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Vlad Jr. named top 3rd-base prospect in MLB

18-year-old shows similarities to father at plate while impressing in Minors
MLB.com

TORONTO -- There's a level of uncertainty that comes with every prospect in baseball, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is about as close to being a sure thing as it gets.

Guerrero is shaping up to become the type of generational talent that Toronto has not produced since Carlos Delgado in the early 1990s. The accolades have been rolling in for more than a year, and the latest one arrived Tuesday, when Guerrero was ranked the top third-base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

TORONTO -- There's a level of uncertainty that comes with every prospect in baseball, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is about as close to being a sure thing as it gets.

Guerrero is shaping up to become the type of generational talent that Toronto has not produced since Carlos Delgado in the early 1990s. The accolades have been rolling in for more than a year, and the latest one arrived Tuesday, when Guerrero was ranked the top third-base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Guerrero for the past several years, but it was during the 2017 season that he really established himself as the future of the Blue Jays' organization. The question isn't whether Guerrero will make it to the big leagues, but when he will arrive and how dominant he will become once there.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

That's a lot of pressure for someone who is still just 18 years old, but Guerrero had better get used to it, because the attention is not going away any time soon. The good news is that as the son of a likely future Hall of Famer, he's used to this type of environment.

"Every day, my mindset is not thinking about when I'm going to play in the big leagues," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I just do my best and try to help my team win that night. ... Every time I get to the ballpark, I'm thinking about doing my best. I'm not thinking about that stuff."

A year ago, Guerrero was No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline's list of top third basemen. His ascension to the top spot follows a season in which he dominated opposing pitchers. In 119 games between Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin, Guerrero finished with 13 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .323/.425/.485 slash line.

Guerrero's mechanics at the plate look eerily similar to his father's -- the bare hands, the little twitch with his bat as the pitcher comes set. Add in the familiar face, and it's like going back in time. The expectation is that the young Guerrero will be able to generate a similar amount of power to his father, but the scary thing is he might do it with a much better recognition of the strike zone.

Guerrero isn't perfect. There are still areas of his game that can be improved, and the Blue Jays are adamant that he will not be rushed to the big leagues. An ambitious plan would see him arrive at some point in 2018, but a more likely course of action is a full season in the Minors with an eye toward debuting in '19.

Until then, the Minor League grind continues. There will be a focus on Guerrero's footwork at third and his game plan at the plate. The tasks will get harder as he reaches Double-A New Hampshire and eventually Triple-A Buffalo, where he will face more veteran pitching, but nobody really expects it to provide that much of a challenge. Guerrero appears to be that good and just as unique.

"I don't think we see eye to eye on everything, but that's the way baseball is," fellow Blue Jays top prospect Bo Bichette said. "People have their different approaches and their different swings. I think the one thing we do agree on is swing as hard as you can every single time. That's something we agree on, because if you're not using what God gave you, you're not going to be as good as you can be."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Travis progressing, focused on helping team

2nd baseman happy with Blue Jays' added depth
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Devon Travis hopes there will come a time when he can stop answering questions about his health, a day when the sole focus can be on the field instead of the frequent tests and medical reports away from it.

Travis truly believes that moment is coming. In a way, he has to. But the "glass-half-full" mindset is likely one of the only things that got him through a series of devastating injuries that prematurely ended all three of his seasons in the big leagues.

TORONTO -- Devon Travis hopes there will come a time when he can stop answering questions about his health, a day when the sole focus can be on the field instead of the frequent tests and medical reports away from it.

Travis truly believes that moment is coming. In a way, he has to. But the "glass-half-full" mindset is likely one of the only things that got him through a series of devastating injuries that prematurely ended all three of his seasons in the big leagues.

It hasn't been easy. The left shoulder injury that cut short his rookie season and carried into 2016 was difficult enough. Being removed from the American League Championship Series roster after just one game later that year because of a right knee injury was even worse. Then last season, it was like deja vu all over again.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," said Travis, who has been limited to 213 games over three seasons. "To be quite honest, I don't understand the reason at this point, but I know in time, everything will get answered. I have to take care of my business. I have to get healthy. I feel like my team needs me to be healthy, and I want to be out there and help my team win ballgames. That's my only mindset. Everything else is kind of on the back burner."

A frequent presence in the trainer's room is one of the only things that has stopped Travis from becoming one of Toronto's top young stars. When the 26-year-old is on the field, the results have been everything the Blue Jays could have wanted: a .304/.361/.498 slash line in 2015, a mark of .300/.332/.454 in '16 and a dominant run in May '17 with a franchise-record 16 doubles.

Video: TOR@BAL: Travis hits an RBI double to right field

The obvious problem is that Travis has spent more time off the field than on it. His health, along with similar concerns about shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, prompted Toronto to make infield depth one of its top priorities this offseason. Despite returning a starting duo up the middle, the Blue Jays acquired Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte to solidify the infield.

The moves raised more than a few eyebrows, and they prompted some questions about Toronto's confidence in Travis' health. The Florida native undoubtedly had to question the moves as well, but he also seems to understand the situation from the Blue Jays' perspective.

Video: Rosenthal breaks down impact of Solarte to Blue Jays

"I think it's great," Travis said of the recent moves. "We're a competitive ballclub. We look to contend. We have a very good baseball team. I understand these last few years -- me getting hurt -- makes things a little bit confusing sometimes. I'm really happy that we've brought in some guys who have proven themselves.

"Diaz was an All Star in '16, and Solarte has been doing it a long time. I heard he's a really good guy, and I've always liked to watch him play. I'm excited, man. I want to win. If I'm not the best guy to be out on that field, then take me off. That's kind of how I roll."

Travis is expected to be a full participant during Spring Training, but the exact timing remains to be seen. Travis referenced needing to pass at least "a few" tests before he receives clearance from the medical staff. But he said there have been no setbacks along the way, and he continues to progress.

"Running, for sure, is my next step," Travis said. "I have about a month until Spring Training right now. That should be the next step, and after that, it's probably being able to maintain running for multiple days.

"It's a progression, man. I have one speed. I play hard. You have to understand there's a time to maybe put it into fifth, sixth gear. Sometimes you have to learn how to play a little bit slower. It's something I've talked about for a long time. It's something I've always wanted to be better at. That's my focus."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Devon Travis

Blue Jays remain on the hunt for pitching

Club eyeing fifth starter, bullpen arms; Stroman wants Opening Day start; Travis nearly ready to go
MLB.com

TORONTO -- For now, the Blue Jays appear to be set with the position players who will be on the roster for the upcoming season, but a lot of work still has to be done on the pitching staff.

Toronto remains in the market for a fifth starter and additional help in the bullpen. The Blue Jays are believed to have more than $10 million remaining this offseason to plug the remaining holes.

TORONTO -- For now, the Blue Jays appear to be set with the position players who will be on the roster for the upcoming season, but a lot of work still has to be done on the pitching staff.

Toronto remains in the market for a fifth starter and additional help in the bullpen. The Blue Jays are believed to have more than $10 million remaining this offseason to plug the remaining holes.

Right-hander Joe Biagini is currently penciled in for the final spot of the rotation, but he could be shifted to the bullpen as a long reliever. During media availability at Saturday's Winter Fest, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Biagini's best role remains an open question.

"Right now, he's in the rotation, and if they go out and sign somebody, that will definitely change, depending on [Aaron Sanchez], of course," Gibbons said.

Restocking the bullpen became a bigger priority after Toronto traded away middle reliever Dominic Leone as part of Friday's deal for Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk. Leone tossed 71 innings for the Blue Jays last season and spent time as a key setup man alongside Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes.

• Blue Jays land Grichuk for two arms

Leone's presence will be missed, but the Blue Jays have rookie Carlos Ramirez and Al Alburquerque, recently signed to a Minor League contract, as depth options. There's also possible needs for a second lefty out of the 'pen and a late-inning reliever who can rack up a lot of strikeouts.

Video: TOR@BAL: Ramirez notches his first big league K

"A proven guy who has been successful," Gibbons said, when asked about what type of reliever he would prefer. "We would love a guy who can give you multiple innings; it doesn't happen too often nowadays. But really some guy who can get some strikeouts late in the game, who has been through it, so it's not a tryout-type basis."

Staking his claim
The Blue Jays likely won't announce their Opening Day starter until a couple of weeks before the regular season, but Marcus Stroman already knows who should get the job. Stroman was asked during a question-and-answer session in front of fans at Rogers Centre about who should start Toronto's first game and he was quick to reply: "I think I should have the ball on Opening Day, 100 percent. I'll be ready to face the Yankees."

Video: Stroman has become Mr. Reliable for Blue Jays

Carrera odd man out?
Ezequiel Carrera no longer has a clear path to playing time after the Blue Jays signed outfielder Curtis Granderson and traded for Grichuk, and he likely won't have a spot on the 25-man roster unless someone gets hurt. That has led to plenty of speculation that Carrera could be on the move in the coming weeks. Carrera said he hasn't heard from the Blue Jays about their intentions, but he's trying not to worry about it.

"I haven't talked to anyone yet," Carrera said through an interpreter. "I haven't had a chance to sit with them and talk about it. For my part, I'm just trying to get ready. Trying to get ready for Spring Training. I'm trying to do my best and I think the position will come to them on whether or not I did enough for this year."

Travis almost ready to go
Devon Travis is feeling healthy and expects to be a full participant when Spring Training gets under way next month in Dunedin, Fla. Travis has yet to begin running following last year's surgery on his right knee, but that is expected to change in the very near future.

The 26-year-old is understandably tired of having to constantly talk about his health and he hopes this is finally the year he puts all of it behind him. A career .292/.331/.462 hitter, Travis is projected to be Toronto's leadoff hitter and help carry an offense that desperately needs his bat.

"[When] you get hurt, mentally it's the toughest part," Travis said. "The body ends up coming back over time. It's the mind that's the hardest thing to control. A lot of down time, and when you have a lot of down time you have a lot to think [about]. I love this game, so it's hard not to battle it mentally sometimes.

"I think I'm finally back level headed and I'm just excited. I can't wait until the day I don't have to answer too many questions about my health. I'm just excited to get to that point in my career and I know that can only be controlled by me being out on the field every day."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Long-term talks quiet with Blue Jays, Donaldson

Toronto, star third baseman have yet to make progress on contract extension
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with star third baseman Josh Donaldson earlier this month, but there still has not been any progress on a long-term contract extension. In fact, the two sides haven't even talked about it.

Donaldson expressed his desire at the end of the 2017 to sign a multi-year contract and remain with the Blue Jays for the rest of his career. His hope was that the two sides would find common ground this offseason, but that has yet to happen.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with star third baseman Josh Donaldson earlier this month, but there still has not been any progress on a long-term contract extension. In fact, the two sides haven't even talked about it.

Donaldson expressed his desire at the end of the 2017 to sign a multi-year contract and remain with the Blue Jays for the rest of his career. His hope was that the two sides would find common ground this offseason, but that has yet to happen.

Toronto secured some short-term security by signing Donaldson to a one-year deal worth $23 million, which is a Major League record for an arbitration-eligible player. The problem is that Donaldson was initially hoping for a lot more term than that, but he admitted on Saturday afternoon that the Blue Jays have yet to approach his agent.

"I think there's progress, because we were able to get the deal done that we were able to get done," Donaldson said. "I kind of let my agent take care of what's going on, as far as those types of talks. He fills me in whenever there's information that's going on with that. To my knowledge, there hasn't been [any talks] up to this point. I think it will be a fluid situation at some point, it's just not now."

Donaldson, at least publicly, has not given up hope that his agent will sit down with the Blue Jays before the start of the regular season. A new deal is still possible, but it also seems as though Toronto is intent to start the year with Donaldson on a short-term deal and then re-evaluate midway through the season.

The 32-year-old slugger remained patient and professional while being asked countless questions about his contract situation during Toronto's Winter Fest at Rogers Centre. He'll need to maintain that diplomatic approach throughout the year, because the speculation is not going away any time soon.

Video: Josh Donaldson is the No. 3 third baseman right now

Donaldson's name seems to get mentioned in the rumor mill on a weekly basis, even though the Blue Jays have been adamant that he will not be dealt this offseason. That trend will continue during the regular season, and visiting reporters likely will make it a routine to try to find out clues about his future destination. That would be problematic for a lot of players, but Donaldson seems to be taking it in stride.

"I don't think about it," Donaldson said. "I think distractions are things that you allow to be distractions. It's not something that's a distraction to me. I'm very comfortable with where I'm at in this game, the things that I've done for this game and in it.

"It's not a distraction, because I know it's going to be handled at some point. My mom always told me that you don't always get things right away when you want it. Patience is a virtue, and I definitely think that being patient has worked out up to this point, and I'm going to continue to do it."

The Blue Jays, for their part, haven't said much about the contract situation. Donaldson has been linked to the Cardinals throughout the offseason, but those two ballclubs worked out a pair of deals and neither one involved talking about Toronto's franchise player. That should be considered a strong indication that Donaldson will open the 2018 season with the Blue Jays, but after that, everything is up in the air.

"Not aware of those discussions," general manager Ross Atkins said in reference to the trade talks. "Those are rumors I believe people are speculating on."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson

Blue Jays land Grichuk from Cards for 2 arms

Right-hander Leone, pitching prospect Greene headed to St. Louis for outfielder
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' potential Opening Day lineup received a little bit more clarity on Friday afternoon when Toronto acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk in a three-player trade with the Cardinals.

Right-hander Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene were sent to St. Louis as part of the deal. It marks the second move between these organizations this offseason, coming on the heels of a December trade that saw infielder Aledmys Diaz join Toronto.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' potential Opening Day lineup received a little bit more clarity on Friday afternoon when Toronto acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk in a three-player trade with the Cardinals.

Right-hander Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene were sent to St. Louis as part of the deal. It marks the second move between these organizations this offseason, coming on the heels of a December trade that saw infielder Aledmys Diaz join Toronto.

Grichuk immediately becomes the heavy favorite to replace free agent Jose Bautista as the Blue Jays' starting right fielder. The 26-year-old is coming off a season in which he hit 22 home runs over 412 at-bats for the Cards. While nothing is guaranteed, Toronto envisions using him as an everyday player.

"I think he'll have the best chance of our group to take that position over for us in right field," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "But the fact is, we have options and we'll have some balance. In today's game, asking someone to get 700 plate appearances is a lot. There are very few players who are doing it day in and day out. So where that number ends up, we'll see, but I think he has the best chance at the outset to be the regular for us."

Video: STL@BOS: Statcast™ measures Grichuk's five-star catch

Toronto's outfield appears somewhat set following the trade and the recent signing of Curtis Granderson. Grichuk is expected to start in right field with Kevin Pillar in center and a platoon of Granderson and Steve Pearce in left. That scenario would leave Ezequiel Carrera without a job and the prospect duo of Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez beginning the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

Carrera recently avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal worth $1.9 million. He has spent the majority of the past two seasons as Toronto's fourth outfielder, but there's no longer a clear path to playing time now. He could be shopped to fill a hole elsewhere or it's possible Carrera will stick as additional insurance during Spring Training.

"We have to stay open about all of the players on our roster," Atkins said when asked about a possible move. "If there's any way to make our team better, more fluid, provide more versatility, we'll look to do that."

If Grichuk becomes the final piece of significance the Blue Jays add this offseason, the question will become whether Toronto did enough to improve its offense. The Blue Jays ranked last in the American League with 693 runs scored, and while the team undeniably has more depth following the additions of Grichuk, Diaz and Yangervis Solarte, most of the starters remain.

Video: PIT@STL: Statcast™ measures Grichuk's 478-foot homer

Instead of adding a big name this offseason, the Blue Jays are banking on a return to health as the primary way to improve. Full seasons from Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis would certainly help, but if the injuries become a problem once again, at least Toronto is in a better position to handle them.

The Blue Jays still have some flexibility to make additional moves, but the focus now shifts to the pitching staff. Toronto remains in the market for a fifth starter, and following the departure of Leone, another piece in the bullpen could be needed as well.

"I think at this point [it's] pitching," Atkins said. "If there's a way to improve our position player roster, we'll look to do that. At this point that would mean subtraction, or other players being optioned. We have a little bit of uncertainty around playing time for some of our players so we have to build as much depth as possible."

Video: Zinkie on fantasy impact of Grichuk to Blue Jays

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Now set to hold a regular role on a team with a hitter-friendly home park, Grichuk has the power (lifetime 39.7 percent hard-hit rate, .239 ISO) to tally 30 long balls and 75 RBIs in spite of his poor plate discipline (career 0.2 BB/K ratio). While the 26-year-old gains late-round status in mixed leagues, the deal will have the opposite effect for Hernandez. Likely to open 2018 in Triple-A, Hernandez can go undrafted in all mixed formats. Meanwhile, Jose Martinez (career .903 OPS) becomes a sleeper in deep mixed leagues on the expectation that he will serve as a fourth outfielder and backup first baseman for the Cardinals.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk

Source: Blue Jays sign reliever Alburquerque

Veteran righty reportedly agrees to Minors deal with Spring Training invite
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays reportedly added more depth to their bullpen on Thursday by signing veteran right-hander Al Alburquerque to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the non-guaranteed deal, which was first reported by Sportsnet. Alburquerque gives the Blue Jays another option in middle relief and he is expected to compete for a job when camp gets under way next month in Dunedin, Fla.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays reportedly added more depth to their bullpen on Thursday by signing veteran right-hander Al Alburquerque to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the non-guaranteed deal, which was first reported by Sportsnet. Alburquerque gives the Blue Jays another option in middle relief and he is expected to compete for a job when camp gets under way next month in Dunedin, Fla.

The 31-year-old spent last season with the White Sox and Royals. He posted a combined 2.50 ERA over 18 innings and he boasts a 3.16 ERA in 245 career big league innings. Alburquerque primarily uses a slider, which he threw 54 percent of the time in 2017, according to Statcast™.

Alburquerque likely intrigues the Blue Jays because of his ability to generate swings and misses. He has struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings over the course of his career, a skill that will be crucial in a division that features feared right-handed hitters such as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

The signing is a low-risk proposition, and there's no guarantee that Alburquerque will break camp with the Blue Jays. Toronto currently has Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Dominic Leone and possibly Aaron Loup for the bullpen. Another spot will be reserved for a long reliever, which likely leaves one other position up for grabs during Spring Training.

Alburquerque will receive competition from rookie Carlos Ramirez and possibly lefty Tim Mayza this spring. Toronto also is expected to continue adding depth in the coming weeks, which should complicate this situation even more. Ultimately, if Alburquerque performs well enough, he could force the Blue Jays to option one of their young controllable arms to the Minors.

With less than a month remaining until the start of Spring Training, the Blue Jays remain in the market for a starting pither, another outfielder and likely more depth options for the bullpen on Minor League deals.

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Al Alburquerque

Jansen among top 10 catching prospects

Blue Jays prospect had strong season across three levels in 2017
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen's stock is rising in the Blue Jays' Minor League system, and so is his ranking among some of the top prospects in baseball.

Jansen's strong showing last season secured him a spot on MLB Pipeline's updated list of the top 10 catching prospects. The 22-year-old is ranked eighth after hitting .323/.400/.484 across three Minor League levels in 2017.

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen's stock is rising in the Blue Jays' Minor League system, and so is his ranking among some of the top prospects in baseball.

Jansen's strong showing last season secured him a spot on MLB Pipeline's updated list of the top 10 catching prospects. The 22-year-old is ranked eighth after hitting .323/.400/.484 across three Minor League levels in 2017.

Internally, the Blue Jays have been touting Jansen's upside since 2014, but it was last year that he established himself as Toronto's potential catcher of the future. He remained healthy for the first time and set personal bests in every major offensive category.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Jansen's production forced the Blue Jays to make the easy decision of adding him to the 40-man roster this offseason. He needed protection from the Rule 5 Draft, and the Blue Jays are content to use one of his three option years this season with the expectation that Jansen will start for Triple-A Buffalo.

The Blue Jays are expected to break camp with Russell Martin and Luke Maile on their big league roster. Jansen and fellow prospect Reese McGuire are currently the only other catchers on the 40-man roster, and they will be competing against each other for the third spot on Toronto's depth chart. On the surface, that might not seem like a big deal, but it quickly becomes one if either Martin or Maile sustains an injury.

In the meantime, the Blue Jays will look for Jansen to continue his development in the Minors. He is in Toronto this week to participate in the club's Rookie Development Program, which acts as an orientation camp for the next wave of young talent. He will meet with the media on Friday, and then participate in Toronto's inaugural Winter Fest at Rogers Centre the following day.

Jansen began the 2017 season ranked as Toronto's No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he moved up to No. 17 midway through the year. His ranking will almost assuredly climb once again in '18, and the upward trajectory coincides with the path he has taken in the Minors. After beginning last season at Class A Advanced Dunedin, Jansen received a pair of promotions within a couple of months, even garnering some attention as a potential September callup.

Jansen, a 16th-round pick in the 2013 Draft, hit at every level. One reason for his breakout season was improved health. Another was getting prescribed glasses. A third was the experience that comes with being around for parts of five seasons and learning to avoid some of the pitfalls that come with being a professional athlete.

"Hitting has always been something that when I start thinking on it, it kind of goes bad," Jansen told MiLB.com in December. "This year, I came in and said, 'I'm not going to think about mechanics. I'm going to be athletic, balanced and just be me and swing. See where that takes me. Not really thinking about my hands, but letting my hands do what they do.'"

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Report: Halladay autopsy results revealed

MLB.com

An autopsy performed on two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay revealed evidence of morphine and Ambien in his system following his fatal plane crash on Nov. 7, according to a USA Today report released on Friday.

Halladay was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Fla., and the autopsy -- conducted by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office in Pinellas County, Fla. -- cited blunt-force trauma and subsequent drowning to be the likely causes of his death.

An autopsy performed on two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay revealed evidence of morphine and Ambien in his system following his fatal plane crash on Nov. 7, according to a USA Today report released on Friday.

Halladay was killed when his single-engine aircraft crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Fla., and the autopsy -- conducted by the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office in Pinellas County, Fla. -- cited blunt-force trauma and subsequent drowning to be the likely causes of his death.

The consumption of any alcoholic substance or drug within eight hours of flying is prohibited by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. USA Today reported that the investigation into Halladay's death is ongoing, per the National Transportation Safety Board. A preliminary report states that Halladay's aircraft made several steep climbs and dipped close to the water before making a 360-degree turn and crashing.

Halladay, who was 40, was an iconic pitcher for both the Blue Jays and Phillies over his 16-year Major League career. The eight-time All-Star is one of six pitchers in Major League history to win the Cy Young in both leagues. The right-hander pitched a perfect game on May 29, 2010, and followed it up months later with a no-hitter in Game 1 of the National League Division Series -- only the second postseason no-hitter in history.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

 

Source: Grandy, Toronto agree to 1-year pact

Club yet to announce deal; vet will compete for OF job
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays shifted their attention to the outfield Monday night by reaching an agreement with veteran Curtis Granderson on a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the signing, but it was first reported by MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal and has since been confirmed by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The deal is pending a physical and also includes incentives based on playing time.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays shifted their attention to the outfield Monday night by reaching an agreement with veteran Curtis Granderson on a one-year deal worth $5 million.

Toronto has yet to officially announce the signing, but it was first reported by MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal and has since been confirmed by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. The deal is pending a physical and also includes incentives based on playing time.

Granderson is coming off a season in which he hit .212 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs over 147 games with the Mets and Dodgers. The 36-year-old made a handful of appearances for Los Angeles during the postseason, but was left off the roster for the World Series.

Video: Justice discusses Blue Jays' deal with Granderson

The Blue Jays remain in the market for additional help in the outfield, but this signing makes it harder to envision the club adding a high-profile name to the mix. President Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins appear to have a clear strategy this offseason of spreading their available money around to multiple players instead of spending most of it on one player.

Toronto took that approach with the infield by acquiring Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz and Gift Ngoepe. It appears to be the strategy for the outfield as well with the focus on depth and complementary pieces. Granderson falls into that category, as he's expected to form a platoon with Steve Pearce in one of the corner outfield spots. Kevin Pillar remains the starter in center field, which leaves one job up for grabs.

Rookie Teoscar Hernandez is one internal candidate, and the Blue Jays also control Ezequiel Carrera, who recently avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $1.9 million. Toronto could use another big bat -- and someone like free agent Lorenzo Cain appears to be a perfect fit -- but the club also is starting to run out of funds.

Video: MLB Tonight on Granderson agreeing to join Blue Jays

Toronto has a projected payroll of $151 million after factoring in arbitration and pre-arbitration players on the roster. Per club policy, the Blue Jays do not publicly disclose payroll parameters, but the range for 2018 is expected to be the same as it was for '17, which was approximately $165 million.

That left the Blue Jays with a range of $10 million to $15 million to spend this offseason. In addition to another outfielder, the club is in the market for a fifth starter and possibly an additional lefty reliever. With multiple needs, that money will have to be divided up, so a big signing through free agency may prove difficult.

Granderson is entering the latter stages of his career, but he still possesses quite a bit of power. The 15-year veteran has at least 20 home runs in four consecutive seasons and can play either corner outfield spot. He also struck out 123 times in 449 at-bats last season, and six stolen bases showed Granderson is no longer a speed threat.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Curtis Granderson

Estrada reveals reason behind midseason funk

Blue Jays hurler struggled over 10-start stretch in June, July last year
MLB.com

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

The contrast within Marco Estrada's 2017 season was striking.

Estrada maintained a 3.15 ERA through April and May -- the sort of performance the Blue Jays expected from a reliable starter who earned his first All-Star selection the year before.

Then Estrada's season went awry, as trade speculation swirled around the disappointing Jays. Over his next 10 starts, Estrada's ERA was 8.87. He uncharacteristically walked 33 batters in 45 2/3 innings.

Estrada regained his usual form almost immediately after the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without Toronto dealing him away. He pitched against the White Sox on the night of July 31 -- mere hours after the Deadline -- and produced his best start in more than two months: seven innings and one earned run.

Video: TOR@CWS: Estrada fans five over seven stellar frames

Estrada closed the season with a 3.68 ERA in five September starts, and the Blue Jays rewarded him with a one-year, $13 million contract extension.

So, what happened?

"Honestly, I haven't talked about this ... but I basically started sleeping," Estrada said of his strong finish during an interview Tuesday on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch."

"I was having issues with sleeping -- stressing out, stressing about being traded and a few little things. I'd been struggling. It all kind of snowballed together. I stopped sleeping. But once I knocked all that stuff out, I was able to get back on track.

"Honestly, I don't think I did anything different. I was just rested. When you don't sleep -- at least for me -- it would feel like I'm out there spinning on the mound. It made things a little difficult. The team knew about this. They knew once I would get rid of all [the] issues with sleeping that I would be just fine. And it's exactly what happened."

Estrada credited his family, friends and a psychiatrist with whom he worked for helping him through the difficult period. "I've thanked them a million times," Estrada said.

Estrada was candid Tuesday in identifying what led to his difficulty with sleeping: stress, magnified by the uncertainty of the Trade Deadline.

"It's one of those things I didn't even want to bring up, but the season's over and I feel like I can talk about it now," he said. "It was just stress. I've never really been through something like this, but it happened to me. I didn't even think it was possible, to be honest with you.

"Obviously it happened and I struggled with it, but once I got things taken care of and my mindset was in the right place, I was able to finally sleep. It shows the difference of the type of pitcher I was from June-July to August-September. It made a big difference, being able to sleep."

Estrada said he "tried everything" to help him sleep in June and July.

"I was told to maybe think of a song, put it in your head, kind of just sing that," he said. "You can count. There's a lot of things. ... For me, I think the biggest thing was just trying to clear my mind and stop worrying so much. It's easier said than done.

"Thankfully, I had a lot of support. I had my friends, my family. I was able to speak to psychiatrists there. All of that combined -- just talking to people, letting it out, that was actually the biggest thing that helped me."

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He is a contributor to MLB Network Radio and conducted Tuesday's interview with Estrada alongside co-host Ryan Spilborghs on "Inside Pitch."

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Marco Estrada

Prospect Tellez eager for clean slate in '18

First baseman endured adversity on, off field in '17 as mom battled Stage 4 melanoma
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The 2017 season was a learning experience for prospect Rowdy Tellez, both on and off the field. It's also something he doesn't want to have to go through ever again.

It was an extremely difficult year for the promising first baseman, who struggled with the bat but more importantly had a family emergency to deal with away from the diamond. Prior to the season, Tellez received word that his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma.

TORONTO -- The 2017 season was a learning experience for prospect Rowdy Tellez, both on and off the field. It's also something he doesn't want to have to go through ever again.

It was an extremely difficult year for the promising first baseman, who struggled with the bat but more importantly had a family emergency to deal with away from the diamond. Prior to the season, Tellez received word that his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma.

The diagnosis led to an extremely trying time for the Tellez family, but in early July they received word that doctors stopped her treatment because she was cancer free. For the first time in months, the Tellez family had something to celebrate, but it's clear it took a toll on the young slugger.

"We have a job to handle, but we also have a family to take care of and support," Tellez said while recently taking part in Major League Baseball's Rookie Development Program. "Family is everything to me. I was raised to be really close to my family and when the event happened, it was really hard to handle. I think I took it harder than anybody being that I don't live with my family, I live across the country in Florida now.

"It was a difficult transition, it was hard to understand and I was really thankful the Blue Jays were able to keep people in my corner to help me throughout the year. Learning how to deal with adversity -- not just on the field with struggles, but the adversity of everything -- happens for a reason. Family struggles are a part of life and how do you handle those while you're going through a season that, in Triple-A, you're a phone call away from the top. The Blue Jays helped me a lot throughout all of this."

Tellez finished the 2017 season hitting .222/.295/.333 with just six home runs and 56 RBIs in 122 games for Triple-A Buffalo. That marked a big dropoff from the year before, when Tellez hit .297/.387/.530 and was generally considered Toronto's first baseman of the future. He's expected to be back in Buffalo at the start of the year and will need a strong showing to re-establish himself as a future core piece.

The path to the big leagues is not as clear for Tellez as it once was. Justin Smoak is coming off a breakout season at the big league level and has two years of control remaining on his contract. That does not bode well for Tellez, but the 22-year-old has more pressing issues to take care of first. Tellez needs to rediscover the power stroke that landed him on MLB Pipeline's list of top Toronto prospects -- he's ranked No. 12 -- and the good news is he can finally do it with a clear head.

"I'd say it affected the way I play," Tellez conceded. "Not the way I handled myself on the field, but I kind of let it get to me subconsciously, I think.

"I tried to go to the field every day, same guy day in and day out, smile on my face. Respect for the game, respect for the staff. They were also there to help me through my tough situation. I couldn't be more grateful to the Blue Jays for what they meant for me and what they helped me with. Just talking to me, making sure everything was OK and offering any help that I needed."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Rowdy Tellez

Toronto, Donaldson agree on record $23M deal

Blue Jays unable to strike deals with Osuna, Stroman
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson did not get the long-term deal he was hoping for -- at least not yet -- but a record-setting pre-arbitration settlement should come as a pretty good consolation prize.

Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). The deal came just a couple of hours before Friday's 1 p.m. ET deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in preparation of the arbitration process.

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson did not get the long-term deal he was hoping for -- at least not yet -- but a record-setting pre-arbitration settlement should come as a pretty good consolation prize.

Donaldson and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $23 million (all figures in U.S. dollars). The deal came just a couple of hours before Friday's 1 p.m. ET deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in preparation of the arbitration process.

Stroman, Osuna likely headed for arbitration

The one-year deal surpasses the previous arbitration record, which was set in 2017 by Bryce Harper's $21.625 million contract for the '18 season. Donaldson previously expressed a desire to explore a long-term deal, but there have yet to be any indications that the two sides ever got close. He remains eligible for free agency at the end of the year.

Video: Donaldson, Blue Jays strike deal to avoid arbitration

"Any great player is typically a complicated case," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "Elite players typically don't have [comparisons]. ... The discussions are in and around salary vs. raise. Similar types of performance. The same drivers. The platform of your performance, the bulk is career, and ultimately the consistency and time that they're active in doing it, is what drives these outcomes. We didn't, by any means, break the record, Josh did. Josh broke the record with his performance."

Toronto went through arbitration with Donaldson in 2015, and it's a process the club did not want to repeat. The Blue Jays will now avoid the awkward process of trying to argue in a hearing why Donaldson should be paid a lower amount and can instead shift their attention to their remaining offseason needs.

Video: TOR@BOS: Donaldson belts second homer of the night

Donaldson is coming off a year in which he hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and 78 RBIs. He was one of the best players in baseball over the final two months, but prior to that, he struggled through a disappointing first half that included calf and hip issues. It was the first time in four years that he did not finish in the top 10 in voting for the American League MVP Award, which he won in 2015.

Despite the new deal, rumors surrounding Donaldson's future with the Blue Jays won't be going away any time soon. The Blue Jays continue to insist they do not have any intention of trading their star third baseman, but there also has not been any reported progress on long-term contract talks. That means Donaldson's name will continue to be mentioned through reports on a semi-regular basis, whether the Blue Jays like it or not.

Video: MLB Tonight: Donaldson, Toronto reach record pact

"It's a compliment that there are other teams who feel like their team would be better with me on it, and I tend to agree with them," Donaldson told MLB Network Friday morning when asked about the frequent trade rumors. "The fact of the matter is that I really enjoy where I'm at right now.

"I enjoy being a Toronto Blue Jay. I enjoy what we've been able to build in this organization. I could be OK if this is where I spend the rest of my career. I could also be OK if they decide to move on. Those aren't my decisions."

Video: TOR@BOS: Donaldson hits a pair of homers off Sale

Also on Friday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms and avoided arbitration with outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3.25 million), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9 million), left-hander Aaron Loup ($1,812,500), right-hander Aaron Sanchez ($2.7 million), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45 million) and right-hander Dominic Leone ($1.085 million) on contracts for the 2018 season.

Carrera, 30, batted .282/.356/.408 with eight homers and 10 steals in 131 games for Toronto last season while earning $1,162,500. He'll receive a bump in salary this year to $1.9 million.

Loup, also 30, went 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 70 appearances for the Blue Jays in 2017. He'll earn $1,812,500 this season after making $1.125 million last year.

The Blue Jays have two arbitration-eligible players remaining, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna.

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Ezequiel Carrera, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Loup

Rogers Centre to extend protective netting

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced plans on Monday to improve the safety of their fans by replacing and extending the protective netting at Rogers Centre for the 2018 season.

The new netting will be extended to the outfield end of each dugout, which can be found at sections 126 and 117, respectively. The netting previously stopped at the infield side of each dugout.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays announced plans on Monday to improve the safety of their fans by replacing and extending the protective netting at Rogers Centre for the 2018 season.

The new netting will be extended to the outfield end of each dugout, which can be found at sections 126 and 117, respectively. The netting previously stopped at the infield side of each dugout.

Toronto also announced that the net behind the plate will be replaced and increased in height by approximately 10 feet. This will provide additional protection for fans in the upper-100 and 200 levels of the ballpark.

Tweet from @BlueJays: Statement from the #BlueJays organization on protective netting at Rogers Centre. For more information on these changes, visit https://t.co/ITp93R8A79 pic.twitter.com/C1MB2WfoM0

All new protection will be in place for Opening Day, when the Blue Jays host the Yankees on March 29 at Rogers Centre. According to the Blue Jays, "the new state-of-the-art netting is designed to blend into the background and provide greater visibility, ensuring fans can remain close to the action in a safe manner, without compromising the viewing experience.

Major League Baseball has been encouraging its teams to expand protective netting across all ballparks. Multiple organizations previously announced plans to increase the coverage after a young girl was injured by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium late last season.

Toronto stated that its current protective netting meets Major League Baseball's recommended guidelines, but the new system will now exceed the standards previously established.

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman, Osuna likely headed for arbitration

Blue Jays reach agreements with Donaldson, 6 others
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays appear destined for arbitration hearings with Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna after the star right-handers remained unsigned following Friday's deadline to exchange salary figures.

Toronto could not find common ground in negotiations with its closer and potential Opening Day starter, but it came to agreements elsewhere. Third baseman Josh Donaldson ($23 million), right-hander Aaron Sanchez ($2.75), outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3.25), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9), left-hander Aaron Loup ($1.813) and right-hander Dominic Leone ($1.085) agreed to one-year deals.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays appear destined for arbitration hearings with Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna after the star right-handers remained unsigned following Friday's deadline to exchange salary figures.

Toronto could not find common ground in negotiations with its closer and potential Opening Day starter, but it came to agreements elsewhere. Third baseman Josh Donaldson ($23 million), right-hander Aaron Sanchez ($2.75), outfielder Kevin Pillar ($3.25), second baseman Devon Travis ($1.45), outfielder Ezequiel Carrera ($1.9), left-hander Aaron Loup ($1.813) and right-hander Dominic Leone ($1.085) agreed to one-year deals.

Donaldson agrees to record $23M deal

Teams and arbitration-eligible players had until Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET to submit a salary number for the 2018 season. If the case proceeds, an independent arbiter will hear from both sides and choose one of the figures for a new contract before the start of Spring Training.

Video: Donaldson, Blue Jays avoid arbitration, agree on deal

New deals are permitted until the hearing starts, but the Blue Jays are considered a file-and-trial team. That means their policy is to not negotiate a one-year settlement after salary figures are exchanged, but exceptions are made for multiyear deals. Toronto could avoid arbitration with Stroman and Osuna, but it seems far less likely than it was earlier in the week.

"It's difficult," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said when asked about the challenges of dealing with nine cases at one time. "Obviously, the players' representation recognized that and knew it would be more challenging for us. ... We were prepared. It's definitely challenging, but the hard work is done well before. Then it's just a matter of being disciplined in executing what your plan was."

Stroman is coming off a season in which he earned $3.4 million and established himself as one of the top young pitchers in the game. He surpassed 200 innings for the second consecutive year and his 3.09 ERA ranked fourth in the American League among qualified starters. According to multiple reports, Stroman filed at $6.9 million while the Blue Jays submitted an offer of $6.5 million.

Osuna will present a rather unique case at the arbitration hearing. He's entering his first year of arbitration eligibility with three full seasons as a closer under his belt, and he won't turn 23 until next month. The record amount handed out to a closer in his first year of arbitration was Zach Britton's $6.75 million salary in 2016. Britton entered that year with 73 saves, while Osuna currently has 95, but his salary won't approach the record. Osuna filed at $5.8 million and the Blue Jays filed at $5.3 million.

Video: TOR@NYY: Osuna strikes out Judge to secure the save

Toronto went almost two decades without taking a player to arbitration, but the streak ended in 2015 when Donaldson and infielder Danny Valencia went through the process. Last year, Stroman won his arbitration hearing after his figure of $3.4 million was picked over Toronto's bid of $3.1 million.

"The arbitration process is such an interesting one," Atkins said. "More and more teams are willing to go and therefore agents are more willing to go. That's cyclical and that's something that evolves over time and will probably shift again. ... For the most part, the player and team end up very, very close. However, the player and team also have done a ton of work, a lot of work, to prepare to ensure that they have their appropriate walkaways and defined positions. Sometimes it just doesn't line up."

With two keys players unsigned, a lot of groundwork remains for the Blue Jays, but Friday's development was still a step in the right direction. Donaldson's contract situation had been one of the more pressing issues the ballclub needed to take care of, and while there is still no indication of serious talks on a long-term deal, Toronto can move forward with more cost certainty for the upcoming season.

"We definitely still have flexbility and we definitely have room to make moves," Atkins said. "We feel like we're in a good position to continue to make our team better. Where that ends, we'll see."

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

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna, Marcus Stroman