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Atkins: Pitching depth remains No. 1 priority

Blue Jays in market for veteran arms this offseason
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Monday that Toronto's top priority this offseason will be upgrading the pitching staff. The Blue Jays are in the market for at least one starter and a few relievers, and the holes likely will be filled through both free agency and trades.

Toronto's rotation next year is expected to include Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki. Prospects Sean Reid-Foley and Thomas Pannone will compete for jobs in Spring Training, but the club has a clear need for a couple of veteran arms who can increase the rotation depth and eat up some valuable innings.

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Monday that Toronto's top priority this offseason will be upgrading the pitching staff. The Blue Jays are in the market for at least one starter and a few relievers, and the holes likely will be filled through both free agency and trades.

Toronto's rotation next year is expected to include Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki. Prospects Sean Reid-Foley and Thomas Pannone will compete for jobs in Spring Training, but the club has a clear need for a couple of veteran arms who can increase the rotation depth and eat up some valuable innings.

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"I think we have such a good, young, exciting core, a lot of it is already in the Major Leagues and some of it hasn't arrived yet," Atkins told reporters at the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. "Looking to build around the young pitching that we do have and create more depth will be our focus. That could come in several ways. It could be free agency, it could be via trade, any way that can possibly get more depth for our pitching will really set us up to complement our pitching really well."

Toronto working to finalize coaching staff
Atkins strongly hinted on Monday that pitching coach Pete Walker and bullpen coach Dane Johnson would return to their respective roles next season.

Toronto parted ways with first-base coach Tim Leiper and hitting coach Brook Jacoby. The future for the rest of the staff remains up in the air, but Atkins suggested that Walker and Johnson would be back.

Incoming Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo has yet to finalize his coaching staff, but the club is holding interviews and final decisions are expected in the coming days. It's not immediately clear what will happen with DeMarlo Hale, who was John Gibbons' bench coach since 2013.

"Obviously the hitting-coach role and the outfield/baserunning role are two areas that are open," Atkins said. "There are other opportunities that there still could be changes, [but] I'm not anticipating them at this point.

"I feel very good about Pete Walker as our pitching coach and confident that he'll be back. Dane has done a great job for us. DeMarlo has been fantastic and he has different alternatives he wants to think about as well. Really it's about thinking through the alternatives that we have to complement Charlie's staff the best way that we can."

Video: Blue Jays hire Charlie Montoyo as skipper

Quiet week expected
The Blue Jays will look to use the GM Meetings to lay the groundwork for the rest of the offseason, but no moves are expected to come directly out of California. Outside of finalizing the coaching staff, Toronto likely will take a couple of weeks before really starting to make some moves.

"I don't know if things will escalate here for us, but we don't have anything that's imminent that could happen tomorrow, but we absolutely have had discussions with peers, with agents and we're going to flush out all of the opportunities that we have," Atkins said.

Quotable
"That's not a focus by any means. We aren't sitting around thinking about trading players who have been very successful here and we value greatly. But at the same time, we can't close off opportunity. If there is one, if something is presented to us that makes some sense, we'll have to consider it. But it's not what we're spending our energy on." -- Atkins, on whether he would consider trading Sanchez or Stroman this offseason.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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