MLB Rumors: Toronto Blue Jays Looking For Pitching Help, Considering Jeff Samardzija, James Shields

James Shields
David Richard USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are making noise in the American League East.  They intend to stay in the thick of the race, but may need to add some pitching depth to their rotation to do so.

The Blue Jays are considering a number of moves, which include the acquisition of a starting pitcher. Among the reported targets: Jeff Samardzija, James Shields and Justin Masterson.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs had mutual interest in a deal revolving around Samardzija. Since then, nothing has transpired, and the Blue Jays have been watching in the wings.

According to the Boston Globe, Toronto is convinced they can make a run at the division with the help of a top-tier starter. But as much as the team covets Samardzija, who owns a league-best 1.68 E.R.A., the Jays are unwilling to part ways with prospect Drew Hutchison.

CBS Sports suggests Shields may be a more realistic option for Toronto. The Kansas City Royals were expected to contend in the AL Central, so the price for Shields may be high. The Jays reportedly like Shields because of the success he’s had pitching in the AL East.

Via Jon Heyman:

With rentals the expected preference, Royals star James Shields is seen as a possible Jays target should he hit the trade market. The Royals have been expecting to contend so there’s no guarantee he’d be made available, and if he is the price would still be fairly high for such an ace pitcher who’d bring Kansas City a draft choice if they kept him once they made him a qualifying offer.

According to the report, Francisco Liriano, Jason Hammel and Masterson  are other fallback options. ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney believes those players are more likely targets, too.

Olney suggests the Blue Jays won’t be in the market for Samardzija, and instead will focus on Hammel, Masterson and Liriano.

Hammel, like Shields, has experience pitching the AL East, plus he can be acquired for a lower cost than Samardzija. Masterson is a candidate to be dealt if the Cleveland Indians decide to make him available, and the same goes for Liriano depending on what the Pittsburgh Pirates do.

Per Olney, the Jays are on a strict budget, so the organization will have to be creative in how it add talent to the team this summer.

Look, if the Jays start to pull away in the AL East and fans fill the empty seats in the Rogers Centre, the team’s ownership group could ratchet up the available dollars. But Toronto already set a payroll record — by far — so it may be that Anthopoulos will have to be creative in the way he was during the Santana talks. He could ask a trade partner to assume more salary in return for a better package of prospects, or he could look for opportunities to use a swap of bad contracts to get something done.

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