Blue Jays: Ryan worth five-year, $47 million deal

Updated: November 29, 2005, 2:27 AM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- After finalizing the largest contract for a relief pitcher in baseball history, a $47 million, five-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, B.J. Ryan was asked if he was worth it.

Relief Pitcher
Baltimore Orioles

69 1 4 26 100 2.43

"I don't know," Ryan said Monday. "I guess I'm going to go out on that field and see. When you sign a deal like this, you want to hold up your end of it."

A left-hander who turns 30 on Dec. 28, Ryan has 42 career saves, including 36 last season for the Baltimore Orioles.

"He stands among the few pitchers in baseball worthy of a five-year contract," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I know our starting pitchers will be very happy to hear this news."

Ryan's deal tops the $39.99 million, four-year contract Mariano Rivera got from the New York Yankees from 2001-04. Rivera has the highest average salary for a reliever under a $21 million, two-year contract with the Yankees that has one season remaining.

"It's a byproduct of our industry," Ricciardi said of the record-setting deal. "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. But this is a guy we targeted and went out and got."

Ricciardi said signing Ryan was just the start of Toronto's offseason plans. The Blue Jays were also thought to be pursuing free-agent starter A.J. Burnett.

"By no means do I think we're going to win the World Series, but I think we're a lot closer to having a chance to play in September and into October next year," Ricciardi said.

Toronto was 16-31 in one-run games last season. The Blue Jays finished 80-82, third in the AL East behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (both 95-67).

"We've lost a lot of one-run games and this gives us an opportunity to say maybe we can win those games now," Ricciardi said.

Ryan converted 36 of 41 save chances for Baltimore last season, going 1-4 with a 2.43 ERA. He struck out 100 and walked 26 in 70 innings and earned $2,825,000, including bonuses.

"I know what I'm doing when I get out there," Ryan said. "It's just a matter of being consistent. You want that ninth inning to be yours."

Ryan said he would like to pitch for the United States in next March's World Baseball Classic. He said the decision would be up to the Blue Jays.

"I think he might be sick those weeks," Ricciardi interjected.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press