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Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins met with the media for the last time during the 2021 season. Here are eight takeaways from the GM's Zoom press conference:

1. Are Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien Gone?

Atkins said he’s spent time with both Ray and Semien in the last month, talking with them about the organization and the “exceptional” years they had.

“Hopefully they go on to continue to have those years, year in and year out,” Atkins said. “And hopefully we can be a part of that.”

Atkins, per usual, didn’t tip his hand in any one direction, but said the Blue Jays will continue to be in constant contact with the pair of top free agents and their representation. When pressed to set "odds" that the two, and pending FA Steven Matz, would be Blue Jays next season, Atkins didn’t supply a number but did express interest in bringing back all three.

Is there a chance the Jays run it back? Atkins didn't close the door:

“If it were in our control and we could just hit go on keeping the same team," Atkins said. "With all else being equal that’d be a decent start.”

2. Bullpen Plans for 2022

The Blue Jays 2021 weak point was clear: the bullpen. But, the major league team has at least a starting point to build off next year. Atkins highlighted Jordan Romano and Tim Mayza for their "exceptional years," and lauded acquisitions Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber for stabilizing the pen down the stretch.

“I can’t say enough about [Romano and Mayza],” Atkins said. “At some points in the year, they put some guys on their back.”

The four relievers are all under control for 2022 and represent the core of next year's pen, but they're merely a starting point, Atkins said. There's a clear need for swing-and-miss stuff in Toronto's relievers next year, and while a healthy Julian Merryweather could supply that an offseason acquisition could be required.

3. How the CBA Will Impact the Jays Offseason

The upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association are “a part” of what the team is currently spending time on in preparation for the offseason, Atkins said.

The organization will be in touch with MLB and agencies to “get an understanding,” of what the new CBA will look like, potential rule changes, and how the negotiations impact the pacing and result of the offseason.

“There may be a point where we have to make a decision with a little bit of uncertainty,” Atkins said.

Changes to service time, compensation picks, the playoff format, and the potential for a National League designated hitter could all drastically change the landscape of free agency this winter.

4. Shortstop and Third Base Future

This year's free-agent class offers a buffet of talented shortstops such as Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story, but Atkins said Bo Bichette was “unbelievable” as Toronto’s shortstop and progressed "every day.”

“We are obviously committed to him,” Atkins said of Bichette. “And believe he's going to be a very, very good major league shortstop for a long time.”

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Third base is a different story. Beyond Santiago Espinal or Cavan Biggio—who looked uncomfortable at the hot corner this season—Toronto has limited starting options on the current roster.

“There are ways for us to field teams without signing a third baseman, but it is an area that we will obviously be thinking about in free agency and trade,” Atkins said.

5. Charlie Montoyo Will Be Back

Atkins confirmed Charlie Montoyo, along with the entire Blue Jays MLB coaching staff, will return for 2022.

“They’ve put our players in positions to improve … and we are exceptionally pleased with all of them,” he said.

Montoyo had his 2022 contract option renewed back in March.

6. 2022 Catching Situation

The Blue Jays general manager praised Reese McGuire, Alejandro Kirk, and Danny Jansen—whom Atkins said finished the season as “one of the better catchers in the game”—for working well together this year.

It would be “too quick” for top prospect Gabriel Moreno to begin next season on the major league roster, Atkins said, but he’s satisfied with the club’s options at the position.

“It’s definitely an area where you feel good about having depth because of the lack of free agents available, the lack of players via trade that are available in that position,” Atkins added.

7. Blue Jay Prospects To Watch 

Despite unloading some serious prospect capital at this year’s trade deadline, Atkins said the farm system is in a “decent spot.”

"The trade for Berríos was a hit to our farm system, but we feel that we've weathered it,” he said.

Atkins mentioned Jordan Groshans, Otto Lopez, Kevin Smith, and Josh Palacios as Triple A guys he feels “really good” about. He also praised the Blue Jays’ international scouting department, which reportedly helped sign 17-year-old third baseman Gregory Cano, Robinson Cano's younger brother.

8. 2022 Plans For Nate Pearson

The Blue Jays still envision former top prospect Nate Pearson as a starting pitcher, but they’re willing to get creative to help manage his workload and development in 2022.

“We’re hopeful that Pearson is someone who will be more of an extended outing, closer to a starter look for us,” Atkins said.

The organization is open to all roles and all ways to maximize Pearson, Atkins added, but it doesn’t sound like we can expect six innings every five days from the righty starting on Opening Day 2022.

After suffering a sports hernia that went undiagnosed for much of 2022, Pearson will be assessed this week to determine if a procedure is required to fix the groin injury before next season.