TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays doubled down on the leadership of Mark Shapiro by handing him a five-year extension as president and CEO, matching the original term that lured him from Cleveland.
Parent company Rogers Communications Inc., which also owns this website, announced the move via Twitter on Wednesday morning, with company and club chairman Edward Rogers saying, “Mark’s leadership and commitment to excellence over the last five years have been critical to the team’s growth and development. We’re extremely pleased that Mark will continue to lead the Toronto Blue Jays and build on the team’s progress as we work towards our goal of bringing a World Series championship back to Canada.”
The extension isn’t a surprise, as Shapiro hinted that one was coming back in October, although it wasn’t clear at that point that term of the deal would be announced. Shapiro argued then for keeping the details private, saying “it’s more of an extension of the desire to have that focus be on the players. I think when things are going well, that naturally happens anyway.”
Perhaps, but the transparency is important for fans to understand how long a period the team intends to operate under its current structure, while establishing the same standard of performance under public scrutiny players, managers and coaches face.
With Shapiro now locked in through the 2025 season, he’s in position to see through the Blue Jays build up after the tear down that started on his watch.
“From a personal and professional standpoint, I am thrilled to continue being a Toronto Blue Jay. I am fortunate to work with exceptional people and am proud of the progress we have made together, to build a culture, community, and clubhouse that our incredible fans can cheer on,” he said in a statement through the club. “Living in Toronto and Canada has been life-changing for me and my family and I am excited to experience the feeling of winning a championship with this city and country.”
Shapiro’s next steps with the team are especially crucial with a young core on the upswing after the dreadful nadir of a brutal 2019 season and a rebound trip to the playoffs amid the pandemic-shortened campaign last summer.
The Blue Jays have been involved with nearly every available player of consequence this winter but thus far their only addition of note is re-signing left-hander Robbie Ray to an $8-million, one-year deal.
How effectively the Blue Jays augment a young core featuring Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen and Nate Pearson is the next test of Shapiro’s leadership after he inherited a team that won the 2015 AL East title.
Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, his choice to replace Alex Anthopoulos who left because of philosophical differences, guardedly saw through that competitive window while rebuilding the organization around the major-league team.
In 2016, that led to a wild-card berth and a trip to the American League Championship Series, but cracks on the roster began to show in 2017, expanded the next year and led to total collapse during a 95-loss 2019.
The payoff for that on-field pain began surfacing last summer, when the Blue Jays went 32-28 to claim the eighth and final spot in the expanded playoff format.
That jump forward has led them to big-game hunt this off-season, when free agents George Springer, D.J. LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer have been among their targets. Attempts to land free agents like Liam Hendriks, Kevin Gausman, Ha-seong Kim and Tomoyuki Sugano didn’t work out, while the New York Mets beat their attempts to trade for Francisco Lindor.
Other near-term issues on Shapiro’s plate include finding a home for the team in 2021 if pandemic travel restrictions prevent the Blue Jays from playing in Toronto again and the futures of Atkins (believed to be signed through ’21) and manager Charlie Montoyo (club option for ’22). Longer-term is seeing through the baseball end of the property redevelopment project ownership is considering that would include a new stadium.