Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ryan Released - Is There Money Left for Halladay?

The Toronto Blue Jays are fading fast in the hunt for a playoff appearance and Jays closer B.J. Ryan has officially made his last appearance in a Jay's uniform. In the midst of a stretch of games against their AL East rivals, the Jays have struggled on the mound and at the plate. Toronto’s win/loss record has fallen to .500 for the first time all season and they have gone 2-8 in their last 10 games; they have lost 9 of their last 11 games.

With questions surrounding Roy Halladay’s future with the team, General Manager J.P. Ricciardi released the struggling Ryan outright, making him a free agent. However, Toronto is on the hook for the $15 million in salary still owed to the former closer.

Ryan, a lefty from Bossier City Louisiana, signed with the Jays before the 2006 season and was at one point the highest paid reliever in baseball, earning more then future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera of the Yankees at the time of the signing. In his time with Toronto, Ryan posted a 5-9 record with a 2.95 ERA in 155 appearances. He struck out 160 batters, walked 69 batters and earned 75 saves. Despite respectable numbers last season, saving 32 games in 60 appearances, he never fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery in 2007 that replaced his left elbow ligament.

This season, Manager Cito Gaston pulled Ryan from the closer’s role and used him sparingly as a middle reliever. In 25 games, he was 1-1 with a 6.53 ERA and 2 saves. He struck out 13 batters while walking 17 batters. A demotion to the minor league Las Vegas 51’s was not an option with the veteran pitcher and so Ricciardi made his move to release Ryan.

The $15 million owed to Ryan may be a deciding factor in Roy Halladay’s future with the team. A free agent himself after next season, the team must decide whether to trade their Ace while his trade value is at its highest. Add Frank Thomas and the $10 million he received upon his release last season and the Jays have paid two players $25 million to leave the team, a staggering number when facing budget constraints and contemplating a contract extension with the best pitcher in baseball.

Re-signing Halladay becomes complicated when factoring in the long-term contracts of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Both are struggling at the plate this season and many baseball analysts believe the Jays will be unable to trade the players because of their contracts. Wells signed a 7-year/$126 million contract in December 2006 and Rios has a 7-year/$70 million contract.

The Halladay trade rumours continue to gain momentum as the team struggles on the field and in ticket sales. Much needed dollars are committed in the wrong places and fans are wondering if the face of the franchise is on his way out, as the Jays seem to be entering a rebuilding mode once again. After ranking 18th in attendance for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Toronto has fallen to 25th this year with an average attendance of 22,839.

Sharing a city with the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Argos and the MLS Toronto FC, the Blue Jays are in danger of sliding into obscurity. In their quest for fans in Canada’s largest city, a quick start to the season had fans talking Jays all over town. The recent slide in the standings and the possibility of a Halladay trade puts the team in danger of becoming the next Montreal Expos in Major League Baseball. A team full of rising stars, traded when they achieve too much on-field success. Only time will tell... Have a great sports day everyone.

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