"I'm thrilled for Ross," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said after the news became official Thursday night. "It's an opportunity very well deserved and I'm very confident that he'll be very successful in that role."
Atkins has spent the past 15 years in the Cleveland organization with his primary focus being player development. Prior to taking over as the team's VP of player personnel for the 2015 season, Atkins was the VP of player development (2011-14) and director of player development ('07-10). He also spent time as a director of Latin American operations and as an assistant director in the player development staff.
In his most recent role, Atkins served as an advisor to Antonetti on a number of fronts. Atkins oversaw the entire player development system, including the Minor League and Latin American affiliates, while also dealing in player evaluations, staffing recommendations and an assortment of other decision-making elements.
Before his career in Cleveland's front office, Atkins, who is a product of Wake Forest University, pitched for five seasons in the Tribe's farm system. He then embarked on a brief Minor League coaching career before transitioning to the front office.
"Ross has had a great impact throughout the organization," Antonetti said. "He spent considerable time as a player here, was kind of a translator and a cultural liaison, a Minor League coach, an assistant farm director, a farm director, a director of international operations. So he's really had a broad and profound impact on the organization, and we're certainly going to miss him."
Earlier this offseason, Atkins also interviewed for general manager vacancies with the Angels and Phillies.
It was announced at the end of August that Shapiro, who was with the Indians for 24 seasons, including the last five as the team president, was leaving Cleveland to take over the same role with Toronto. Shapiro replaced the retiring Paul Beeston, and the expectation was that Anthopoulos would re-sign with the Blue Jays to remain the team's GM.
Antonetti said the Indians did not anticipate Anthopoulos walking away from his role.
"I think that was the expectation that we were all working under, that Alex would continue on in Toronto," Antonetti said. "Obviously, when that changed, I think that led Mark to open up the GM search and Ross was part of that search. We're really happy for him that he's going to be named GM there."
Shapiro first named Tony LaCava, the team's vice president of baseball operations, the club's interim GM. Shapiro then began a search for a full-time replacement and narrowed his list in recent weeks to LaCava and Atkins, who both went through an extensive interview process. Shapiro ultimately turned to Atkins, who has worked under the president for the better part of the past two decades.
"He and Mark working alongside each other and together is a great combination," Antonetti said.
With Atkins joining the Blue Jays, LaCava received a promotion to the role of senior vice president of baseball operations and assistant GM.
Following Shapiro's departure in Cleveland, Antonetti was promoted from GM to his current role as the Tribe's president of baseball operations. Mike Chernoff was then elevated from assistant GM to general manager and Derek Falvey was promoted from director of baseball operations to assistant GM. Carter Hawkins took over as Cleveland's director of player development last year after Atkins was moved to his latest role with the team.
Antonetti said the Indians will take some time to determine the best way to handle the impact of Atkins leaving the team's front-office structure.
"For the time being, we'll adjust," Antonetti said, "and the people that are here will assume some of those responsibilities and we'll spread them out. Whether or not we end up adding or augmenting our front office is something that will take some time to work through."