|New closer B.J. Ryan is all smiles yesterday after agreeing to take $47 million from Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)
Now that B.J. Ryan officially is signed, sealed and delivered the Blue Jays are hoping they can use their new $47-million US closer as a springboard for other acquisitions.
Ryan is the first link of what general manager J.P. Ricciardi hopes will be a chain that includes starter A.J. Burnett, outfielder Brian Giles and others.
"We've alerted their agents to let them know what we're doing just to keep them in the loop," Ricciardi said yesterday about his other two free-agent targets. "We're still talking to them. How close we are I couldn't answer that. We're working real hard, we'll try to keep those guys informed about what we're doing.
"I think it's going to be an active off-season for us, not only free-agent wise but through the trade route, too."
In bagging Ryan, Ricciardi filled a need but not his most pressing one, which is adding a few bats. But he doesn't believe that signing Ryan is akin to putting the cart before the horse.
"You have to take into account that you have to get what you can get when you can get it," Ricciardi said. "So we thought, let's go out and get a closer. He's the one guy we liked, the one guy we wanted, so we had a chance to get him.
"We did a lot of work on B.J. and we targeted him as a guy who was just coming into his prime in that role. This is one where we didn't want to come in second."
Ryan received a $10-million signing bonus from which he will receive $6 million in 2006 and $4 million in 2007.
His base salary will be $2 million in 2006, $5 million in 2007 and $10 million in each of his final three seasons.
While the money Ryan received is large, of bigger surprise is the five-year term. But not as far as Ricciardi is concerned.
"We signed (Roy) Halladay for four years and four years, five years, there's not that much of a difference," he said. "Trevor Hoffman (San Diego) signed a five-year deal at 31. The years don't bother me as much as some people are making it out to be.
"He's a young guy in his prime. There's no predicting the future, but we went with the fact that he has been relatively healthy. It's a calculated risk, but we think we made an investment knowing all the facts."
So, too, does Ryan who heard nothing but good things about the organization from former Baltimore teammates such as Pat Hentgen and Greg Myers.
Anybody else offer five years?
"Not yet," was Ryan's quick reply. "The offers were out there, but I didn't want the market to control where I wanted to go play. It was my choice and I wanted to have the final say-so and I did it.
"This is a good fit for us and everything that happened after that is kind of a bonus."
What clinched the deal was Ricciardi's passionate, high-energized personality. It rubbed Ryan the right way.
"I was very impressed with J.P. and knew I would be," the 29-year-old left-hander said.
"You hear about the guy and you kind of know his demeanour and then you meet him personally and you're really impressed with his desire and their plan and the way they stuck with the plan to build a winner here, not only now but a winner in the future.
"It shows the commitment he has to the city and the organization and I was impressed with that."
Now we'll see if Ricciardi can work his magic on others.