Jays not surprised at Teixeira deal
GM Ricciardi says Jays will not pursue any high-profile free agents
TORONTO -- Nothing the Yankees do surprises Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi anymore. Over the years, he's witnessed plenty of offseason spending sprees by New York to know it's simply a part of life in the American League East.
So, Ricciardi hardly flinched at Tuesday's news that the Yankees had reached an agreement with free-agent slugger Mark Teixiera, even though New York had already reeled in free-agent pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett this offseason. In fact, Ricciardi managed a slight laugh when asked if the Yankees' latest high-profile addition surprised him in any way.
"It's the same," Ricciardi said. "We know what division we play in and it's not going to change. It's business as usual. They've got resources and they're going to be able to go after players like this every time. We keep saying it every year and you guys keep writing it every year and you guys keep asking the same questions every year.
"The Yankees and the Red Sox have the two highest payrolls in baseball and they're able to get involved with every free agent who's out there. Guess what? The sun rose in the east and set in the west."
True, Toronto might be accustomed to New York's deep-pocketed antics, but there's no doubt that the Yankees' most recent splurge is going to make things even more difficult for the cash-strapped Blue Jays. The division was already daunting enough, with Tampa Bay returning as the reigning AL champs and Boston having won the World Series in two of the past five years.
"Obviously, it makes our road to where we need to get more difficult," Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells said.
"But this is what we're used to, being in this division and the money that New York and Boston has. It gives them the luxury and the flexibility to go out and do things like this."
Now, while Toronto is on the verge of a youth movement on the mound, New York's acquisitions of Sabathia and Burnett give the Yankees arguably one of the strongest rotations in baseball. With Teixeira in the fold -- for eight years and $180 million -- New York also swiped the best available bat off the open market.
"You kind of knew going into the offseason," Wells said.
"Once they had $90 million or whatever it was coming off the books, you knew they were going to spend some money. So it's not surprising and it wouldn't surprise me if they continue to do more.
"Obviously, you're not used to them going out and getting the top two or three guys on the free-agent market. They have a checkbook that's never-ending."
That's hardly the case this winter for the Blue Jays.
Once Burnett opted out of his contract with Toronto and bolted for the Bronx, the Jays decided to pocket the $12 million he was owed in each of the 2009-10 seasons. Due to financial woes, including a weakened Canadian dollar, Toronto is also lowering its payroll from $97 million in 2008 to around $84 million for the upcoming campaign.
Without an excess of money to spend this winter, the Jays have been stuck in a holding pattern. Toronto can't afford to add any free agents without subsequently using trades to free up payroll. That being the case, the Jays plan on looking internally to fill most of their holes this season. That means there will be more of an emphasis on youth north of the border in 2009.
Wells said that aspect will take some getting used to for him and probably for veteran players such as Jays ace Roy Halladay.
"For guys like myself and Doc, it's going to be a little different," Wells said.
"Given the fact that there is going to be some mentoring going on and things like that. But that's part of the game. That's part of an organization making a transition to getting some younger guys in the lineup and in the rotation. It'll be different, but it'll be a learning experience for a lot of us."
The biggest change for Toronto will be on the mound.
Behind Halladay, the Jays will have a host of young arms on the starting staff. Toronto is now missing the dynamic 1-2 punch that Halladay and Burnett formed. Right-hander Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) will be sidelined until at least May, and Shaun Marcum (right elbow) is likely out of the picture until 2010.
Toronto signed free-agent right-hander Matt Clement to a Minor League deal and is willing to consider other inexpensive options as the regular season approaches. While Toronto might like to pursue free-agent arms like Derek Lowe or Ben Sheets, any pitchers who will command a high salary won't be on the Blue Jays' radar.
"We won't be in on anyone who's going to cost any money," Ricciardi said. "This is going to be a year where a lot of our kids are going to get exposure. That's going to be a fun thing, to see how some of these kids develop."
In an effort to boost their offense, the Blue Jays tried to get involved with free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal (re-signed by the Dodgers), and Ricciardi recently mentioned the names of free agents Orlando Hudson and Jason Giambi in an online report. On Tuesday, though, Ricciardi said he doesn't expect to be involved with any high-profile free agents for the rest of the offseason.
"No, we're done," Ricciardi said. "We won't be spending any money."
Ricciardi did add that Toronto is still talking to free agent Michael Barrett, with the hope of bringing the catcher to Spring Training on a Minor League contract.
"I think we're still an option for him," Ricciardi said.
"We're involved and we're trying to be creative as possible to get him here on some kind of Minor League situation. The conversations with his agent have been good, so, we'll see."
Needless to say, Toronto isn't exactly keeping pace with New York on the open market this offseason -- not that this winter has been any different than others in that respect. Under the circumstances, Wells understands that the upcoming season could be a trying one for the Blue Jays.
"Obviously, you'd love to be on the other side," Wells said. "You'd love to be able to have the ability to go out and spend as much money as you could. But I think our situation is a little different than the Yankees. We've got people in place. We're going to have some injuries in our rotation, but we have the ability to compete.
"We just have to play to our abilities and in some cases maybe play above our abilities and just put together a complete season. It's going to be tough, obviously, especially in this division. You've got to play the best and you have to play the best quite a few times."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.