Jays in talks to retain current coaches
Gaston hopeful club will extend contracts of his full staff
BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston would like to keep his entire coaching staff intact for next season and the club is currently in negotiations with the current cast in an attempt to fulfill that wish.
On Friday, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the contract extensions for the coaches being retained could potentially be finalized by the end of Toronto's weekend series in Baltimore. Ricciardi noted that each new deal handed out will be two-year pacts, matching the length of the contract Gaston signed on Thursday.
"I think we'll have something soon," Ricciardi said. "They've all been invited back. We'd like them all. They've all done a good job. Some, we're pretty close to being done with and some we're not. We're very happy with the staff."
When Gaston took over for former manager John Gibbons on June 20, the Blue Jays also brought in hitting coach Gene Tenace, third-base coach Nick Leyva and first-base coach Dwayne Murphy. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, bench coach Brian Butterfield and bullpen coach Bruce Walton are holdovers from Gibbons' staff.
Gaston would like nothing more than to have each coach at his side again in 2009.
"They're talking to them today," Gaston said. "Hopefully, they've got everybody by now. I don't know. They're talking to them."
When Gaston took over, there were questions about how the coaches who were kept on would work with the new members of the staff. Ricciardi said he's been pleased with how the group has performed together.
"I didn't know them as well as I know them now," said Ricciardi, referring to the additions of Tenace and Leyva. "But, like I even told Cito, 'We've got some good guys on this staff and I think you're going to like them the more you get around them.' They just kind of meshed. It worked out good."
Keeping Arnsberg in the fold could prove important in Toronto's quest to convince starter A.J. Burnett to remain with the Jays. One of the reasons Burnett originally signed with Toronto was due to his relationship with the pitching coach from their days in the Florida organization.
At the end of this season, Burnett has the ability to opt out of the five-year, $55 million deal he inked with Toronto prior to the 2006 season. After his final start of the season on Wednesday, the pitcher said having Arnsberg around in Toronto beyond this season could influence his decision.
"Yeah, it could," Burnett said. "There's a reason why the staff and the bullpen did what it did all year. Brad Arnsberg and Bruce Walton, their preparation in between series, and what we do in that room back there, is by far the most impressive I've seen."
Ricciardi noted that the club's offseason plans will likely form around the situation with Burnett. The Blue Jays are willing to offer the pitcher an extension, but aren't likely to get into a bidding war with other suitors.
"We'll see what we can do," Ricciardi said. "Our first priority will be to try to get A.J., to see if we can keep him here. I think things will build off that. If we get him, then we can do other things. If we can't, then we'll try other things."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.