Filling second-base hole a top offseason priority

Filling second-base hole a top offseason priority

TORONTO -- One of the big unknowns for next season is where the Blue Jays will turn for an everyday second baseman.

Incumbent Kelly Johnson is a free agent at the end of the year and not expected to make a return. That would open the door for a potential trade or free agent signing with infield prospect Adeiny Hechavarria also receiving some consideration for the role.

The pending crop of free agent second basemen is not an enticing one, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn't seem too concerned with the lack of options.

"I would agree, but sometimes you'd be surprised, players become available that you wouldn't expect and you scratch your head," Anthopoulos said. "We always say in the office that the landscape changes so fast, and especially if we're committing big dollars, or payroll, we want to make sure this is a move that we definitely want to make, because one month from now, three months from now, players are going to be available."

That would seem to suggest the Blue Jays won't be in a major rush to find an immediate solution at the end of the year. If a viable candidate does not emerge, the club likely will turn to Hechavarria, who is a natural shortstop, but could easily make the transition to second base because of his well-above-average abilities in the field.

Hechavarria received his first career start at second base on Wednesday night, but has previously spent some time at the position with Triple-A Las Vegas. Hechavarria is still somewhat of an unknown commodity with the bat, but there's little debate within the organization that he would be able to handle the defensive responsibilities.

"He played a bunch in Las Vegas, certainly wasn't the everyday second baseman there, but he played there and is an option internally," Anthopoulos said. "I really don't know which way we're going to go. This is cliche, but you're going to look to get the best players you can, and if that means that someone comes up in trade -- or someone comes up in free agency -- and Adeiny's optioned down, he's right there and can be called up again."

One thing does remain certain: the Blue Jays should have some financial flexibility to fill the holes on their roster during the offseason. In addition to second base, the club also will potentially be in the market for a left fielder, first baseman/designated hitter and two starting pitchers.

With attendance on the rise this year, there should be more money to work with and Anthopoulos is already on record saying that an increase will happen. To what level still remains uncertain.

"Our payroll is going to go up, that I know," Anthopoulos said. "No doubt about it.

"It has climbed each year, and it will continue to climb. To what level does it end up climbing? That remains to be seen. ... I think our payroll will continue to climb into a pretty good area."