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Who could fill Blue Jays' fifth-starter role?

Toronto looking at free-agent options to complete rotation
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' list of position players appears set with the start of Spring Training less than two weeks away, but the pitching staff remains in a state of flux.

Toronto is still in the market for additional help in the rotation and bullpen. The most pressing priority is the No. 5 starter's job; Joe Biagini is the clear frontrunner, but the Blue Jays could use some other candidates.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' list of position players appears set with the start of Spring Training less than two weeks away, but the pitching staff remains in a state of flux.

Toronto is still in the market for additional help in the rotation and bullpen. The most pressing priority is the No. 5 starter's job; Joe Biagini is the clear frontrunner, but the Blue Jays could use some other candidates.

Here's a closer look at some of the options still available to the Blue Jays in free agency:

Video: ARI@KC: Vargas fans Martinez in potential last start

LHP Jason Vargas

Vargas is coming off an All-Star season with the Royals that saw him go 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA. The 34-year-old certainly isn't going to blow anybody away with a fastball that sits in the mid-80s, but Vargas has thrown at least 150 innings six times in his career. The problem is that Toronto already possesses a finesse starter in Marco Estrada. Does it want to add a second?

RHP Chris Tillman

Tillman was recently linked to the Blue Jays in a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. The 29-year-old is very familiar to Toronto fans, having spent the last nine seasons in Baltimore. He's the former ace of the Orioles' staff, and he has posted an ERA of 3.77 or below four times. Tillman initially had hopes for a large payday this offseason, but after a 7.84 ERA in 2017, he's now just looking for another opportunity.

Video: OAK@TEX: Cashner gets DP to end threat in the 2nd

RHP Andrew Cashner

There has been very little speculation surrounding the Blue Jays and Cashner this offseason, but we know Toronto was scouting him down the stretch in 2017. The 31-year-old will almost assuredly net a larger commitment than Tillman after he went 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA for the Rangers last season. Cashner's dip in strikeouts last year (4.6 per nine innings vs. a career mark of 7.0) is cause for concern, but his ground-ball rate remains strong at 48.6 percent.

LHP Jaime Garcia

Garcia bounced around several teams in 2017 before finally finding a home with the Yankees. He posted a 4.82 ERA over eight starts down the stretch for New York, but he only made one appearance out of the bullpen in the postseason. Garcia has thrown at least 157 innings during each of the past two seasons, but his longest appearances with the Yankees were 5 2/3 frames each. The 31-year-old would fill an area of need and provide more depth, but not a lot else.

Video: BOS@TB: Cobb strikes out Bradley Jr. swinging

The long shots

You may have noticed by now that this list is missing several of the top free-agent pitchers on the market. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb remain unsigned, but the Blue Jays would have to be considered long shots to sign any of the four. Darvish and Arrieta are next to impossible based on Toronto's available funds, which are believed to exceed $10 million but won't be enough.

Cobb could still be an option, but even during an offseason that was slow to develop, he's expected to find a better offer elsewhere. If Cobb remains unsigned closer to Opening Day, Toronto could swoop in here with a short-term offer, though plenty of ballclubs would be willing to do the same. Even so, Cobb's career 3.50 ERA and proven track record could be just what this team needs to be considered a contender.

The rest

Some other names to keep in mind are Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Miley, Clay Buchholz and former Blue Jay Francisco Liriano. Of that group, Anderson might have the best chance at re-joining Toronto after he finished the 2017 season in there and posted a 5.13 ERA over seven starts.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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