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Could free-agent J.A. Happ return to Toronto?

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are interested in a possible reunion with veteran left-hander J.A. Happ, but they will have to wait a little while longer to see whether the feeling is mutual.

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Tuesday morning that Toronto has held preliminary talks with Happ's representatives. Hours later, Blue Jays general manger Ross Atkins confirmed the club's interest, but added that Happ should have no shortage of suitors.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are interested in a possible reunion with veteran left-hander J.A. Happ, but they will have to wait a little while longer to see whether the feeling is mutual.

MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Tuesday morning that Toronto has held preliminary talks with Happ's representatives. Hours later, Blue Jays general manger Ross Atkins confirmed the club's interest, but added that Happ should have no shortage of suitors.

"J.A. is one of my favorite people in baseball," Atkins said on Day 2 of the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. "How he treats the game, how he treats people in it, how he prepares, how he performs, we would love to have him back here. I imagine there would be a great deal of competition for him."

Latest Hot Stove talk

The level of interest in Happ from contending teams is what might make this quest a little far-fetched for Toronto. The Yankees are an early favorite to re-sign Happ, but other top teams should eventually enter the mix soon, and the Reds have already made starting pitching a top priority.

Video: J.A. Happ enters the 2019 free agent market

One thing working in Toronto's favor is that Happ enjoyed his time with the organization and is known to be a big fan of the city. He re-signed with the team after being traded once before, and it could happen again. Just don't count on it.

The problem isn't so much resources -- Toronto has the payroll flexibility to reach a deal with Happ -- but rather the timeline. At age 36, Happ will be enticed by the opportunity to win now, and the Blue Jays may not be able to offer that, considering the current climate in the AL East and the club's youth movement.

Video: TOR@SEA: Blue Jays seal 5-1 victory with double play

Drury wants to play third
Atkins said on Tuesday that infielder Brandon Drury would prefer to become a full-time third baseman, but the odds of that happening in Toronto appear slim.

Drury is the early favorite to start the year as Toronto's third baseman, but top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is expected to be called up by the end of April. That would either force Drury to move to second base or become the utility type of player he has been each of the last four seasons.

"He wants to play third," Atkins said. "He loves third base and thinks he can be elite there. We agree with him and feel like if he gets a chance to do it on a daily basis, he could be a special third baseman.

"I think most players would just prefer to play one position and that's where they're penciled into the lineup every day, but more and more, versatility is a premium."

Video: TB@TOR: Gurriel robs Cron with a slick sliding stop

Wait and see for Gurriel
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will have a more permanent position than Drury, but his exact spot remains up for debate. Gurriel spent most of 2018 at shortstop, and started to show some development by the end of the year, but it remains to be seen whether he can handle the position over the long haul.

Toronto also has prospect Bo Bichette at shortstop in the Minors, which has prompted some speculation that Gurriel is destined for second. At the moment, Gurriel seems like the favorite to start Opening Day at shortstop, but second base hasn't been ruled out.

"There is a lot of discussion in and around that, and it correlates with Aledmys Diaz and some other key pieces in our organization," Atkins said when asked where Gurriel would play. "Ideally, it's in the middle [of the field].

"We'll spend some time on that with him this offseason. I think making a decision on him to play one position, last year predominantly, and predominantly being at short, was helpful. Moving off of short is the easiest move."

Quotable
"No one likes Marcus more than we do. We value him the most. I suppose that could change, where someone values him more than us, and we would listen. But right now, we definitely like him more than any other team." -- Atkins, when asked whether he would consider trading right-hander Marcus Stroman this winter

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, J.A. Happ