[MLB] Blue Jays sign B.J. Ryan for $47 million

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Jays unveil new closer

Nov. 28, 2005. 01:17 PM


Now all the Toronto Blue Jays have to do is make sure they?re ahead in enough games to make their huge investment in pitcher B.J. Ryan worthwhile.

The Blue Jays made a big splash in the free-agent pool Monday in announcing the signing of the 6-foot-6, 260-pound lefty to the biggest contract in total dollars ever given a closer ? $47 million over five years (all figures U.S).

That tops the $39.99 million Mariano Rivera got from the New York Yankees on a four-year deal through 2004.

It makes Ryan the second highest-paid closer in baseball. Rivera has completed one year of his current $21-million, two-year deal with the Yankees.

"B.J. Ryan is both an outstanding pitcher and person and we're excited to have him join our Blue Jays family," said Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi in a statement.

"He stands among the few pitchers in baseball worthy of a five-year contract. I know our starting pitchers will be very happy to hear this news."

Ryan, 29, converted 36 of 41 save opportunities with the Baltimore Orioles this year.

He struck out 100 and walked 26 in 70 innings with an ERA of 2.43.

He had a $2.6-million base salary, earned $200,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished and $25,000 for making the American League all-star team.

As a free agent, he was also pursued by Boston, Detroit and Cleveland.

The Yankees talked to him about being Rivera?s set-up man but he chose to remain a closer.

Toronto?s primary needs are a starting pitcher and a heavy hitter or two, so the signing of Ryan was somewhat of a surprise.

Manager J.P. Ricciardi hopes it will send a signal to other free agents that his team has the resources to lure top talent.

The Blue Jays are pursuing A.J. Burnett, the top free-agent starter, and Brian Giles, a five-tool outfielder who would significantly improve their limp batting order.

The club now has committed $42.325 million plus Ryan?s 2006 salary to 11 players for next season.

After spending about $50 million on payroll the last three seasons, the Blue Jays will spend at least $160 million during the next two seasons.

Ryan?s signing makes appealing trade bait out of Miguel Batista, the starter turned closer who has $4.75 million and one year left on his contract.

Several teams have sought him in recent years and he could be moved for a bat. The Blue Jays have reportedly talked to Texas about a trade for outfielder Kevin Mench.

Ryan, who is from Louisiana, has been a major-league player for six years. Baltimore acquired him in July 1999 from Cincinnati along with pitcher Jacobo Sequea for pitcher Juan Guzman. In 2004, Ryan led the Orioles with 122 strikeouts.

It was the first time a reliever led the Orioles in strikeouts and the first time in the majors that a reliever led his team since Duane Ward of the Blue Jays in 1991.


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