TORONTO -- The Blue Jays aren't going to have the ability to outspend their competitors in the race to sign free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett, but there is a chance that the club might be willing to offer a five-year pact in an attempt to convince the pitcher to stay in Toronto.
Darek Braunecker, Burnett's representative, has let it be known that he's seeking a five-year contract for his coveted client. Considering Burnett's history of injury, that's something that could scare off some potential suitors.
That detail has come up in discussions between the Blue Jays and Braunecker, and general manager J.P. Ricciardi told the Toronto Sun that he's open to the possibility. After all, Toronto initially signed Burnett to a five-year, $55 million deal prior to the 2006 season.
"They asked about the chances of a five-year deal and that's one of the things they're looking for no matter where they go," Ricciardi was quoted as saying. "But I don't know at this point. I think we'd be open to doing anything within the working framework that we think makes sense for us. We're open to doing some things that will enable us to keep him here.
"But I've said this all along and I've said it to the player and the agent too -- we will not be the highest-paid club. This cannot be all about money from a standpoint from our end because we're not going to come in first."
That's especially true now that the deep-pocketed Yankees and Red Sox are both players in the Burnett sweepstakes. It's been reported that New York and Boston might not be comfortable sending a five-year proposal Burnett's way. The right-hander has landed on the disabled list 10 times in 10 seasons with various arm injuries.
Beyond the Yankees and Red Sox, the Braves and Phillies have also been linked to Burnett in reports this offseason. Coming off an 18-win season in which he led the American League with 231 strikeouts, Burnett is arguably the top arm in the open market behind left-hander CC Sabathia.
When the Blue Jays originally signed Burnett four winters ago, they included an opt-out clause in his contract. As expected, Burnett exercised that out on Nov. 13, leaving the $24 million he was scheduled to make over the next two seasons on the table in order to test free agency.
The Blue Jays have yet to formally present an offer to Burnett, and Ricciardi has repeatedly denied reports that Toronto has already tabled a four-year deal worth $54 million. Right now, the Jays are waiting for Burnett to see what other offers are out there before countering with one of their own.
If Toronto is unable to re-sign Burnett in the coming weeks, Ricciardi has indicated that it's unlikely that the Blue Jays will try to replace the pitcher through another free-agent signing. It's more likely that Toronto would explore the trade market, or simply attempt to fill the rotation hole internally.
"I don't see us going that way," Ricciardi told MLB.com Tuesday night. "I don't think there's anybody else out there that, for what you'd probably have to get involved with from a money standpoint, that we would feel comfortable getting involved with. I think we'd probably stay in-house."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.