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Blue Jays not yet close to filling rotation gaps

Blue Jays not yet close to filling rotation gaps

Blue Jays not yet close to filling rotation gaps

TORONTO -- Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija is the name that seems to keep popping up the most when it comes to the Blue Jays' search for an upgrade in the starting rotation.

There was a report over the weekend from ESPN that Toronto was putting together a package of prospects in an attempt to acquire Chicago's No. 1 starter.

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Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is normally tight-lipped when it comes to rumors, but this offseason he has decided to be a little more candid. Anthopoulos made an appearance on MLB Network Radio and didn't exactly deny the two sides have talked, but dismissed any notion that a formal offer has been made.

"I'm going to try to be a little more candid than I may have been in the past," Anthopoulos said. "I won't comment on specific rumors and things like that, but I will say that we're definitely exploring starters with teams. But also, just like a lot of stuff that's out there that is false, we have not made an offer to anybody with respect to a starter.

"So, if there is something out there that we've actually made an offer to someone for a starter, that is not accurate. It doesn't mean we're not inquiring."

Toronto's search for at least one -- possibly two starters -- has been well documented. R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow appear to be the only three pitchers with guaranteed jobs next season, and the back end of the rotation is still very much up in the air.

Samardzija, who is under the Cubs' control for the next two years, would appear to be a very good fit after a season in which he logged more than 200 innings. But there are still a lot of red flags as he's set to turn 29 in January but has just two years of starting experience under his belt.

The former reliever went just 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA for the Cubs last season. He recorded an impressive 214 strikeouts over 213 2/3 innings while walking 78. The native of Indiana certainly isn't a bona fide ace, but he would be a nice addition for a team that's searching for another mid-rotation arm.

Despite the recent report, there doesn't appear to be anything imminent between the two clubs. Toronto is expected to continue its search for another starter but a solution might not be found until next month's Winter Meetings.

"You know what, we're talking to one club about a smaller trade and maybe it'll move the next few days, or maybe it won't happen," Anthopoulos said. "But, no, I don't think, not right now there isn't anything imminent. We're not necessarily waiting on someone to get back to us but, again, at any time that can change, and I hope it does.

"Before the [American] Thanksgiving holiday sometimes there's that last little push [when] teams want to get some things off their plate. So maybe things happen here in the next two or three days. If not, we'll take it to the Meetings, I guess, at that point."

The problem with making any kind of trade for a starting pitcher is the cost that will be associated. There has been a lot of interest in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez after their recent showings in the Arizona Fall League, but the pair is also very important to the Blue Jays' future.

Stroman arguably is ready for the Major Leagues and there appear to be far fewer skeptics about his future in the rotation than when Anthopoulos selected the product of Duke in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He was initially projected as a reliever but is coming off an impressive season with Double-A New Hampshire, where he went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA and 129 strikeouts.

Sanchez has been Toronto's best overall prospect, according to MLB.com, for the past couple of years. He projects as a possible frontline starter and is expected to begin the year in Double-A after pitching a full season with Class A Dunedin in 2013.

If Toronto is adamant about keeping both prospects in the fold, the club could then shift its focus to the free-agent market. There's a large number of starters available -- including Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon -- but each comes with his own set of risks.

"I probably wouldn't come out and say who we might be in on, just from a competitive standpoint," Anthopoulos said.

"We may have someone that we like a little bit more than some other clubs, and we'd want to keep that a little more quiet."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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