Jays offer Wells contract extension

Blue Jays formally offer Wells extension

The Blue Jays have taken the first step. Toronto has formally offered center fielder Vernon Wells a contract extension, though Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi steered clear of any specifics.

"We made him an offer, but that's all I'm going to say," Ricciardi said. "We're going to try to keep the player."

According to a report on Yahoo.com, Toronto offered a seven-year deal worth $126 million -- an average of $18 million annually. That contract would be worth more per year than the eight-year, $136 million deal that Alfonso Soriano inked with the Cubs earlier this offseason.

Last week, Ricciardi said that he would like to reach an agreement on a long-term deal with Wells, who is under contract for $5.6 million in 2007, some time in the next month or so. If the two sides aren't able to agree on an extension during that timeframe, Toronto could either stall discussions until later on or possibly entertain trade offers for Wells.

Now, it appears as though the ball is in Wells' court.

"To be honest, from this point on, I'd rather not comment on it," Wells said Wednesday, when asked about Toronto's offer.

Wells' agent, Greg Genske, was also not immediately available for comment.

On Friday, Wells said he had yet to have any in-depth negotiations with the Blue Jays, but he added that the "deadline" Toronto set of coming to terms near the end of the year didn't necessarily pose a problem.

"I don't see why that wouldn't be realistic," Wells said at the time. "If we're able to agree on things, it could be done as quickly as it gets started. It's just a matter of where both sides are and how quickly we can get to some sort of resolution."

Last season, the 28-year-old Wells hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs. He also picked up his third consecutive American League Gold Glove Award for his steady defense in center.

Wells would join a deep crop of free-agent center fielders next winter, if he decided to test the open market rather than sign an extension with the Jays. Minnesota's Torii Hunter, Atlanta's Andruw Jones and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, among others, are eligible to become free agents.

"I hope we can find a number that is fair market value for Vernon in respect to the number of years and number of dollars," Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey said Friday. "J.P. and I, we're on the same wavelenghth. Our first preference is to try and make a deal with him."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.