MLB Rumors: Blue Jays "Engaged" With Top Free Agent Pitcher

The Toronto Blue Jays are wading deep into the free agent pool for a starting pitcher. They do have a number of targets on their radar, but nothing would make a bigger splash than signing reigning—and 3-time—Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. And according to Toronto beat writer Shi Davidi, they are "engaged" with the 39-year-old ace.

Davidi notes that "the Blue Jays pursued (Verlander) aggressively last winter and remain engaged with (him now)."

Verlander has praised the Jays' efforts in trying to land him last winter, and even suggested that they were the runner-up to the Houston Astros. 

Toronto was "very proactive to the point that when I signed with Houston, I made sure to let them know that I appreciated it all,” Verlander told Jeff Passan of ESPN. His former Houston teammate, Jays' outfielder George Springer, was a key recruiter for him then, and probably is again this winter. “Ultimately, when it came down to it, Houston had the same offer.  It was all kind of ballpark between them and Toronto... New York [Yankees) was kind of always just a step behind.”

The only issue for GM Ross Atkins with spending the big bucks it'll take to land Verlander, notes Davidi, would be the likely exclusion from any other big splashy moves (i.e. Brandon Nimmo, other second-tier starters). 

The Jays are in need of an outfielder (preferably a center fielder) and an impact left-handed bat, as well as bullpen help in addition to a rotation boost.

Any way you slice it, Toronto will be a team to watch at these Winter Meetings that are getting into full swing today. 

Photo: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports