Blue Jays remain interested in free agent starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana

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Ken Rosenthal shares the buzz at FOXSports.com:

The Toronto Blue Jays, in need of another starting pitcher, might finally be preparing to pounce.

The Jays have yet to make an offer to a free-agent starter, according to major league sources. But they have done extensive background work on right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, digging into his medical records, and also remain interested in righty Ervin Santana and other free agents, sources said.

Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett are also thought to be under consideration in Toronto’s front office. Those two veterans did not receive qualifying offers from their former teams and are not tied to draft pick compensation, but, as Rosenthal notes, the Jays have protected picks at Nos. 9 and 11 and the draft slot they’d lose by signing a pitcher like Jimenez or Santana is No. 49.

Santana, 31, posted a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 32 starts last year for the Royals, fanning 161 batters in 211 innings. Jimenez, 29, had a 3.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 194 strikeouts in 182 2/3 frames for Cleveland.

The Jays’ locked-in starters for 2014 are R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.