TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are planning to bring back their entire coaching staff next season, with the exception of assistant hitting coach Eric Owens.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins made the announcement on Monday afternoon during his end-of-the-year availability with the media. Owens' contract will not be renewed, and he will instead seek other employment opportunities outside the organization.
Manager John Gibbons will return in 2017 alongside pitching coach Pete Walker, hitting coach Brook Jacoby, first-base coach Tim Leiper, third-base coach Luis Rivera, bench coach DeMarlo Hale and bullpen coach Dane Johnson.
"Everyone has been invited back and wants to be back and is motivated to be a part of this other than Eric Owens, who we've made a decision to let him look for other alternatives," Atkins said. "So he will not be returning, but everybody else will be back."
Atkins would not say for sure whether the club will hire another assistant hitting coach to replace Owens. The GM said the Blue Jays will add another coach to the roster, but the club is evaluating and coming up with a proper job description. It's possible the addition would be more encompassing than a coach who strictly deals with hitters.
Monday's announcement hardly came as a surprise, because team president Mark Shapiro confirmed that Gibbons would be back after Toronto was eliminated by Cleveland in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. What's still unknown is whether the Blue Jays intend to make a long-term commitment to Gibbons, who has been in his second stint as the Blue Jays' manager since 2013.
Under previous GM Alex Anthopoulos, Gibbons had a clause in his contract that stated another year would be added to his deal on Jan. 1 of every year unless he was terminated from the job. The goal was to avoid the "lame-duck status" of a manager entering the final season of his contract and the potential media distraction that comes along with that.
Toronto and Gibbons tore up that clause when they re-negotiated a new deal in Spring Training. Gibbons received a raise in return for a two-year contract that did not contain any option years. He has one year remaining on that deal, and Atkins said the two have talked in generalities about extending their working relationship well into the future, but he did not provide details on what exactly that would mean.
"That's always something that's mutual," Atkins said. "John Gibbons and I have started to talk about that. He'll definitely be here, and we've had discussions over the course of a year, not just the last five days, what it means to us to do that together, and they've gone very well."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.