Here's what's been making us shift uncomfortably in our shoes these days: With all the talk of who plays third and where do we fit all the big-hit-no-field corner types into the lineup, we'd barely noticed how thin the Jays are in the middle infield.
Sure, they have Aaron Hill and Yunel Escobar stationed at second and short to start the season, and that combo has the potential to be amongst the best in the Majors. (Avert your eyes from their 2010 numbers, and that statement seems a lot more true.)
(And permit us a quick diversion here: Is it just us, or was the body language between Yunel and Hill really crappy last year. When Escobar would take the ball to the bag himself, you could see the wind being taken out of Hill's sails. That's not going to work over a full 162-game season.)
Both Hill and Escobar have had spotty health records, either missing games or playing at a decreased level because they were hurt for parts of recent seasons. So it's not unreasonable to picture one or both of them nursing injuries or sitting out for weeks on end in 2010.
And who do the Jays have to step in and take over? On the active roster, you'd be looking at John McDonald as the first man off the bench, while the next options on the 40-man roster are Mike McCoy and Adeiny Hechavarria. And that's pretty much that.
We all love Johnny Mac, and if we had to see him play everyday for a week or two, we'd be fine with it. But for a month? Or the bulk of the season? That's a scenario that starts to chip away pretty quickly at our enthusiasm for 85 wins or more in the coming year.
McCoy, superduperplucky as he might be, looked as though he had no real business being on a big league roster in his 46 games with the Jays last year. (.511 OPS in 86 ABs). And Hechavarria would seem to require at least a year of having rough edges sanded and polished before he's ready for a full-time job in Toronto. So neither of them appear to be serious options for 2011. (At least not to us.)
Offseason acquisition and SuperStudCanadianDude Brett Lawrie has stated publicly that he's ready, willing and able to rock and roll all year-long at the MLB level, though his allegedly dodgy defense would not be suitable at short. Moreover, we're not sure that we share his sentiment on his preparedness for the big time. There's a possibility that second could be patrolled by Rule 5 draftee Brad Emaus if he were to be returned to the Jays from the Mets at some point this year. But again, not a shortstop.
Among some of the players who are out of options and may be available between now and April, there is Texas utility infielder Andres Blanco (.679 OPS, meh), perpetual Dodgers prospect Chin-lung Hu (.777 OPS in the PCL last year...he's been a longtime crush of ours, but at age 26, we're starting to give up on him), and Angel Sanchez (.664 OPS after being traded to the Astros for Kevin Cash.)
Which brings us back full circle, to John McDonald. Given the dearth of 2011-ready talent available, we're likely left praying for good health amongst the current starting keystone tandem, or relying on the the PMoD as an everyday player.
We'll leave it to you to judge how comfortable you feel about the notion.