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Marlins' Proposal Scares off Riccardi


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Toronto ? J.P. Ricciardi has money to burn and wants pitcher A.J. Burnett badly, but not enough to take on another faulty contract.


"I've spent the last three years trying to move contracts like that, why would I want to take on another one right now?" Ricciardi, the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager, said yesterday.


He was referring to reports that the Florida Marlins wanted teams interested in acquiring Burnett to also take on the $21.25-million (all figures U.S.) albatross that is third baseman Mike Lowell's contract.


"We've worked so hard to get our payroll to the point it's at now, that I'm just not sure I'd be doing my job by taking on another salary like that," Ricciardi said. "Besides, we've shown, I think, that we're not just one player away."


Ricciardi was mulling over a published report in the Baltimore Sun that the Baltimore Orioles were going to send Jorge Julio, Admin Bigbie and pitching prospect Hayden Penn to the Marlins for Burnett and possibly minor-league outfielder Eric Reed.


Burnett, a hard-throwing, 29-year-old right-hander with a history of injuries, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. For that reason, most observers expect any team trading for him would request a 72-hour window from the Marlins to negotiate an extension.


Darek Braunecker, Burnett's agent, said yesterday that he has not been in negotiations with any team.


"Clearly, the sense out there is that something is imminent, but right now it's status quo," Braunecker said. "I anticipate A.J. making his scheduled start tonight [Tuesday, at Arizona's Bank One Ballpark] in the uniform of the Florida Marlins. But at the same time . . . he could be in another uniform."


A trade could be made without a new contract being negotiated. But that would mean a heavy financial hitter (the Orioles certainly qualify) taking a chance on renting Burnett for the stretch drive and losing him as a free agent.


Those same teams might also take on Lowell, who at 31 is hitting .227 with four home runs and 36 runs batted in.


Burnett is coveted by every team in contention and he has been the topic of three-way trade conversations, one in particular involving the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. The Red Sox want to shake up their clubhouse and sources say they will move Bronson Arroyo, Trot Nixon or Kevin Millar to do so.


Toronto's interest is hardly a secret. Neither is the fact the Blue Jays would be prepared to overpay Burnett in the winter in order to sign him, as they were prepared to overpay Matt Clement last winter before he signed with the Red Sox. Burnett wants $10-million a year over four years, and sources say the Blue Jays would meet that demand.


"We are aware that the Blue Jays have some short-term and long-term interests in A.J.," said Braunecker, who probably has had informal contacts with teams interested in Burnett.


Ricciardi has other options. Kip Wells of the Pittsburgh Pirates is being shopped around, and the Blue Jays spoke earlier in the season to the Seattle Mariners about right-hander Gil Meche. Matt Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jarrod Washburn of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are potential free agents who have also piqued the Blue Jays' interest, but with their teams destined for the playoffs, they would exact a high price.


Right-hand pitcher Javier Vazquez of the Arizona Diamondbacks has the right to demand a trade at the end of the season and would not balk at playing in Toronto






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JP has done a good job in Toronto. This team will be very good soon.



I agree - with the new owners granting him permission to add significant payroll over the next few years, his team should be a contender in the near future, even with the Yanks and Sox in the division.

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