Shortstop Royce Clayton joins Blue Jays

Free-agent shortstop Royce Clayton signed Wednesday with the Toronto Blue Jays for $1.5 million US.

Free-agent shortstop Royce Clayton joined the Toronto Blue Jays late Wednesday.

Clayton, 36, signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million US with Toronto, his seventh team in the last six years.

"I know I'm getting up there in age," Clayton said. "But in the past 15-16 years, I've been able to play over 140 games every year."

"We thought about [Julio] Lugo," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi admitted. "But we thought the price was going to be a little too high for what we really wanted to spend.

"So we wanted to go in a direction of getting someone who has played the position, can catch the ball, and is a good veteran. "It's a one-year deal. It's a nice fit."

Ricciardi also re-sign reserve catcher Jason Phillips for $500,000 US with $50,000 US in performance incentives.

Phillips, 30, hit .250 (12-48) with six doubles, six runs batted in and four runs scored in 25 games last season.

"He is a pro," Ricciardi said. "He handles our pitching staff well.

"You want guys who accept their role and know their role. He's a perfect fit."

Clayton earned $1.3 million US last season, which he split between the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds.

The former all-star finished with a .258 average in 137 games, two home runs, 40 runs batted in, 49 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in 20 attempts.

"He is going to get a chance to play a lot," Ricciardi said. "Right now, we just do not have a stud shortstop there.

"I don't think there's one on the free-agent market we'd be able to get involved with. I think for the way our team is built, as long as someone can make the routine plays, that's the thing that's most important to us."

Back to second base

With Clayton pencilled in at shortstop, Toronto will likely switch incumbent Aaron Hill to second base, his natural position.

"Nothing is defined right now," Ricciardi said. "[Although] I don't think we had a problem at shortstop last year.

"I cannot remember shortstop costing us games last year. I think we caught the ball relatively well."

Clayton is a lifetime .258 hitter with 109 HRs, 711 RBIs, 911 runs and 229 steals in 2,031 games over 16 MLB seasons with the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Nationals and Reds.

"He is a veteran presence that will strengthen us up the middle and in the clubhouse," Ricciardi said.

With files from the Associated Press