Commenting on Toronto’s pact with reliever B.J. Ryan, “on the list of bad contracts, this would rank as one of the worst”, the Sporting News’ Ken Rosenthal is unscathing in his criticism of the Blue Jays.
Five years, $47 million for left-hander B.J. Ryan, a free-agent reliever who has been a closer for exactly one season and never pitched in a late-season pennant race.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi (above) and club president Paul Godfrey would not confirm the signing Saturday night, perhaps sensing that they’re about to be fitted for industry dunce caps.
Several major-league executives were in disbelief when they heard the reported terms. Their shock will turn to anger if the deal is completed and they are forced to bid for free agents in a grossly inflated market. Major League Baseball officials would be equally outraged, knowing their pleas for fiscal responsibility are again being ignored.
Ryan’s contract would be the largest ever given to a reliever in total dollars ” yes, bigger than anything the Yankees ever awarded Mariano Rivera, a future Hall of Famer. The last reliever to secure a commitment of five years or more is believed to be Bruce Sutter, who received a six-year deal from the Braves after the 1984 season. Sutter’s total package was worth $10 million ” slightly more than Ryan will earn per year.
Every free agent would figure to benefit from the Ryan deal, starting with left-hander Billy Wagner, who is the most attractive closer in this year’s market. Wagner, who has 284 career saves to Ryan’s 42, has been trying to wangle a fourth year out of the Mets. Cough it up, Metsies ” and maybe add an option for a fifth year.
That’s how free agency works, and Ryan’s contract would dwarf last year’s market-buster ” the three-year, $22.5 million gift that the Mets awarded right-hander Kris Benson. That deal merely elevated salaries for other mediocre starting pitchers. Ryan’s contract, much as teams might try to portray it as an aberration, could have an even greater trickle-down effect:
It could raise the bar not just for Wagner, but also the other closers in this year’s free-agent class: Trevor Hoffman, Tom Gordon, Bob Wickman, Todd Jones, Kyle Farnsworth, etc.
It almost certainly would elevate the prices of other top free agents. If the Jays were willing to give Ryan $47 million for five years, how high would they go for right-handed starter A.J. Burnett, to whom they offered $50 million over five years? How high would the Cubs go for shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is believed to be seeking $50 million over five?
Finally, it would influence future arbitration numbers for fifth-year closers, who are permitted to compare their accomplishments to past free agents.
The deal would make no sense for a pitcher with Ryan’s job description or track record, no sense for the Blue Jays, no sense in any historical context.