TSN wrote:TORONTO (CP) - Expensive closer B.J. Ryan may now be in the Toronto Blue Jays' fold, but general manager J.P. Ricciardi says more needs to be added to the lineup before the team can expect to be champions again.
Ryan, a six-foot-six, 260-pound mound monster, who saved 36 games for the Baltimore Orioles this year, landed a $47-million US, five-year contract from the Blue Jays - the biggest deal in total dollars ever given a closer.
"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 following Monday's news conference to introduce the 29-year-old leftie.
Ricciardi described Ryan as "a young guy in his prime" and a player who is "just starting to scratch the surface to being one of the premier closers in the game.
The team acquired "a truly intimidating power pitcher," said club president Paul Godfrey.
"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's deal tops the $39.99 million Mariano Rivera got from the New York Yankees on a four-year pact through 2004.
But Rivera will make more than Ryan next year because he'll be on the second year of a $21-million, two-year deal.
"I don't know," Ryan replied when asked if he was worth that much money. "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."
Ricciardi said he had to act fast to sign Ryan because another free-agent closer, Billy Wagner, was still out there.
"If Wagner had signed (before Ryan), I think our chances of getting this guy would have been nil," said Ricciardi.
Ryan is from Louisiana and has been in the majors for six years. He tosses fastballs and sliders. He struck out 100, walked 26 and had an earned-run average of 2.43 in 70 innings last season, when his base salary was $2.6 million US.
He earned $200,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished and he got $25,000 for making the American League all-star team.
Ryan was also pursued on the free-agent market by Boston, Detroit and Cleveland, but he said none of them offered him a five-year deal.
The Yankees talked to him about becoming Rivera's set-up man but he chose to remain a closer.
Toronto's primary needs are a starting pitcher and a heavy hitter or two, so the signing of Ryan was somewhat of a surprise.
But Ricciardi hopes it will send a signal to other free agents that his team has the resources to lure top talent in its march to challenge New York and Boston in the AL East.
The Blue Jays are pursuing A.J. Burnett, the top free-agent starter, and Brian Giles, a five-tool outfielder who would significantly improve their limp batting order.
The club has so far committed about $50 million plus to 11 players for next season, and Ricciardi predicted a 2006 payroll of upwards of $75 million when he's finished shopping.
The payroll was about $50 million each of the last three seasons.
Team owner Ted Rogers bought the SkyDome and renamed it the Rogers Centre last February, when he also pledged to spend $210 million US on players over the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons in hopes of returning the team to its glory days of 1992 and 1993, when the club won back-to-back World Series.
Rogers raised more than a few eyebrows when he said while seated next to his new multimillion-dollar closer: "We're trying to build it the old-fashioned way. You work at it, you don't buy it."
Miguel Batista, the starter-turned-closer last season, has $4.75 million and one year left on his contract.
Ricciardi denied reports he's talked to Texas about a trade for outfielder Kevin Mench.
Ricciardi said he's willing to discuss extending the contract of staff ace Roy Halladay to pair him with Ryan for the full five years and also said rumours that he is moving on are premature.
Ricciardi said "we're talking about it," he said when asked if he wants to extend his stay.
Blue Jays fans will call the signing of Ryan a coup, while managers of other teams will scream that it's fiscally irresponsible.
"It's a byproduct of our industry. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't," said Ricciardi. "But this is a guy we targeted and went out and got."
There's only one way to silence critics, said Ryan.
"It's a lot of money, but you answer the bell and you play hard," he said.
Pressure doesn't bother him when he's called in from the bullpen, he said.
"You just go about your business and keeping working hard," he said. "I know how to pitch.
"I know what I'm doing when I get out there. It's just a matter or being consistent. You want that ninth inning to be yours."
When Wagner signs, that deal will probably eclipse his, he added later.
Baltimore acquired Ryan in July 1999 from Cincinnati along with pitcher Jacobo Sequea for pitcher Juan Guzman.
In 2004, Ryan led the Orioles with 122 strikeouts. It was the first time a reliever led the Orioles in strikeouts and the first time in the majors that a reliever led his team since Duane Ward of the Blue Jays in 1991.
Robert Victor Ryan Jr. is known as B.J. because his father's name is Bo and he's the first-born son.
"It's a Louisiana thing," he said.
Ryan and his wife, Candace, have a one-year-old daughter. He's an avid golfer who played courses around Toronto on trips in with the Orioles.
"It's a big city but it doesn't have the big-city feel," he said. "That suits me well.
"I'm the kind of guy who keeps to himself. I'll spend a lot of time when we're here with my wife and my dog and my baby girl."
The inaugural World Baseball Classic scheduled for the spring appeals to Ryan, who said he'd like to play for the U.S. team. But that would be up to the Blue Jays, he added.
"I think he might be sick those weeks," Ricciardi interjected.
From what I've read, the Jays backloaded Ryan's contract in order to sign both Burnett and Giles.
And you have to figure that once the Mets signed Wagner, there would be little or no chance of the Jays signing Ryan. Is it really overpaying someone if you couldn't have had that player for less?