Burnett's agent working on final details with Toronto

Updated: December 6, 2005, 2:08 AM ET
By Jerry Crasnick and Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

DALLAS -- A.J. Burnett moved closer to agreeing to a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays as his agents and the team worked into Tuesday morning to wrap up final details.

A.J. Burnett
Kevin C. Cox/WireImage.comAfter courting A.J. Burnett for a month, the Blue Jays landed their man.

The sides anticipate the deal being finalized later today.

Sources said that St. Louis, which reportedly offered Burnett $40 million over four years and was Toronto's lone competitor for Burnett, has faded from contention and that Burnett is on the verge of joining reliever B.J. Ryan as the second pitcher to sign a five-year deal with Toronto this offseason.

The Burnett deal would be the longest contract for a free-agent starter since Chan Ho Park's five-year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2001.

"When you get involved with this, you know it's a long process," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said after spending most of Monday negotiating with agents Darek Braunecker and Mark Rodgers.

"It's no slam dunk. Everybody wants things to happen fast. Sometimes it just doesn't go at the pace you want it to go at," Ricciardi said.

The imminent deal would mean the Blue Jays will have poured $102 million into two pitchers this offseason. On Nov. 28, B.J. Ryan finalized the largest contract for a relief pitcher in baseball history, a $47 million, five-year contract. Ryan, who pitched for Baltimore last season, is Toronto's new closer.

Burnett, 28, has been considered the top pitcher available on the free-agent market. He went 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA for Florida, although he struggled down the stretch and was banished from the team in the final week after criticizing manager Jack McKeon and his coaching staff.

Burnett missed almost all of the 2003 season following reconstructive elbow surgery, and his career record is a modest 49-50, all with the Marlins. But he's one of the few pitchers with a 98-mph fastball and a no-hitter on his résumé.

Burnett joins the Florida exodus as the franchise purges payroll, the result of the franchise abandoning its bid for a new ballpark near downtown Miami. Catcher Paul Lo Duca's trade to the Mets was finalized Monday; right-hander Josh Beckett and All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell were dealt to the Red Sox in a November trade involving minor leaguers; first baseman Carlos Delgado also was acquired by the Mets; and second baseman Luis Castillo was traded to the Twins in recent weeks.

In other deals around baseball Monday:

• The Cardinals filled two holes on their bench, signing catcher Gary Bennett and infielder Deivi Cruz to one-year, $800,000 contracts. The players are replacements for infielder Abraham Nunez, who signed a free-agent deal with Philadelphia, and catcher Einar Diaz, who was not tendered an offer.

The 33-year-old Bennett hit .221 in 68 games for Washington last season with one home run and 21 RBI, and pitchers had a 3.87 ERA with him behind the plate.

The 33-year-old Cruz hit .265 in 101 games last season for San Francisco and Washington with five homers and 20 RBI. He was dealt to Washington at the trade deadline.

• Left-hander C.J. Nitkowski has reached terms on a minor league contract with the Pirates. Nitkowski, 30, has pitched for eight teams in the majors since 1995. He was 0-0 with an 8.10 ERA in seven games with Washington last season after going to spring training with Minnesota.

• The Oakland Athletics acquired right-hander Chad Gaudin from Toronto for a player to be named. The 22-year-old Gaudin was 9-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 23 starts for Triple-A Syracuse last season.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com and Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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