Around the Horn: Starting 5

Blue Jays' rotation will be a strength in 2017

Around the Horn: Starting 5

TORONTO -- The starting rotation was supposed to be the Blue Jays' weakness last season, but it became their biggest strength. This year, the lofty expectations will be there from Day 1.

Toronto still views itself as a contender following a pair of back-to-back runs to the American League Championship Series. If the club wants to get there again, it will have to be as a result of its starting five.

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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.

Rocket gave Blue Jays a boost as free agent

Clemens captured two AL Cy Young Awards in two years with Toronto

Rocket gave Blue Jays a boost as free agent

Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history?

We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts, to exclude fluky one-year deals and to focus on players who got real commitments. And contract extensions don't count. Only instances when every team in the league had a chance to bid on the player were allowed, including international free agents who received Major League contracts.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Guerrero Jr. among top 3B prospects in MLB

Red Sox's Devers king of hot corner, Reds' Senzel, Blue Jays' Vlad Jr. follow

Guerrero Jr. among top 3B prospects in MLB

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Third base is definitely an offensive position. MLBPipeline's Top 10 Third Base Prospects list starts with two of the game's top power prospects (the Red Sox's Rafael Devers, the Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) and two of the best pure hitters in the Minors (the Reds' Nick Senzel, the Giants' Christian Arroyo).

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dome Sweet Dome: Bautista excited to return

Slugger: 'I had other opportunities ... but I wanted to be back here'

Dome Sweet Dome: Bautista excited to return

TORONTO - - Jay Alou always knew how much playing in Toronto meant to his client, but going through the free-agency process with Jose Bautista opened his eyes to just how special the city is to the Blue Jays' slugger.

On Wednesday, the Blue Jays and Bautista agreed to a one-year deal worth $18 million. The pact includes a $17 million option for 2018 and a $20 million vesting option for '19.

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Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor to MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stroman excited for '17, new red Jays jerseys

Stroman excited for '17, new red Jays jerseys

TORONTO -- Entering his fourth season with the Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman feels stronger than ever before, especially regarding his surgically repaired left knee. The right-hander has spent the offseason working with therapist Nikki Huffman, who joined the Blue Jays from Stroman's alma mater Duke University, at the team's facility in Florida.

"My knee is 100 percent now. It's stronger than it's ever been, so I'm excited for this year and I'm extremely confident, too," Stroman said on Friday. "Having a stronger landing leg is a big deal, so it's going to allow me to do a lot of things: velocity, go deeper into games, be more accurate. I take pride in my body and it's at a point now where I've taken huge strides this year."

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Dhiren Mahiban is a contributor to MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baseball world mourns Ventura, Marte

Baseball world mourns Ventura, Marte

The baseball world mourned the unexpected deaths of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and third baseman Andy Marte on Sunday.

Ventura, 25, died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. Marte, 33, also died in a separate car crash Sunday in the Dominican Republic.

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Jesse Sanchez has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tellez No. 6 on Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

Dodgers' Bellinger ranks first, Pirates' Bell, Mets' Smith follow once again

Tellez No. 6 on Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

No position in the big leagues places a greater premium on power than first base, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that MLBPipeline's list of the Top 10 first-base prospects is loaded with sluggers. Four of them have plus pop, led by Cody Bellinger's 65 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the rest all have average or better power. Meanwhile, the top four first basemen all ranked among the top six a year ago, while Bellinger and Casey Gillaspie leaped into the top half of the list.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bautista will play for DR in World Baseball Classic

Bautista will play for DR in World Baseball Classic

The Dominican Republic has added even more muscle to its outfield, as star slugger Jose Bautista is expected to join the national squad for the World Baseball Classic in March, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

The Blue Jays have not confirmed the report.

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atkins: 'It was clear' Bautista wanted return

GM notes importance of Toronto to slugger as well as what he means to community

Atkins: 'It was clear' Bautista wanted return

Jose Bautista always wanted to come back to the Blue Jays.

Toronto is where Bautista became the face of a franchise and where he transformed into one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball. It's where he impressed with his huge home runs and memorable bat flips to help revitalize baseball in the city and lead the franchise to appearances in the past two American League Championship Series.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays instructor Raines gets HOF nod

Clemens, McGriff, Kent see votes increase in 2017

Blue Jays instructor Raines gets HOF nod

TORONTO -- Blue Jays Minor League instructor and longtime Expos outfielder Tim Raines is heading to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Raines received 86 percent of the vote in his 10th and final year of eligibility for induction into Cooperstown. Former Blue Jays Roger Clemens (54.1), Fred McGriff (21.7) and Jeff Kent (16.7) did not hit the 75-percent requirement to gain entry.

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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.

Bautista returns to Blue Jays on 1-year deal

Agreement includes options that could keep slugger in Toronto through 2019

Bautista returns to Blue Jays on 1-year deal

TORONTO -- Jose Bautista is coming back to the Blue Jays for at least one more year.

Toronto officially signed Bautista to a one-year deal worth $18 million on Wednesday. The contract includes a $17 million option for 2018 and a $20 million vesting option for '19.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

McGuire makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 C Prospects list

Converted infielder Kelly, Mejia grab top spots, Alfaro remains No. 3

McGuire makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 C Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Heading into 2016, MLBPipeline's two top-rated catching prospects were Willson Contreras and Gary Sanchez. You may have heard something about their exploits last year. Contreras took over the starting job on a Cubs team that won its first World Series in 108 years, while Sanchez tied an 86-year-old record for fewest games needed (51) to hit 20 homers.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arencibia announces retirement in statement

Arencibia announces retirement in statement

TORONTO -- Former Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia has decided to call it a career.

Arencibia spent parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues, including four with the Blue Jays. He finishes his career as a .212 hitter with 80 home runs and 245 RBIs over 466 games.

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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.

Winter Tour visits hospital, Oilers game in Edmonton

Sanchez, Estrada, Pillar, Travis also host autograph session, meet fans

Winter Tour visits hospital, Oilers game in Edmonton

EDMONTON -- The Blue Jays travelled to Edmonton, Alberta, for Days 3 and 4 of their Winter Tour presented by TD Canada.

Walking through the Edmonton airport followed by a camera crew and an entourage of 15 or so people would typically make someone stand out, but Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis blended in nicely, grasping Tim Hortons in their hands.

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April Whitzman is the digital marketing manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stroman, Blue Jays seem headed for arbitration

Stroman, Blue Jays seem headed for arbitration

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays could be headed for an arbitration hearing with Marcus Stroman after the two sides did not reach an agreement before Friday's deadline to exchange salary figures.

Toronto avoided arbitration with Aaron Loup ($1.125 million), Darwin Barney (2,887,500) and Ezequiel Carrera ($1,162,500) but could not find common ground with Stroman. The 25-year-old right-hander is seeking $3.4 million through arbitration and the Blue Jays have countered with $3.1 million.

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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.

Blue Jays' Winter Tour begins in Regina

Estrada, Pillar, Travis, Sanchez on hand for western leg

Blue Jays' Winter Tour begins in Regina

REGINA -- The Toronto Blue Jays' seventh Winter Tour presented by TD Canada began Thursday, as Marco Estrada, Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis and Aaron Sanchez all headed west to Regina, Saskatchewan. With the players hailing from the warmer climates of California and Florida, experiencing the cold Canadian winter was an entirely new experience.

Because it wasn't just cold. It was -42 with the wind chill.

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April Whitzman is the digital marketing manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sparkman: 'The Blue Jays believe in me'

Toronto's Rule 5 Draft pick has drawn comparisons to fellow reliever Biagini

Sparkman: 'The Blue Jays believe in me'

TORONTO -- Fair or not, Glenn Sparkman will draw a lot of comparisons to Joe Biagini this spring, and while that could come with quite a bit of pressure, the Blue Jays' recent Rule 5 Draft pick seems oblivious to all of it.

Sparkman knows the name, but he's not too familiar with Biagini's story -- the one that saw the 25-year-old enter Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft pick before making the team as a long reliever and then becoming one of John Gibbons' most trusted high-leverage arms.

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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.

Could Tellez take Toronto's first-base reins in '17?

Encarnacion's exit puts prospect on clear path to big leagues

Could Tellez take Toronto's first-base reins in '17?

TORONTO -- The departure of Edwin Encarnacion has upset a lot of Blue Jays fans, but there's at least one man who could become a big beneficiary from all of the fallout.

Promising first baseman Rowdy Tellez now has a relatively clear path to the big leagues following the loss of Encarnacion, who signed a three-year deal with the Indians this offseason. Tellez, Toronto's ninth-best prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, wasn't expected to make his debut until 2018, but there's an outside chance that plan will change based on necessity.

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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.

Donaldson to make another cameo on 'Vikings'

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Donaldson to make another cameo on 'Vikings'

Last winter, Josh Donaldson appeared on an episode of the History Channel series "Vikings" -- both showing off Donaldson's natural charisma and putting to rest any questions about the infamous braid/mohawk hybrid.

This has been a pretty busy offseason for the Bringer of Rain -- what with the whole "MMA career" thing -- but lovers of dingers and Nordic history have no reason to fear: When "Vikings" returns for its fifth season next week, Donaldson's character will make a second appearance.

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Report: Barney, Carrera reach pacts with Blue Jays

Report: Barney, Carrera reach pacts with Blue Jays

The Blue Jays on Thursday agreed on two arbitration-avoiding pacts -- with utilty man Darwin Barney ($2.8875 million) and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.1625 million), according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

The club has not confirmed either agreement.

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Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jays Care to lead Challenger Baseball program

The Jays Care Foundation, the Blue Jays' charitable organization, announced Thursday that it will assume leadership of the Challenger Baseball program.

The announcement was made with Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar and 30 Challenger Baseball participants in attendance.

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Despite the frigid temperatures throughout many big league cities, Major League Baseball's announcement Tuesday of the first workout dates of Spring Training should be enough to warm the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.

The following are the first Spring Training workout dates, subject to change, both for pitchers and catchers and full squads of the 30 Major League clubs. 

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Watch Osuna leg-press roughly a million pounds

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Watch Osuna leg-press roughly a million pounds

Despite being known for their arms, most pitchers will tell you the source of their strength comes from their legs. Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna showed that skill off on Monday. While you were dragging yourself into the office, hoping your boss wouldn't notice the extra long lunch you took, Osuna was doing leg presses with 24 plates and a guy who looks like Lou Ferrigno.

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Stroman, Happ among Winter Tour participants

Sanchez, Pillar, Travis and Estrada also slated to attend annual Blue Jays event

Stroman, Happ among Winter Tour participants

TORONTO -- Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ are among those who have signed on to participate in the Toronto portion of the Blue Jays' upcoming Winter Tour.

Stroman and Happ will be joined by Joe Biagini, Melvin Upton Jr., Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Ryan Goins during the three-day stop in the club's hometown. Blue Jays alumni Lloyd Moseby, Devon White and Scott Downs also are scheduled to make appearances.

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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.

Alford's childhood home destroyed in fire

Donation page helps Blue Jays prospect's family in recovery

Alford's childhood home destroyed in fire

TORONTO -- The holidays are usually a time when some of the best memories are made, but when it comes to Anthony Alford and his family, they will be trying to do everything possible to forget about the end of 2016.

During the wee hours of Dec. 28, the Alford family's home in Columbia, Miss., burned to the ground for reasons that have yet to be determined. Everything the family owned, including clothes, furniture and irreplaceable personal items, were lost in the blaze, and now they have no choice but to pick up the pieces.

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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.

Blue Jays reunite with righty Floyd on Minors deal

Blue Jays reunite with righty Floyd on Minors deal

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays brought back a familar face on Thursday by re-signing right-hander Gavin Floyd to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Floyd will compete for a job out of the bullpen, and he also provides more depth for the starting rotation. It's a similar role to the one Floyd had in 2016, when he went 2-4 with a 4.06 ERA over 31 innings before a torn lat muscle ended his season in late June.

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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.

Blue Jays still have holes in outfield, 'pen

Bautista in the mix to return to Toronto, but club has other options

Blue Jays still have holes in outfield, 'pen

TORONTO -- The holiday season has come to an end, and now it's time for the Blue Jays to get back to work on rounding out their 25-man roster for the 2017 season.

It's not that Toronto put everything on hold for the past couple of weeks, but there is an undeniable lull across Major League Baseball during the holiday break. That's about to change.

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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.

Blue Jays seek balance to offset loss of thump

Blue Jays seek balance to offset loss of thump

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are clearly in a period of transition following the departure of Edwin Encarnacion and the continued uncertainty surrounding Jose Bautista. It's not a rebuild in the traditional sense, but it is a total makeover.

Bautista and Encarnacion have been the faces of the Blue Jays' franchise for the past seven years. Their consistent power production helped Toronto transition from an afterthought in the American League East to a team that made back-to-back appearances in the AL Championship Series, but change is on the way.

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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.