Down to one…
The Jays offer came to $4.535 million — exactly a $2 million raise over what Rios made in his first year of eligibility in ’07. Rios’ agent, Paul Kinzer, requested a 2008 salary of $5.65 million, representing more than a $1 million gap between the sides.
The Blue Jays are discussing a multiyear extension with Rios, so the exchange of salary figures was merely a procedural move. Any extension Rios garners would likely be of the four-year variety, which would cover his arb years and his first year of free-agency. Since Rios is in the fold through 2010, the Jays don’t need to hurry to reach an agreement with him.
So, the two sides could very well settle on a one-year pact if the negotiation process really starts to drag on. Neither Rios nor the club will want to have talks go into the season, so if a longterm deal is to be had, it’ll have to be settled before the end of Spring Training. Needless to say, there’s plenty of time for the sides to work a contract out.
On Friday, after announcing new deals for Scott Downs, Marco Scutaro, Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet and Gus Chacin, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi had this to say:
"The nice thing is we do have Alex here for the next three years and we are going to talk to him and continue to talk to him about a multiyear deal. We’ll see how it plays out.
"We’ve got all of Spring Training to continue to talk and we’ve got the course of the year to continue to talk," Ricciardi said. "But we don’t like to talk to a player during the year and I’m sure a player doesn’t really want to talk about it during the year.
"We’ve got all of February and all of March to try to work a long-term deal out and, if it doesn’t come to fruition, we’ve got him for the next two years and we can continue to try to work on it. We’re putting our best foot forward."
DOWNS: Good ol’ Scott said he was still in shock and in awe of the three-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Jays. Maybe he should be, considering that handing such a deal to a 31-year-old situational lefty with one really good season on his resume could easily come as a surprise to many people.
Then again, in the current market for pitchers (Brian Fuentes wants $6.5 million!), the deal that Downs agreed to might actually be below market value. Downs decided against being a free agent next winter and will now make $2.25 million in ’08, $3.75 million in ’09 and $4 million in ’10.
Ricciardi noted that there was no language in Downs’ contract about him spending any time as a starter or receiving any potential bonuses for starts. Last year, Downs settled into a late-inning role for the Jays, and thrived after the Jays decided leaving him in the bullpen full-time was the best move.
"I think with them keeping me in the same role for a whole season and not bumping me back and forth to the rotation like they did a couple years prior, I think it allowed me to get comfortable and to know the situation," Downs said.
Said Ricciardi: "I don’t see him as a starter. I think it’s a possibility at some point, but with what we have with [Casey]Janssen, who we’d like to have as a starter at some point, and Chacin and [Jesse] Litsch and some of the kids we have coming behind them, I think we probabably just value him more as that late-inning left-handeded guy, who’s still capable of getting righthanders out."
SCUTARO: The Jays’ new supersub was given a two-year deal worth $2.65 million. Ricciardi said he likes having a veteran on the bench for the next two years, especially considering David Eckstein is only wrapped up to play shortstop for one season.
"We like the player and it gives us some assurance at that position. Eckstein’s here for one year and we don’t know how that’s going to work out down the road. He gives us a little assurance in that position. I like our bench and I like our depth. I like the security of having a veteran there. We just thought it was a nice fit for us."
OTHERS: Frasor signed a one-year deal worth $1.125 million, Tallet signed a one-year contract worth $640,000 and Chacin — injured for most of the last two seasons — nearly doubled his pay and will make $725,000 next year. Beyond the signings, Ricciardi said he should have a better indication of how the roster will set up by the middle or end of next week. So, perhaps the backup catching situation will be resolved in the next few days.