B.J. Ryan: brilliant move, or bust?

point counterpoint

The Blue Jays may have made a huge mistake in signing lefty closer B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47- million contract.

With an excess of cash to spend over the next two years, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi wanted to send the message that the Toronto franchise was ready to step up financially and challenge the Yankees and the Red Sox for supremacy in the AL East.

However, Ryan isn’t that message.

Ricciardi acknowledges overpaying Ryan, but believes that the signing is an indication to other free agents that the Jays are serious about being a contender. While this may hold true, nothing is guaranteed. The weakness of the Jays’ starting rotation was revealed last year when their ace, Roy Halladay, was injured before the season was half over. Without another reliable starter in their rotation, the Jays floundered and didn’t make the playoffs for yet another year.

If you need another starting pitcher and a big bat as badly as the Jays do to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, why offer a massive $47 million deal to the second-best reliever on the market?

With only one full season as a closer under his belt—albeit one in which he converted 36 of 41 save opportunities—Ryan is far from a proven talent as a closer, but is now one of the highest paid.

Also, giving a reliever of any caliber or age a five-year contract is questionable at best. The last big-name lefty closer the Jays signed was Randy Myers, and that ended horribly. There is a very real chance the Jays of 2009 may be stuck paying $10 million to a 34 year-old reliever with a bum shoulder.

Ryan’s signing may also have a negative effect on the Jays’ chances of signing A.J. Burnett, the most coveted starter on the market. Remember that the Oakland A’s signed Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21-million contract, and the top reliever available, Billy Wagner, just signed a four-year, $43-million deal with the Mets.

Both relievers were overpaid for their services and will receive around $10 million a year to pitch a quarter of the innings that Burnett would. This inflated precedent could encourage Burnett to ask for a yearly salary in the high teens or even low twenties, in which case the Jays would not be able to make a competitive offer.

Throwing nearly $50 million at a very good reliever isn’t necessarily a bad decision in itself for the Jays, and you can never truly know if a trade is good or bad for a few years. Nevertheless, the potential opportunities that may have been sacrificed in this signing may haunt the Toronto Blue Jays organization for years to come.

--Mike Thornburn

The Blue Jays made a huge splash this past Monday in signing free-agent reliever B.J. Ryan, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays committed $47 million to Ryan, making him one of the highest-paid relievers in MLB. No major signing by the Blue Jays this off-season will go without scrutiny and question, and the signing of the Louisiana native Ryan is no exception.

There is some concern over the amount of money committed to Ryan as well as the length of the contract. Overall, the benefits of signing Ryan outweigh the costs, and the Blue Jays will see an immediate return on this long-term investment during the 2006 season.

Ryan is a solid young pitcher who is entering the prime of his career. He was one of the most dominant closers in MLB last season and is an immediate upgrade over the Jays’ 2005 closer, Miguel Batista. The Ryan deal immediately shores up the Jays bullpen and makes their relief core comparable to those of baseball’s elite teams.

Barring a trade, Miguel Batista now becomes one of the most skilled set-up men in baseball in the new bullpen. Provided that Ryan stays healthy, any late-inning Jays lead during the 2006 season will be turned over to trustworthy hands.

The most exciting aspect of this signing, however, is not the fact that the Blue Jays solidified their bullpen, but rather the symbolic message they’re sending to the rest of the league.

The Jays are saying loud and clear: “We are back!” Not since the signing of Roger Clemens in 1996 have the Jays made such a significant free-agent acquisition. This splash could turn into a tidal wave as the team is also pursuing highly touted free agents A.J. Burnett and Brian Giles. The message the Ryan signing sends to these players is that the Jays want to contend and they want to do it now.

My counterpart will have you believe that the Ryan signing represents a gross over-expenditure by the Blue Jays and that no relief pitcher is worth $47 million. The symbolism of the move, though, is the intangible gain that cannot necessarily be measured.

Regardless of how Ryan performs, fans can rest assured that the Jays are willing to do what it takes to bring in the talent necessary to compete in the AL East. If this deal doesn’t open the floodgates to more Jays signings, the team will have even more money to spend in the future while boasting the best bullpen in the league.

Only time will tell whether the Jays will be winners or losers in this deal, but if this signing acts as a springboard to future free-agent acquisitions, the Blue Jays have already won.

--Kevin Cooke

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.