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Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Blue Jays sign GM Ricciardi to 3-year extension

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The Toronto Blue Jays' free-agent acquisitions have not only bolstered their roster but have given the club's general manager some job security.

Toronto has signed GM J.P. Ricciardi to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday.

Ricciardi, who also serves as the club's senior vice president of baseball operations, will remain with the Blue Jays through the 2010 season under the extension.

"In a relatively short period of time, J.P. Ricciardi has positively reshaped all aspects of the Blue Jays baseball operations," Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey said in a statement. "Our major league club now appears set to contend with a talented core of exciting young players led by a hard-working and accomplished coaching staff."

The announcement of Ricciardi's extension comes on the heals of the second of two major free-agent acquisitions by the club this offseason.

The Blue Jays on Tuesday agreed to a five-year, $55 million deal with pitcher A.J. Burnett, a source told ESPN.com.

The Burnett deal is the longest contract for a free-agent starter since Chan Ho Park's five-year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2001.

Last month, the Blue Jays signed B.J. Ryan to the largest contract for a relief pitcher in baseball history, a $47 million, five-year contract. Ryan, who pitched for Baltimore last season, is Toronto's new closer.

Burnett, 28, has been considered the top pitcher available on the free-agent market. He went 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA for Florida, although he struggled down the stretch and was banished from the team in the final week after criticizing manager Jack McKeon and his coaching staff.

Ricciardi, 46, has been the Blue Jays' GM since November 2001 and had signed a five-year deal in 2002 to keep him with the team through 2007 before receiving Tuesday's extension.

Toronto holds a 311-336 record under his direction.

The Blue Jays perennially finish third in the AL East behind the Yankees and Red Sox, the teams with the top two payrolls in the league. Ricciardi said the club's payroll will be $75 million this season -- up from about $45 million last year, but still $50 million less than Boston and more than $100 million less than New York.

"We used to just drive by Tiffany's," Ricciardi said. "Now we can stop and we can buy a bracelet every once in a while."

Godfrey said he wanted to extend Ricciardi's deal, even though there were two years left on his old one, because free agents were asking whether he would stick around.

"I gave them my word that he would," Godfrey said.

ESPN Insider Jerry Crasnick contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.