Source: Jays offer $50M over five years

Originally Published: November 17, 2005
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider

A.J. Burnett, the prize of this winter's free-agent starting pitching market, has received two five-year offers from clubs and expects to receive at least two more within the next week, his agent told ESPN.com.

While agent Darek Braunecker declined to identify specific teams in the bidding for Burnett, a baseball source confirmed that the Toronto Blue Jays have offered Burnett a five-year deal for about $50 million. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi declined to confirm if the team had made an offer.

"We've talked about parameters, and that's where we left it," Ricciardi said.

Starting pitcher
 

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L ERA WHIP BAA
32 12 12 3.44 1.26 .237

Burnett, 28, has a career record of 49-50 with a 3.73 ERA for the Florida Marlins and slumped late this season, losing all six decisions after Aug. 19. But the combination of his 98-mph fastball and a weak free-agent crop has fueled an active market.

"We're getting five years, there's no question about that," Braunecker said. "I think the combination of the player, the time and the approach we've taken has allowed clubs to get to that point.

"We've been very up-front and forthright with everybody. Teams realize if they're going to be in the mix and be considered, it's going to take that fifth year."

Burnett would be the first major-league pitcher to sign a five-year contract since Chan Ho Park agreed to a $65-million deal with the Texas Rangers in December 2001.

Park pitched poorly in Texas -- going 22-23 with a 5.79 ERA as a Ranger -- and was traded to San Diego in July for first baseman Phil Nevin.

Braunecker said he's still in discussions with nine clubs about Burnett. Texas, Seattle, Washington and Boston are among the teams in the mix, while the St. Louis Cardinals also are believed to have expressed interest.

Carl Pavano, Burnett's former Florida teammate, signed the second biggest contract for a pitcher last winter -- a four-year, $39.95-million deal with the New York Yankees. Pedro Martinez led the way with a four-year, $53 million contract with the New York Mets. Braunecker wouldn't specify Burnett's desired dollar figure, but said the offers on the table are "significant."

Toronto has been identified as a serious contender for Burnett since the start of the process. Burnett recently visited the city, met with Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay and former Toronto starter Pat Hentgen, and took in a Toronto Raptors game.

Burnett has a close relationship with Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, his former pitching coach in Florida. The Blue Jays, who expect to increase their payroll by about $20 million in 2006, are pursuing Burnett and free-agent closer B.J. Ryan, among others.

Braunecker said he doesn't expect Burnett to make a decision until after baseball's winter meetings, which are scheduled to take place in Dallas Dec. 5-8.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" has been published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer