Blue Jays likely to pursue rental pitchers at trade deadline

Tom Szczerbowski

James Shields is reportedly at the top of the Jays' wishlist this summer.

As we move closer to the July 31 trade deadline, contending teams will all be looking to add pieces to help their playoff chances. Chief among them will be the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently lead the AL East and are expected to pursue starting pitching on the trade market this summer.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Toronto will focus on rental pitchers who will be free agents after this season in an effort to avoid trading away too many of the organization's top prospects. Pitchers who are only under contract through this season will be less expensive in terms of trade value than pitchers who are under team control after this year, so the Jays will likely try to snag a soon-to-be free agent starter from a seller before the deadline.

Heyman notes that Royals' ace James Shields would be near the top of Toronto's wishlist this summer if he becomes available, which is far from a certainty. Kansas City, a team that was viewed by many at the beginning of the year as a serious World Series contender, is currently 6.5 games back in the AL Central and could look to move some pieces if that number doesn't shrink.

Heyman also lists Justin Masterson (Indians), Francisco Liriano (Pirates) and Jason Hammel (Cubs), with Hammel seeming like the most likely starter in baseball to be dealt before July 31. Kyle Kendrick (Phillies) and Brandon McCarthy (Diamondbacks) are both on last-place teams, and seem like good candidates for a deadline trade.

The Jays have long-been interested in Cubs' starter Jeff Samardzija, but Heyman notes that they have not had discussions about him yet this season due to Chicago's high asking price during the offseason.

MLB trade deadline is July 31st

As Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com recently reported, the Cubs asked for starter Drew Hutchison in addition to either Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez in a package for Samardzija, an asking price that the Jays balked at before turning their focus to rental-type starters.

Although the Jays are thought to be right at their payroll limit as a result of their failure to sign Ervin Santana due to spring training, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star that he has "every confidence" that the team will have the resources to add to the payroll this summer.

Considering a few Jays' players took up a collection and offered to defer salary because they believed that was necessary to sign Santana in March, it will be interesting to see how deep the team's pockets truly are as we march closer to the deadline.

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