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Santana still on radar, but time running out

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' options in free agency have been slowly dwindling over the past several weeks, and all of a sudden there is just one remaining big-name pitcher still left on the board.

Right-hander Ervin Santana is the only viable solution that remains on the open market after Baltimore signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract on Monday night. The talent pool was never all that deep to begin with this offseason, but over the course of several months, the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett and Jimenez have signed elsewhere.

Santana is still available, but that is expected to change in the relatively near future with camps across baseball already open for business this spring. Toronto reportedly still has interest, but it's possible there will be competition from the likes of the Yankees and Mariners.

"Some things could still change, but we're going forward with what we have, unless something happens," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We like this group. That's not my department. [General manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] is working hard, he has been doing it all winter and half of last season, looking at some different options. Whether something happens or not, nobody knows -- we just approach it with, 'Let's get after it with what we have.'"

At the end of last season, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the Blue Jays would upgrade their rotation. The question wasn't if Toronto would add another starter, but how many pitchers the club would be able to acquire.

There was a seemingly endless list of rumors associated with the club over the winter months. Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs was one target, while a deal with the A's for left-hander Brett Anderson reportedly fell through because of an issue with his physical.

Then there were the constant links to the available free agents, but to date, nothing has happened. That has unsettled some of the fan base. Those are the type of things the players can't concern themselves with, but it does become a problem if the disappointment seeps into the clubhouse as well.

According to Gibbons, he doesn't think that has happened but admitted it's really up to each individual how he will react to the moves or lack thereof.

"Some people might look at it that way, others won't," Gibbons said. "There's no question, we struggled with starting pitching last year, so naturally you're looking to upgrade that. But it's not easy to do. There were a couple of deals in the works that ended up falling through -- I'm talking trade route -- and then there's the free agents. There's a little bit of a bidding war out there, so it's not automatic that you're going to get those guys."

The one thing Gibbons went out of his way to clarify was that his GM has done everything possible to upgrade the team. It hasn't worked out yet, but things could change rather quickly, depending on whether an agreement can be reached with Santana or a trade scenario suddenly surfaces.

"The guys that are gone, that signed with other guys -- Garza and Jimenez -- Alex worked hard to try and sign those guys," Gibbons revealed. "It just didn't happen. But we'll see. You watch what happened last year, everybody thinks that easy and you can bring in guys any time you want, and it doesn't work that way. And it has to fit, it has to fit with what you're trying to do, with your plan."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
Read More: Toronto Blue Jays, Ervin Santana