Blue Jays aim to add versatility to roster

Blue Jays aim to add versatility to roster

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have several areas of need this offseason, and the first priority appears to be adding a versatile infielder that increases overall depth.

Toronto's roster was decimated by injuries in 2017 and the club was forced to compete for much of the year without its starting middle infield. Shortstops Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis combined to appear in just 116 games last season and the club was ill-prepared to compete without them.

The starting rotation and outfield also remain a priority, but on Day 1 of the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., Toronto GM Ross Atkins was surprisingly candid about the order in which he would like to get things done.

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"If we were to go through that process and answer to a fan the [most] honest possible way that I could, I think our priority is complementing our infield, in some way, with versatility," Atkins said. "Someone not that can just play when needed, but someone who could potentially get 600 plate appearances across our infield in some form or fashion. That's not necessarily going to happen, but that's the type of value we're looking for."

Toronto currently has a projected starting infield of Justin Smoak at first, Travis at second, Tulowitzki at shortstop and Josh Donaldson at third. On paper, the outfield would appear to be a more glaring need following the departure of Jose Bautista, but there's also some underrated depth to be found in the form of Teoscar Hernandez, rookie Anthony Alford, left fielder Steve Pearce, reserve outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and starting center fielder Kevin Pillar.

Atkins also raised the possibility of finding an infielder who could chip in from time to time in the outfield as well. Super utility players who offer a plus bat are tough to find, but that appears to be the priority. Some of the potential fits in free agency include Eduardo Nunez, Zack Cozart and Neil Walker, while pursuing someone like Oakland's Jed Lowrie through trade also could be a possibility.

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"I think if you think about where we are as a team, how our roster sits and just looking at Devon's track record, his playing time, we have to be prepared if Devon is not ready to give us 600 plate appearances," Atkins said. "If Tulo's not able to give us 150 games, we have to be prepared to offset that. The best way to do that is to find someone who has the versatility, who could also go to the outfield when we do have someone, when we do have a completely healthy infield."

The infield is a priority, but the Blue Jays also still need a fifth starter and additional starting depth in the Minor Leagues.

"I would say it's secondary, but it's necessary," Atkins said." We have to find a way, maybe in the form of a Triple-A starter, maybe in the form of a Major League-credible piece to the rotation. Maybe in the form of a couple pieces. Maybe in the form of someone that can complement our rotation or the 'pen. But we definitely have to add pitching and I'm confident that we would be able to."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.