Blue Jays 'leading candidate' for Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez

Otto Greule Jr

Neither pitcher has had overwhelming interest on the market yet, but it's starting to become clear who could be in play for them.

The Toronto Blue Jays are seeking to acquire one or two more starting pitchers this offseason and are a leading candidate to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The markets for both Santana and Jimenez have been slow developing this offseason. The two players are both seeking big deals, but come with some risk that they will not perform to the level a team would want for the money. Furthermore, both men turned down a qualifying offer from their 2013 teams, meaning any other club that signs them this offseason would have to surrender a high draft pick.

The Blue Jays' starting staff for 2014 currently consists of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and J.A. Happ, with the fifth starter still undecided. The team lost Josh Johnson to free agency. With a still-potent offense and a good front to the rotation, adding one more top-notch starter could elevate the Blue Jays to contender status.

Toronto is coming off a disappointing last-place finish in the always-tough AL East, winding up with a 74-88 record. The team had hoped to compete after a couple of big trades that brought Dickey, Buehrle, Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes to Canada. Injuries and ineffectiveness to the starting staff derailed any playoff notions, however.

Santana comes with a bit less risk than Jimenez, but is also asking for more money. He has maintained an ERA below 4.00 in three of the last four seasons, with a 3.87 ERA overall in that time frame. His 2013 campaign was arguably the best season of his career, as he posted a 3.24 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP for the RoyalsAt last report, Santana is looking for a $112 million deal over five years.

Jimenez, meanwhile, may come with more upside than Santana and a potentially lower price tag. He has certainly had a higher peak than Santana, posting a 2.88 ERA and striking out 214 batters in 2010 with the Rockies. However, after a trade to Cleveland in mid-2011, Jimenez fell apart. Through 2012, he made 42 starts for the Indians and had a 5.32 ERA. However, he had a resurgence in 2013. After a slow start, Jimenez had a sterling 2.61 ERA over his final 28 starts, striking out over a batter per inning and holding opponents to a .664 OPS.

In addition to the Blue Jays, the Mariners and Diamondbacks both are looking at Santana and Jimenez, with Matt Garza also possibly in play. The interest of these two teams is contingent on them not landing Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, however.

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