Jays targeting ‘mid-to-top’ of rotation starters

The bidding for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has begun. (Yuki Taguchi/AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays remain focused on acquiring starting pitching help through trade, with Alex Anthopoulos believing the market for some free-agent pitchers may drag into January.

The general manager also indicated Monday that the new posting system being finalized between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball – which includes a $20 million max bid and the right for all teams who tie in the post to negotiate with the player – may lead to a run at Masahiro Tanaka.

“We wouldn’t get specific, but I would say that any good starter we’ll definitely talk about seriously as far as being involved,” Anthopoulos said during a chat with reporters. “I’m not one to come out and say we’re going after so and so, but I think it’s safe to say any good starter that’s out there we’re going to (be) active, we’ll try to be involved and see if it makes sense for us.

Still, the Blue Jays arrived at the Disney Swan and Dolphin resort with a tight focus that includes trying to find an upgrade for the second-worst rotation in the majors primarily through trade.

Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija is believed to be one of their targets, but that market may be slowed both by Tanaka and David Price, who may be dealt by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The net he’s casting “doesn’t have to be that wide, since there’s not that many players available in trade,” said Anthopoulos. “Plus you’re looking at who you feel is truly an upgrade over what you currently have. We’re looking if we can get mid to top of the rotation starters, there are very few.”

The Blue Jays are also looking for help at second base, and when the Pittsburgh Pirates inquired about the availability of Adam Lind last week, the ask in return was for Neil Walker, according to sources.

There was no fit and talks quickly withered, but that explains why even though they’re not looking to move Lind, they’ve poked around on the asking prices for James Loney, Justin Morneau (before he signed with Colorado), Mitch Moreland and Logan Morrison, just in case a potential deal presents itself.

Other possibilities for second base may include free agents like Mark Ellis or Jamey Carroll, although the Blue Jays have to figure out how many infielders they plan to carry on the roster, and how they address the need for a platoon-mate to share first base/DH duties with Lind.

Regardless, the primary need is for pitching help.

Things continue to move slowly for top-tier free agents Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, the latter two who both have compensation attached to them.

Anthopoulos feels the market for them and other qualified free agents “can be impacted because of the draft pick, but that isn’t to say we aren’t going to stay in touch and monitor it.”
“If I had to handicap it right now, it wouldn’t surprise me that it goes into January,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if two days from now, three days from now, I get a phone call or I’m getting contact

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