Let the spending begin

A.J. Burnett left two years and $24 million on the table when he opted out of his Blue Jays...

A.J. Burnett left two years and $24 million on the table when he opted out of his Blue Jays contract to test free agency. (Sun Media/Jack Boland)

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

With the New York Yankees about to embark on a spending spree George Steinbrenner would be proud of, we have an idea.

Why don't Hank and Hal Steinbrenner use their extra cash to sign players to play for the Blue Jays?

It would help Toronto's efforts against the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.

After red-shirting on the free-agent market, the Yanks made a six-year, roughly $140 million US offer to free-agent lefty CC Sabathia.

They are also in on Jays free-agent A.J. Burnett.

And, oh yes, they shall pursue right-handed free-agent Derek Lowe too.

Burnett left two years and $24 million on the table when he opted out of his Jays contract.

The Jays are believed to have made a four-year $54 million offer.

"He'll do better than that," said an American League general manager, who doesn't have interest in Burnett, but does know the market. "People who were there for his final home start tell me he looked like a man ready to leave the building and not come back."

Burnett pitched eight innings Sept. 29 in his final Rogers Centre outing, allowing one earned run and striking out 11.

He tipped his cap to the 28,701 fans who cheered his efforts.

The Jays went on and lost in 10 innings to the Yanks.

Besides the Yanks, the Atlanta Braves have had conversations with Burnett's agent Darek Braunecker. Both teams are close to making an offer.

The Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals also have interest.

NEXT SEASON

Instead of the Jays usual bleat about how "it is tough to compete in the AL East against the Red Sox and the Yankees," consider that besides 18 games each against the Red Sox and the Yanks, the Jays also have 18 against the defending AL champion Rays, who won on a $44-million payroll.

They also have six games against the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies when inter-league play rolls around.

The Jays and their $98-million payroll finished fourth in the AL East in 2008 with 86 wins. But ... they were fourth in run differential.

If the season began tomorrow, their rotation would be Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Scott Richmond and ...

WHAT THEY SHOULD DO

While chat rooms and talk shows suggest dealing Halladay "for a ton of prospects" that's not wise.

Halladay is a stud that an organization discovers oh so rarely.

Dave Stieb, Pat Hentgen and Jimmy Key are the only homegrowns that can come close to Halladay in talent and durability. You don't trade a Halladay.

Plus, as the San Diego Padres are discovering in their attempts to move starting pitcher Jake Peavy for four prospects, and as the Minnesota Twins found out when they moved Johan Santana to the New York Mets, no one has a ton of top prospects to deal.

The Twins last year acquired Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber for Santana.

While Santana went 16-7 for the Mets, Gomez played 125 games for the Twins and Humber pitched 112/3 innings.

In this trade, a ton equals centre fielder Gomez.

WHITT FINDS SHORTSTOP

It's just 98 days and counting until Team Canada takes on Team USA March 7 in the opener of the second World Baseball Classic at the Rogers Centre.

Manager Ernie Whitt and GM Greg Hamilton have found a shortstop in Chris Barnwell, whose roots trace back to Shelburne, N.S.

At triple-A Albuquerque (Florida Marlins) he hit .276 with six homers and 42 RBIs in 94 games.

Italy and Venezuela make up the rest of the draw in the games at Rogers Centre, which can be found at bluejays.com on the net.

OBA HONOURS

Chatham's Larry Balkwill was named the OBA adult player of the year and Richmond Hill's Geoffrey Seto the top youth player at the 92nd Baseball Ontario convention, which featured former Montreal Expo ace Steve Rogers as a guest speaker.

See CanadianBaseballNetwork.com for a complete list of award winners.

Balkwill played for the OBA midget-champion Windsor Selects hitting .359; the gold-medal winning Ontario Youth Team, the Canadian National Junior Team and signed a letter of intent to attend Siena College in Loudenville, N.Y. next fall.

Seto starred for the Richmond Hill Phoenix, which lost in the Ontario peewee final.

He was added to the Vaughan Vikings roster for the nationals.


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