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B.J. Ryan Jilts Orioles For Jays, Turns Free Agent Market On It's Ear

[November 26th] -- B.J. Ryan is now a Blue Jay, and a very rich one at that. Ryan, who has been with the Baltimore Orioles since 1999, signed a five year contract worth nearly $10 million per season [there are differing reports as to the contract's exact value]. Ryan is now the highest paid relief pitcher in major league history, topping Mariano Rivera's 2001 Yankee contract.

I guess the question that begs to be asked is, why? Does anyone believe that Ryan is anywhere near the pitcher that Rivera is?

Ryan, 29, went 1-4 in 2005 with an ERA of 2.43. He saved 36 games in his first season as a closer. Prior to last season, he was a middle relief and set-up guy with a career record of 16-19 and a 3.54 ERA.

Ryan's career is a tale of two halves. Prior to 2003, he had an career ERA of 4.86. It was in the last three seasons that he was able to refine his pitching abilities and become a quality force out of the Oriole bullpen. He has a 2.76 ERA since 2003. Ryan is a strikeout pitcher, fanning 465 batters in just 381 innings.

So, let me see if I get this right.

The Toronto Blue Jays are going to pay Ryan almost $10 million dollars a year based on three good seasons? How can this kind of contract be justified? More importantly, the Blue Jays have raised the financial bar for the rest of the free-agent class of 2005.

Closer to home, if B.J. Ryan gets A.J. Burnett-type money, what kind of contract will Esteban Loiaza and Hector Carrasco be looking for? Surely most of the free-agent pitchers that the Nationals were hoping to sign are now out of the team's price range thanks to the Blue Jays.

Each year, there is one free-agent signing that the baseball community can point to and say, "What were they thinking?" For 2005, it's the Toronto Blue Jays' and their signing of B.J. Ryan. Is any pitcher really worth what they paid Ryan, which works out to a little more than $142,000 per inning pitched based on his 2005 stats? The Nationals' Livan Hernandez, on the other hand, earned a little less than $32,000 per inning pitched last season. Is Ryan worth more than four times more than Hernandez? No way.

Thanks Blue Jays. You're the new Texas Rangers.

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