Jays' Zaun files for free agency

Jays' Zaun becomes a free agent

TORONTO -- At the end of this past season, Gregg Zaun made it clear that, even if he doesn't wind up back in a Blue Jays uniform in 2009, he was hardly ready to call it a career.

On Monday, the veteran catcher filed for free agency -- possibly signaling the end of a five-year run behind the plate for Toronto. If the Blue Jays were to bring Zaun back, which the club hasn't entirely ruled out, it'd be to serve as a backup to Rod Barajas.

"There were times in the not-too-distant past where I envisioned myself retiring a Blue Jay," Zaun said at the end of the season. "But I don't see retirement coming for a few more years at least. I still feel good and still feel like I have a lot to offer. I still feel like some of my best baseball is in front of me."

Zaun, who will turn 38 years old in April, opened this past season as the No. 1 option behind the plate for the Blue Jays. While he rested a sore right elbow on the disabled list in early June, though, Barajas seized the starting job and Zaun saw limited action throughout the remainder of the season.

On Friday, the Blue Jays picked up the $2.5 million club option to retain Barajas as their starter for 2009. Prior to the 2007 season, Zaun inked a two-year contract worth $7.25 million to be Toronto's No. 1 catcher -- only after the Jays struck out during negotiations with Barajas that winter.

Last offseason, Toronto reeled in the 33-year-old Barajas on a one-year pact, and he provided the club with a slight upgrade on offense. It was a similar situation to 2006, when Zaun believed he was going to be the everyday catcher for the Jays, who then went out and signed Bengie Molina shortly before Spring Training.

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was non-committal when asked at the end of the season if the club might consider retaining both catchers.

"I don't know," Ricciardi said. "We'll just weigh it all out and see what our options are in bringing both of them back."

Zaun said he wouldn't necessarily rule out a return to the Blue Jays, but he'd have to weigh his options.

"I've got a lot of things to think about," Zaun said at the time. "Obviously, if they don't want me back, it's a moot point. But I'll listen to anything they have to say to me. ... I would have to ask myself, 'How competitive are they really going to be? Are these guys going to come back from injuries? Are we going to be a better team next year?'

"If the Jays want to talk to me about coming back here to be a No. 2 [catcher] or some other role, who knows? Obviously, I would be flattered and listen to anything they have to say. I haven't ruled it out."

In 86 games for the Blue Jays last season, Zaun hit .237 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. Barajas batted .249 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs over 104 games. As things currently stand, Toronto has backup options in Curtis Thigpen and Minor League catching prospects J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman.

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