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Blue Jays sign Izturis, get Jeffress from Royals

TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made his biggest splash in free agency to date by signing infielder Maicer Izturis to a three-year contract on Thursday afternoon.

Izturis is set to earn $9 million over the course of the deal, with a club option in 2016 valued at an additional $3 million. The Venezuela native will also make a contribution to the Jays Care Foundation to support its efforts in the community as part of the agreement.

It's the first multiyear contract that Anthopoulos has guaranteed to a free agent since becoming general manager in the fall of 2009. The biggest handout prior to Izturis occurred last offseason, when the Blue Jays signed lefty Darren Oliver to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

"It's hard to find those kind of players," Anthopoulos said on Thursday. "You find infielders who can play second and third, but very few of them who can play shortstop and also have some ability with the bat.

"Maicer is the kind of player we've looked at over the years. We actually tried to acquire him during the summer. So we're just glad to have him."

Izturis becomes the early favorite to start at second base in 2013. He'll likely compete for the job with rookie Adeiny Hechavarria, but it's also possible the Blue Jays could continue searching for an upgrade and eventually transition Izturis into a utility infielder role.

The 32-year-old Izturis appeared in 100 games for the Angels last season and posted a .256 average with two homers and 20 RBIs. He also recorded 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts during his ninth season in the big leagues.

Izturis is a 5-foot-8 switch-hitter who has the ability to play three infield positions and owns a career .337 on-base percentage. The move comes less than a week after the Blue Jays traded infielder Mike Aviles and utility man Yan Gomes to the Indians for hard-throwing right-hander Esmil Rogers.

"He's not guaranteed the job [at second], but I think that fact -- that he can play all over the infield -- is that he's just a valuable guy to have," said Anthopoulos, who added that a guaranteed third year was what convinced Izturis to sign.

"He can do a lot of little things. He's just a winning player. He can draw a walk. He can put the ball in play. He can [make] contact great. He can run and steal some bags. He plays good defense. He's a good teammate and is good in the clubhouse as well."

The Blue Jays also added some more depth to their bullpen on Thursday by acquiring right-hander Jeremy Jeffress from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations.

Jeffress made 13 appearances for Kansas City in 2012 and posted a 6.75 ERA without earning a decision. He also pitched in 38 games at the Minor League level, with a 4.85 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings.

The 25-year-old Jeffress doesn't come without some baggage. The former 16th overall selection of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft was suspended twice for violating the Minor League drug policy, which he would later admit was for the use of marijuana.

Jeffress also was arrested last year for a domestic assault and criminal damage. The charges were later dropped, but he was forced to apologize and later served 20 hours of community service for disorderly conduct.

In parts of three Major League seasons with Milwaukee (2010) and Kansas City (2011-12), Jeffress has made 37 relief appearances, posting a 2-1 record with one save and a 4.89 ERA.

"In the last year, I felt like I made progress," Jeffress said. "The first time I came up in April, at the beginning of the year, it really opened my eyes. I felt like I had to learn a lot more stuff off the field and to be able to stay focused on my task at hand.

"The year before, 2011, I just felt like I was all off. It was my first year breaking camp with the big team and when I got sent down, my concentration was just all lost."

To make room on the 40-man roster for Jeffress and Izturis, the Blue Jays designated left-hander Scott Maine for assignment. Toronto originally claimed Maine off waivers from the Indians late last month.

Toronto Blue Jays, Maicer Izturis, Jeremy Jeffress