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Infield depth to be sorted at Blue Jays camp

Solarte, Diaz battle for backup spots at second, third, short
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- There will be plenty of positional battles to keep an eye on this spring, but the most important one of all for the Blue Jays might be taking place in the infield.

Toronto had a pretty quiet offseason following a 76-win campaign in the American League East. Instead of making a major addition, general manager Ross Atkins focused on depth, and there's where Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz come into play.

TORONTO -- There will be plenty of positional battles to keep an eye on this spring, but the most important one of all for the Blue Jays might be taking place in the infield.

Toronto had a pretty quiet offseason following a 76-win campaign in the American League East. Instead of making a major addition, general manager Ross Atkins focused on depth, and there's where Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz come into play.

The Blue Jays appear to have a starting infield of Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson set in stone. The problem is, that was the plan each of the past two seasons as well, when both Travis and Tulowitzki went down for significant periods of time.

The additions of Solarte and Diaz provide the club with more insurance in case history repeats itself once again. Instead of at-bats going to the light-hitting duo of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, the Blue Jays will turn to a pair of hitters who each have at least one season with an OPS above .800 on their resumes.

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Travis is still rehabbing from last year's knee surgery, but he remains optimistic about being ready for Opening Day. If Travis starts the year on time, then the exact roles Solarte and Diaz will have this season gets a little murky. Toronto has to decide whether to carry two utility infielders and one backup outfielder, or, one utility infielder and two outfielders.

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That decision likely will decide Diaz's fate at the start of the season. Unlike Solarte, Diaz has options remaining on his contract, and he could be sent to the Minors without having to clear waivers. Ezequiel Carrera also is out of options, and likely would have to be released if he does not crack the 25-man roster.

Regardless of the exact configuration, Solarte and Diaz will be battling it out this spring for the top utility spot, and the competition will not be limited to one position. Diaz likely holds the edge at shortstop with 174 appearances over two years for the Cardinals -- and a 2016 All-Star appearance -- but Solarte has played there 36 times before.

The early favorite at second base, if Travis can't find a way to get fully healthy, seems to be Solarte. He has 140 games at the position over four years, and he comes with a lifetime .746 OPS. Solarte's numbers dipped in 2017 but the previous season he finished with a .286/.341/.467 slash line over 128 games.

Video: SD@LAD: Solarte rips a ground-rule double to right

On the surface, Solarte and Diaz would seem like possible platoon candidates in the event that Travis went down, but they aren't necessarily a great match. Both hitters have posted better numbers vs. right-handed pitching than lefties. Diaz has an .836 OPS in his career against right-handers, but only a .686 OPS off lefties. Solarte has a .766 OPS vs. righties and a .693 OPS vs. lefties.

The early advantage as the primary backup at third base also appears to belong to Solarte. The native of Venezuela has played more third than any of his other four positions combined, so he becomes the logical candidate to fill in whenever Donaldson needs a day off his feet.

In an ideal world, the Blue Jays could use Diaz as the primary option at shortstop behind Tulowitzki. Solarte would become the primary backup at second and third, and there's even a chance he could see some occasional playing time in left field. Versatility will be key for Toronto this season, but exactly how Solarte and Diaz fit in by the time Opening Day rolls around on March 29 remains to be seen.

Video: PIT@STL: Diaz, DeJong combine for a crisp double play

Unless there's a major injury, the Blue Jays won't be able to carry Diaz, Solarte and Carrera. Luckily, Toronto has another six weeks to figure it all out.

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, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte