Blue Jays' needs determined by trio's roles

Blue Jays' needs determined by trio's roles

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' defensive alignment for next season is starting to take shape.

Toronto has a variety of players who can play multiple positions, a situation which gives a club flexibility heading into the offseason.

Jose Bautista can play third base or right field. Aaron Hill can play second or third. Adam Lind is a candidate for either first or designated hitter. For a period of time, there was a lot of uncertainty -- at least publicly -- on what roles the trio would play next season.

Toronto manager John Farrell suggested Bautista's preference would be to play in the outfield, where he tied for second in the American League with 12 assists.

"We feel confident with him at either position, whether it's third base or right field," Farrell said of the All-Star slugger, who is considered a plus defender at both spots. "But in talking with Jose, he feels that he can take advantage of his arm strength as a right fielder.

"But having said that, he has not made an ultimatum on what position he wants to play. So we will look at the best complementary player to him, and whether that's an outfielder or third baseman, we'll look at in the offseason."

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos likes the fact that his roster has a lot of options, but he'd currently prefer to go with what worked best in 2010. That means Hill likely will stick at second.

"Right now, [Hill] is our second baseman," Anthopoulos said. "The only scenario that we would talk about moving him is if we felt that it was someone that was a significant piece. Same thing with a guy like Bautista as well."

Last year, the club played Lind 11 games at first base. It was the first time since college he played multiple games at the position. He displayed strong hands with an ability to dig balls out of the dirt but struggled with his footwork around the base.

For Farrell, the decision on where Lind plays next season ultimately comes down to his comfort level. The Blue Jays would like to move him to first but could possibly ask the native of Indiana to split time at DH as well to help ease the transition.

"Where I think he feels most comfortable -- which is probably the biggest thing -- if he feels most comfortable as DH, then that's where the most production comes from, that would be ideal," Farrell said.

"Is he an internal candidate for first base? He would be. There are also a couple of guys on the market that would be a tick ahead of him, defensively. But we want him to get back to being the productive middle-of-the-order bat that we have come to know. That's the first and foremost thing with Adam."

If the Blue Jays do put Hill at second, Bautista in right and have Lind split time between DH and first base, then that leaves a couple of clearly defined needs at the corner-infield positions. Those will need to be filled via trade or free agency.

Regardless of what happens, though, Farrell says he would like to figure out the roles before the end of the month so he can give the players proper time to prepare for Spring Training.

"That will become more crystallized, I think, as we get closer to Christmas," Farrell said. "The one thing that will be clear to all of them is, when we settle on an approach, that will be our intent as we go into Spring Training.

"Can there be variations from that? Sure. But we would like to avoid that as much as possible. Much like you look at guys in that bullpen, the sooner you can solidify roles, the more they know where they stand and what's expected of them. That's the ultimate approach here and the ultimate goal."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.