Blue Jays sign Rios for six, Hill for four
Rios' contract worth $64 million; Hill's includes three options
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Timing is everything. On Friday, when the Blue Jays arrived at Rogers Centre for their home opener against the Red Sox, Toronto announced that it had signed right fielder Alex Rios and second baseman Aaron Hill to long-term contract extensions.
The Jays locked Rios up with the six-year, $64 million extension, which will begin with the 2009 season, after the rising star heard his name dangled in serious offseason trade discussions. In the end, Toronto decided to make the 27-year-old Rios a key component to the organization's long-term plans.
After Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi indicated earlier this week that talks with Hill would be postponed until next winter, the second baseman agreed to a four-year, $12 million deal that includes a club option that could run through the 2014 season. The contract could be worth as much as $38 million if Toronto keeps Hill in the fold for all seven years of the deal, which takes effect immediately.
It was a long negotiation process for Rios and the Jays, who first floated an offer in October. Wanting to see how other contract situations played out over the winter, Rios opted to hold off on signing. Toronto's original offer included fewer years for Rios, who now has an option in his deal that could keep him in a Jays uniform through 2015.
In December, Toronto pursued a trade that would've sent Rios to San Francisco for pitcher Tim Lincecum. When those discussions fell apart, the Blue Jays resumed negotiations with Rios, but the sides were forced to settle on a one-year, $4.835 contract for the 2008 season in February.
During Spring Training, the Blue Jays set an unofficial deadline for agreeing to a long-term contract with Rios, indicating that the talks would have to be picked up next winter if a deal wasn't reached before this season began. When the sides came a few details short of finalizing the current contract, the Jays allowed discussions to carry on until Friday.
Rios and Hill join center fielder Vernon Wells, who is signed through 2014, as the only Blue Jays players who have deals that extend beyond the 2010 season. Rios enters this season as Toronto's No. 3 hitter, following a breakout showing in '07. Last season, Rios hit .297 with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs in 161 games for the Jays and was named to his second American League All-Star team.
Last season, the 26-year-old Hill hit .291 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs in 160 games for Toronto. He can still become a free agent following the 2011 season if the Jays opt not to pick up his option. According to Ricciardi, Toronto has once chance -- prior to the 2011 season -- to decide whether or not to pick up a one-year, two-year or three-year extension for Hill.