Blue Jays more likely to play for Shields than Samardzija this summer

James Shields.
Will the Blue Jays make a run at James Shields this summer? (USATSI)

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There's been a lot of Blue Jays buzz regarding their potential to acquire Cubs star Jeff Samardzija, but as things stand Toronto expects to focus more this summer on "rental" pitchers, as it wants to avoid gutting its farm system.

With rentals the expected preference, Royals star James Shields is seen as a possible Jays target should he hit the trade market. The Royals have been expecting to contend so there's no guarantee he'd be made available, and if he is the price would still be fairly high for such an ace pitcher who'd bring Kansas City a draft choice if they kept him once they made him a qualifying offer.

One reason the Jays like Shields is his pedigree in the tough AL East. Shields is 6-3 with a 3.36 ERA for the Royals, and allowed eight hits and six runs (on three home runs) in a star won by the Royals at Toronto Thursday night. The Jays are a surprise in first place in the AL East, and while their starters' ERA of 3.88 is fifth best in the AL (up from 14th last year), they would like to add a veteran starter,

Shields could lead a pack of starters who'd interest the Jays, who'd also most likely have interest in Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano and Jason Hammel shoulkd they become available. Those are three more pitchers who are due to be free agents after the year like Shields.

The Jays haven't been engaged in talks regarding Samardzija during this season, but sources confirm Chicago sought young starter Drew Hutchison plus either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, two more talented pitching prospects in a Samardzija package, as Ken Rosenthal of reported.

"We can't keep trading our prospects," one Jays person said in explanation why they will look more closely at rentals than Samardzija, who is expected to be the top non-rental on the trade market this summer. Samardzija is free agent eligible after 2015.

The Jays traded several young players two winters ago in their mega deal with the Marlins for pitcher Mark Buehrle and shortstop Jose Reyes, including pitcher Henderson Alvarez, shortstop Adieny Hechevarria and several top minor-league prospects.

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