Omar Vizquel, Now with Toronto Blue Jays, Can Still Provide at 44

Michael DesjardinsCorrespondent IIFebruary 27, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 15:  Omar Vizquel #11 of the Chicago White Sox throws around Landon Powell #11 of the Oakland Athletics to try to get a double play in the seventh inning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 15, 2011 in Oakland, California. Powell scored later in the inning.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last month, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Omar Vizquel to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp.

At age 44—45 in May—and entering his 24th season in the majors, Vizquel more than defines the word "veteran."

He has had an illustrious baseball career that will likely have him in the sport's Hall of Fame when he does retire. Currently, he has 2,841 hits, 401 stolen bases and three-time All Star selections. That alone would give any player some consideration.

However, what Vizquel has been known over the years is his defense.

He's won the Gold Glove award at the shortstop position 11 times, including nine consecutive from 1993 to 2001. He's played more games at the position than anyone in the MLB, with 2,699.

His fielding rate as a shortstop has never been lower than .969 percent (1992), and he has had been perfect at the position over the last three seasons.

In addition, Vizquel is versatile. Over the past several years, he's had experience at second base and third base. He also played a game at first base for the first time in his career last year for the Chicago White Sox.

So, it comes as no surprise that the Blue Jays picked him up this offseason.

Though he's older and doesn't have the defensive range that he once had, Vizquel still has the ability to play.

Now, of course, don't expect him to play many games nor get 3,000 hits, as nice as that would be. Yes, he did play in 108 games for the White Sox in 2010, but that was also because several injuries occurred on the team.

That doesn't mean that he won't get a good share of appearances, though. Considering everyone on the infield stays healthy—including Vizquel—I can see Vizquel making somewhere between 60 to 70 appearances this season.

He'll likely be used as a backup to current shortstop Yunel Escobar. He'll get an occasional start here or there, but expect him to be used mainly as a defensive substitution.

However, he can and should make appearances throughout the infield during the course of the season. Second basemen Kelly Johnson's defense has waned in recent years, and Vizquel can be used as much needed relief.

Third base has Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encanarcion, but if either of them struggle—Lawrie's throwing accuracy is considered to be below average—he can be used there. Heck, he could be used as a substitution for Adam Lind at first base, if truly needed.

He'll also serve as mentor to Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, who the Blue Jays signed in 2010. Though both Hechavarria's and Escobar's contracts end in 2013, his development with help from Vizquel will help determine whether to consider him as a future long-term player or not.