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GM: Jays won't re-sign Wells for Beltran-type money

TORONTO -- If All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells wants a
contract similar to what Carlos Beltran got with the New York Mets
two years ago, the Toronto Blue Jays won't re-sign him, general
manager J.P. Ricciardi said Monday.

The team has called signing Wells to an extension their biggest
offseason priority. He's due $5.6 million next year, the final
season of a five-year contact.

Wells hit .303 with 32 homers, 106 RBI and 17 stolen bases
while playing Gold Glove defense. He's a similar player to Beltran,
who signed a $119 million, seven-year deal.

"I can tell you this: If it is a Beltran type deal then it's
something we wouldn't be able to handle," Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi hasn't talked with Wells or his agent yet. Ownership
has agreed to bump the team payroll past $80 million next season,
but Ricciardi won't know for two weeks how much more.

"One thing with Wells is that we have him under contract for
next year. Worst case scenario is that we have him for one more
year," Ricciardi said.

"I can tell you this: If it is a Beltran type deal then it's something we wouldn't be able to handle. "
-- Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi

Ricciardi will try to close the gap between New York and Boston
this offseason. He thinks they made a step this year by finishing
higher than third place in the AL East for the first time since
1993. Toronto finished with an 87-76 record and secured second
place in the AL East -- ahead of Boston but behind New York.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we popped
champagne for finishing in second place," Ricciardi said. "But
it's something we haven't done here in a long time. We finished
ahead of the Red Sox. It's just a nice stepping stone. I know the
guys were really driven to get to that spot. We're closer to where
we think we can be."

Ricciardi spent millions last offseason to help close the gap.

He raised eyebrows when he gave B.J. Ryan the most lucrative
contract ever for a reliever -- $47 million over five years. Ryan
had 37 saves and a 1.37 ERA, but he blew an important game in
Oakland on July 30 -- just before the Blue Jays fell out of
contention after being swept in New York.

Ricciardi also gave starter A.J. Burnett a five-year, $55
million deal. Burnett missed more than two months with an elbow
injury, but he finished strong (10-8 with a 3.98 ERA.)

That early season injury and a similar injury to left-hander
Gustavo Chacin derailed Toronto's chances more than anything,
Ricciardi said.

"It would really nice if we could stay healthy for the whole
year. I think if we can bring this whole team back totally healthy
then we can make a legitimate run at winning this division,"
Ricciardi said.

"We have a number that we feel comfortable that we would go after [pitcher] Ted [Lilly] with. But if somebody goes out and just blows that number out of the water we're obviously not going to get involved."
-- Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi

Ricciardi wants to add depth to the rotation, especially with
left-hander Ted Lilly (15-13 4.31 ERA) headed for free agency.

He won't get in a bidding war for Lilly, who got into a physical
altercation with manager John Gibbons in August.

"We have a number that we feel comfortable that we would go
after Ted with. But if somebody goes out and just blows that number
out of the water we're obviously not going to get involved,"
Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi added the market for free agent starters is thin so
they'll be probably overpaid.

Ricciardi said they can't afford to bring back both Bengie Molina and Gregg Zaun. Ricciardi won't pick up Molina's option for
next year and he doesn't want to spend another $5.5 million for
catchers.

Zaun is looking for around $3 million per season and will likely
re-sign. Ricciardi said he's comfortable with Jason Phillips as the
backup.

Ricciardi is also comfortable with his corner outfielders. Left
fielder Reed Johnson (.319, .390 on-base percentage) and right
fielder Alex Rios (.302, 17 home runs, 82 RBI) had breakout
seasons.

And Ricciardi hasn't ruled out re-signing free agent Frank Catalanotto (.300, 7, 56).

"We had four outfielders that hit .300. I thought Rios had a
real coming out year. It's a shame that he got hurt from a staph
infection standpoint, but we expect bigger and better things from
him next year," he said. "I thought Reed had a great year. With
those two guys in the lineup I like our outfield."

He also happy with third baseman Troy Glaus (.252, 38, 104). But
the GM said Glaus needs to work out in the offseason to prevent
himself from tiring like he did in the second half.

"Every player gets to a point in their career where they decide
I'd better start working out a little harder and I think Troy is at
that point now," Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi will try to add a middle infielder. He called Aaron Hill (.291, 6, 51) an adequate shortstop, but he prefers him at
second base.

He'll have at least $12 million to spend and maybe as much as
$30 million if ownership bumps the payroll to around $100 million
as speculated. A large portion of the increase could go to Wells,
who says he wants to take care of his kid's kids.

"We'll find out pretty soon where we stand," Wells said.