TORONTO -- The Blue Jays found a solution to their middle-infield situation on Wednesday night, signing free agent shortstop Royce Clayton to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
"We are very happy to be able to add Royce to our club," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said in a statement issued by the club. "He is a veteran presence that will strengthen us up the middle and in the clubhouse."
Clayton, 36, will become Toronto's starting shortstop, allowing Aaron Hill to remain at second base. The Blue Jays also plan on re-signing utility infielder John McDonald, who would be the backup at both positions up the middle. McDonald is one of seven arbitration-eligible players on Toronto's roster.
Ricciardi, who was at a press conference to announce the re-signing of catcher Gregg Zaun earlier on Wednesday, indicated that the Jays were indeed interested in Clayton. Ricciardi also said that signing free agent slugger Frank Thomas could allow Toronto to go with a more defensive player up the middle.
Toronto's GM also said that he wasn't against having more than one player split time at shortstop. Last season, McDonald became the starter at short for Toronto after Russ Adams struggled with defensive issues. Adams then converted to second base and will likely begin the upcoming season at Triple-A.
"We might be looking to sign someone who enables us to play the position with maybe a few guys," Ricciardi said. "We think Hill has a chance to be a Gold Glover and an All-Star at [second]. So we're going to try to keep him there, but it may be a situation where we're not able to do it."
"Our lineup is pretty strong," he continued. "Maybe we can carry a two- or three-headed monster at [shortstop]. We'll see. We're trying to be as creative as we can."
The Jays were interested in second baseman Adam Kennedy and thought about having Hill play short. That changed when Kennedy signed with St. Louis on Tuesday. The general opinion within the Toronto organization is that Hill is a better defender at second, though.
Clayton began last season with the Nationals but was traded to the Reds in June. In 137 games, he hit .258 with two home runs and 40 RBIs. The Blue Jays are the 10th team Clayton has played for in his 16-year Major League career.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.