Blue Jays make health first priority for Santana

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says there's a great deal of upside and nothing to lose with signing Johan Santana to a minor league deal.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Figuring out exactly how Johan Santana fits into their big picture is the secondary concern right now for the Toronto Blue Jays, who first plan to focus on helping the two-time Cy Young Award winner regain his health and strength.

What’s clear is that Alex Anthopoulos views the 35-year-old left-hander, whose last pitch in the big-leagues came in 2012, as a starter, one very much in the mix to be part of the rotation.

When, or if, that happens is the big question as Santana is just beginning his throwing program and it’s “highly unlikely” that he’ll be ready for opening day, according to the GM.

Regardless, in signing him to a minor-league deal that will pay him $2.5 million plus bonuses for active days and games started if he makes the 25-man roster, the Blue Jays intend to include him in their mix provided he shows that he can be a factor for them.

“It’s not an indictment on anybody who’s here – you’re looking to add guys at all times. Things are going to happen over the course of the season,” Anthopoulos said Friday. “You can never have too much depth, you can never have too many bodies and you don’t know who’s going to emerge. From that standpoint, we’re always staying on top of any opportunities we have. Anybody on a minor-league contract, every club will tell you, you take as many chances as you can on guys like that.”

Santana’s agreement also includes an April 28 opt out.

Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison are locked into the rotation right now, with Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris competing for the fifth starter’s role. Sanchez and Estrada are both candidates for a bullpen that didn’t get the expected renovation during the off-season.

“There’s no connection whatsoever at all,” said Anthopoulos. “We were interested in Johan in December. We know we’re going to need more than five starters throughout the year, we think he’s good if we can get him right and strong. How that works out we have no idea but it would be a great problem to have.”

Santana is expected to join the Blue Jays in camp Saturday.

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