Burnett declines Jays' arbitration offer
Veteran right-hander reportedly seeks five-year contract
LAS VEGAS -- The Blue Jays fully expected the news that came Sunday night, when the club learned that free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett had officially rejected the club's one-year arbitration offer. It's a long-term contract that Burnett is seeking, and that's precisely what he's likely to collect in the near future.
Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, confirmed that the right-hander turned down Toronto's offer, but added that he isn't ready to count the Blue Jays out in the race to sign the pitcher. That's optimistic on his end, considering Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said late last week that the club is preparing as though it's going to lose Burnett to another suitor.
"Until they tell us they're out," Braunecker said, "or they're no longer interested, then by all means they're in the running. They certainly haven't conveyed that to us at all. The bottom line is, kind of through this process, we've had an understanding with the Blue Jays that we were going to revisit the situation with them at the appropriate time, and that's later in the process."
Braunecker maintains that Burnett still has an interest in Toronto, where he won a career-high 18 games and led the American League with 231 strikeouts this past season. The pitcher has a long working relationship with Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and has enjoyed being the No. 2 arm behind ace Roy Halladay over the past three seasons.
The current situation is much different for Burnett than when the Blue Jays pursued him prior to the 2006 season and originally signed him to a five-year, $55 million contract. He exercised a provision allowing him to opt out of the contract after the third year. This time around, Burnett can weigh his alternatives, while the Jays wait in the background. No matter what Burnett decides in the end, Braunecker said the Jays will likely be involved one way or the other.
"They don't have to sell anything to him. He knows what he's got in Toronto," Braunecker said. "They were providing us the luxury and respect to go through the process and kind of circle back with them at the appropriate time. Unless their position has changed, or changes going forward, then by all means we anticipate visiting with them and concluding the process with them involved."
The Blue Jays -- currently suffering from a weakened Canadian dollar in an already stagnant economic climate -- aren't exactly in a position to outspend their competition in order to re-sign Burnett. The team has indicated that it might prefer to save the money it has set aside for Burnett, if he decides to sign elsewhere.
Braunecker noted that he currently has "multiple offers" on the table for Burnett, hinting that one is for a guaranteed five years. The Atlanta Braves have sent one of those offers Burnett's way, and the pitcher has also been linked to the Yankees, Orioles, Phillies, Nationals and Red Sox in various reports.
Considering Burnett's history of injury -- he's landed on the disabled list 10 times in 10 seasons -- the Blue Jays have indicated that they are reluctant to hand him another five-year deal, unless the fifth year is a vesting option. Braunecker has insisted in recent weeks that Burnett will be able to sign a five-year pact, if that's what he wants.
"If he wants a five-year deal, then a five-year deal is going to be available to him," Braunecker reiterated. "I really want to leave it at that, but you can take from that what you will. I've been saying that throughout the process over the last couple weeks, that we have ample reason to make that statement."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.