ones in my career,” Atkins said Wednesday. “At the same time, (it was an) incredible process and group effort and collaboration that I feel so good about, not only that process but what it meant to be in that position for the organization, for the city, for the country. There’s no doubt in my mind he was exceptionally attracted to this country, this city, this team. We felt incredible about the process, but we moved on.”

Ohtani also met with the San Francisco Giants, who said they made an offer comparable to the one he agreed to with the Dodgers.

Atkins didn't think the Blue Jays were used to extract a better offer from a competing bidder.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I feel strongly otherwise. We feel really good about the process. It was an incredible effort from ownership to business to baseball, people coming together. Not the outcome we wanted, but feel really good about the process and absolutely felt like it was authentic and real.”

Since missing out on Ohtani, the Blue Jays have brought back Gold Glove outfielder Kevin Kiermaier with a $10.5 million, one-year deal, and added utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa with a $15 million, two-year contract. Atkins said outfielder and designated hitters are the positions he was most likely to add to before spring training.

“We have a very good team in place that we are exceptionally excited about,” Atkins said. “We could be open to a trade. We are not actively looking to trade away from our major league team.”

Toronto was 89-73 last season and earned an AL wild card berth for its third playoff appearance in four seasons but was swept for the third straight time, scoring one run in two losses at Minnesota.

Banner image: Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins responds to questions during a news conference at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

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