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Alex Anthopoulos. CP (FRANK GUNN)
Alex Anthopoulos. CP (FRANK GUNN)

Blue Jays' GM willing to gamble Add to ...

Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays equipped themselves as best they could defensively to support an inexperienced pitching rotation.

Now, heading into baseball's annual free-agency feeding frenzy, the American League team is poised to sacrifice some of that defensive prowess in order to improve a one-dimensional offence that could do little more than hit home runs in 2010.

That's why you might see the Blue Jays take a chance and hand Adam Lind the starting job at first base. Toronto is hoping any defensive shortcomings Lind may exhibit at learning a new position would be offset by the potential he has shown with his bat.

"I wouldn't rule it out," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said when asked if last year's designated hitter has what it takes to step in at first, should the team not bring back free agent Lyle Overbay. "His footwork needs a lot of work."

It is also the reason why the Jays might be willing to take a chance on J.P. Arencibia handling the majority of catching duties now that all-star veteran John Buck has signed a free-agent deal with the Florida Marlins.

According to Anthopoulos, offensive punch will take precedence over defensive savvy when it comes to the construction of his 2011 lineup.

"There's no question that's an area where we definitely need to move up," he said Wednesday.

The Blue Jays led the majors last season, cranking out 257 home runs. But it was an all-or-nothing offensive approach as they finished with a tawdry .312 on-base percentage, third-worst in the AL.

New manager John Farrell has already stated his desire for the Blue Jays to exhibit more versatility when it comes to scoring runs. Last month, the team took a step toward that goal, trading for speedy outfielder Rajai Davis, one of the most productive offensive players the past two seasons for the Oakland Athletics.

Davis, one of the major leagues' fastest players, hit .284 with five homers, 52 runs batted in and a career-high 50 stolen bases in 2010.

The Blue Jays covet Davis's speed and see him as possible top-of-the-batting-order guy. Last year, Toronto ranked last in the AL with just 58 stolen bases.

Anthopoulos will head off to next week's winter meetings in Florida with a to-do list that will include taking a close look at what the free-agent market has to offer in first basemen. He might also kick a few tires at the catcher's position.

Other than that, Anthopoulos said he is relatively content with how his lineup is shaping up. "There's not one area that really jumps or sticks out like a sore thumb."

That contrasts to last season, when the Blue Jays had glaring defensive needs resulting in the addition of Buck and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (since dealt to the Atlanta Braves).

With the likes of starting pitchers Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil having shown they have the tools to survive in the cutthroat AL East, Anthopoulos said a reliance on defence will not be as important next season.

"They may not need as much help," he said. "With a year's experience, I think you can take the reins off a little bit with those guys."


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