10/27/2003 1:05 PM ET Myers signs one-year, $900K deal By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Jays selected Greg Myers in the third round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft. (J.P. Moczulski/AP)
TORONTO -- J.P. Ricciardi started his offseason in earnest on Monday, just two days after the World Series ended. Ricciardi, Toronto's general manager, announced the signing of Greg Myers, one of his offseason priorities. Myers, who had a huge season for the Blue Jays in 2003, inked a one-year deal for $900,000. Last year, in his return to Toronto, the catcher posted career highs in batting (.307), hits (101), home runs (15), walks (37) and RBIs (52).
"We know he had a career year offensively. We didn't sign him to do that," said Ricciardi, who also said the deal was sealed around a week ago. "We signed him to hit .270 with 10-12 home runs, but he exceeded all our expectations. I'm not expecting him to have a career year, but I think he's still got a lot left in his bat."
Myers will turn 38 in April, and he'll probably split the catching duties with Kevin Cash, Toronto's top prospect behind the plate. The veteran had that status at one point, but it was a long time ago. The Jays selected Myers in the third round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft, and he made it up to the big leagues for the first time in 1987. Cash, by contrast, was just nine years old during that season.
In that respect, 2002 was an organizational homecoming for Myers. His first Toronto tenure ended in 1992, the team's first World Series year. The Jays sent him to Anaheim in that season, starting a decade-long odyssey through the league. After leaving the Angels, Myers played for Minnesota (1996-1997), Atlanta (1997, 1999), San Diego (1998), Baltimore (2000-2001) and Oakland (2001-2002).
He was a productive platoon catcher for much of that timespan, which is the exact role the Jays envisioned for him last season. Batting behind Carlos Delgado for much of the season, Myers took those modest expectations and obliterated them. Myers turned out to be Delgado's best protection, and there were only two AL catchers who had more productive seasons.
"Greg's a great guy. I think the world of him and he's done a great job. We told him during the season that we wanted to bring him back," Ricciardi said. "Still, if we reward a guy just for loyalty, we're in trouble. The guys love having him around. We rewarded him for having a good year, and it just happens that all the other things fit in."
So what's next? Does Ricciardi expect Myers to duplicate those numbers? Not necessarily -- all Myers has to do is bat relatively well against right-handed pitchers and serve as a role model for Cash. Anything more than that is gravy, but any less will likely mean the Jays are in for a long season behind the plate.
This signing introduces one question that will be answered during Spring Training: What happens to Tom Wilson? For now, the Jays are saying that Cash will have to play better than Wilson to earn that spot, but that might not be feasible. Cash is being pushed from above and below -- Guillermo Quiroz will likely start the season at Triple-A Syracuse, giving Cash an extremely short window to squeeze through.
The team may even break camp with three catchers, but a lot of things have to break right for that to happen. One thing is certain: The Jays saw an affordable way to keep one of their linchpins, and they got it done as quickly as possible.
"It helps alleviate a problem, and we've still got Tommy," Ricciardi said. "We like the fact that Myers hits from the left side and the pitchers love to throw to him. Nothing slowed down in his bat.
"I don't think Greg Myers is going to be our catcher for the next five years, but he fits pretty well for us right now."
That's 1 free agent down, something like 274 to go.
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