Your! Call: Which starter(s) will the Blue Jays land?

Pat Lovgren, Staff
11/10/2012 6:31:20 PM
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As the GM winter meetings wrap up in California, the possible destination points for free agent starting pitchers are starting to materialize.

What has started to become increasingly clear is that with a relatively shallow crop of quality starters and a number of teams looking to fill holes, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos will have his work cut out for him.

The fourth-year GM has indicated he will take a pro-active approach when it comes to adding to his rotation, but if recent reports are to be believed, there may only be a handful of pitchers that may be in play.

Here's a look at the top available free agent starters and where the Jays stand in their pursuit of them.

Zack Greinke:

The undisputed top dog among starting pitching free agents, the 29-year-old has top of the rotation stuff and the Cy Young pedigree to back it up. Being a step above everyone else on the market also makes him the toughest player to get signed.

His previous team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are likely to make a significant pitch for him, especially after already being down two starters in their rotation following the losses of Ervin Santana and Dan Haren.

But it's another California team that could provide the biggest hurdle for Anthopoulos.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have demonstrated that money is no object when it comes to their pursuit of players, having already taken on two $100-plus million contracts in the form of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. The thinking is if the Dodgers want Greinke or any other free agent, they will do whatever it takes to get him signed and that could mean a contract in excess of $20 million annually – something the Jays may have a hard time matching.

Hiroki Kuroda:

Coming off an impressive season in New York, the Japanese import demonstrated the rare ability to perform at a high level in both a hitter's ballpark and a tough division.

At 38-years old, he will likely only demand a short-term deal, but will also have a short list of contending teams that he would be willing to go to. The Jays may not be on that list and even if they were, it would be hard to imagine the Yankees allowing someone who performed so well for them walk away to a division rival.

Kyle Lohse:

The 34-year-old remade himself over the last two years in St. Louis after never having an ERA below 4.00 in six American League seasons and may demand a deal on par with what C.J. Wilson received last year (in the neighbourhood of five years and $77 million).

The Jays could be in play here, but Anthopoulos may not be comfortable committing big money to a pitcher who had much of his success against the light-hitting NL Central.

Dan Haren:

Haren was one of the most durable starters in baseball until back problems affected his on-field performance and eventually landed him on the DL.

If the 32-year-old is healthy, he could be a good candidate to return to his prior form, but after the Angels declined his option, you have to wonder about the seriousness of his injury.

There are also reports that Haren is looking to stay on the West Coast and is reluctant to move anywhere east, which would rule out Toronto.

Edwin Jackson:

The well-travelled, hard-throwing right hander is set to move on to his eighth big league team despite not yet being 30 years old.

He has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but after six seasons as a starter, it seems like he can only be counted on as a No. 3 or 4 man in the rotation.

The Jays could likely have the 29-year-old if they wanted him, but if it takes more than $10 million per season over multiple years, is he a solid investment?

Anibal Sanchez:

After performing well following a mid-season trade to the Tigers, the 28-year-old should find his services to be in high demand over the winter.

Sanchez has overcome shoulder issues earlier in his career, coming within five innings of hitting the 200-inning mark in each of the last three seasons.

Anthopoulos is likely to take a long, hard look at the Venezuelan and depending on his contract demands – which have been speculated to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10-$15 million per year – could be a solid fit in Toronto.

Ryan Dempster:

The soft-tossing right hander looked like he was on his way to rebounding from an subpar 2011, but struggled after a trade to the Rangers, throwing doubt on whether his success – in a similar way to Lohse – was a product of facing the weaker offences in the National League.

His Canadian ties could draw him to Toronto, but it would be tough for Anthopoulos to commit multiple years or high dollars to a 35-year-old hurler who, because of his lack of velocity, has a small margin for error.

Brandon McCarthy:

The 29-year-old is coming off an injury-plagued season that included shoulder problems and a concussion, but he performed well when healthy, and has done so the last two seasons, posting ERA's of 3.32 and 3.24.

He would represent a gamble, but among the second-tier of starters available, he may be worth a short-term contract, as he has shown the ability to remake himself as a pitcher and should remain effective if healthy.

Shaun Marcum:

The former Blue Jay has been a solid contributor over the past three seasons, but his effectiveness is limited by his lack of velocity, which was diminished even further by injuries last season.

With his injury history and the little room he has for error, it would be tough to count on Marcum as a top three starter. Still, he has indicated he would be open to returning to Toronto and may represent a solid complementary addition if the Jays are also able to land a bigger money pitcher.

Jeremy Guthrie:

After posting respectable numbers pitching for a weak team in a tough hitter's park in Baltimore, the 33-year-old was dealt to Colorado in 2012 and struggled. But a mid-season trade back to the American League served as a spark and the righty performed well in 14 starts in Kansas City.

His upside would be as a back-of-the-rotation starter on a good team, but the durability he has shown throughout his career is something Anthopoulos' team could certainly use after going through 12 different starters in 2012.

Francisco Liriano:

Now two seasons removed from a 201-strikeout, 3.62 ERA 2010 season, the 29-year-old lefty would represent a significant gamble for Anthopoulos.

Liriano has never thrown more than 200 innings and the GM may be hesitant to commit dollars to a pitcher who has struggled with both health and on-field performance, especially considering all the starting pitching injuries that cropped up last season.

So after taking a look at the top free agent starters, where do you think the Jays stand in their ability to land one or more of them?

Should Anthopoulos go all in on one of the top arms or maybe sign a couple of the second-tier pitchers to fill in the back-end of the rotation?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Anibal Sanchez (Photo: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)


(Photo: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
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