A.J. Burnett told the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday that he will opt out of the remaining two seasons of his five-year, $55 million contract.
The pitcher will forfeit $24 million and can file for free agency. His contract called for a $6 million signing bonus, a $1 million salary in 2006 and $12 million in the remaining four seasons.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said talks will continue on the possibility of a new deal for the hard-throwing right-hander, who turns 32 in January.
Burnett went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 34 starts this season and led the American League with 231 strikeouts. He went 10-8 in each of his first two seasons with Toronto, and injuries limited him to 21 starts in 2006 and 25 the next year.
With pitching scarce, Burnett figures to be a target for high-revenue teams such as the New York Yankees and Mets and the Boston Red Sox. The Orioles could also be in on at least the early bidding for Burnett, who has a house in the Baltimore area. His agent, Darek Braunecker, left open the possibility of re-signing with Toronto.
Yankees: : New York declined its 2009 options on first baseman Jason Giambi and pitcher Carl Pavano, making the pair eligible for free agency. Giambi will receive a $5 million buyout rather than a $22 million salary next season, completing his seven-year, $120 million contract. Pavano gets a $1.95 million buyout instead of a $13 million salary, finishing his $39.95 million deal. In a sign that Giambi might want to return to Oakland, where he was the 2000 American League Most Valuable Player, the Athletics announced that Bob Alejo will become its director of strength and conditioning. Alejo was Oakland's strength and conditioning coach from 1993 to 2001 and followed Giambi to the Yankees. Pavano was one of the biggest free-agent busts, spending most of the past four years on the disabled list. He made just 26 starts during the contract, going 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA.
Canseco:: Jose Canseco went to a Tijuana pharmacy in October looking for something to boost his testosterone level - low after years of admitted steroid use - and got himself in trouble again. Limping slightly and saying he's tired, depressed and nearly bankrupt, the former slugger pleaded guilty in San Diego to a misdemeanor offense of trying to bring a fertility drug across the Mexican border. He was sentenced to 12 months' unsupervised probation. Canseco, 44, apologized to U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks, saying, "I made an honest mistake." Canseco faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000. The former star was ordered to pay a $25 special assessment.
Et cetera: : Mark Teixeira (Mount St. Joseph), Matt Holliday and CC Sabathia drew the highest marks in the annual player rankings by the Elias Sports Bureau. The rankings are used to determine what draft choices are awarded as compensation for teams losing free agents. ... The Brewers hired Dale Sveum as hitting coach, bringing back the interim manager who led Milwaukee to its first playoff berth in 26 years. ... Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter had surgery to transpose a nerve in his right elbow. St. Louis did not say whether he remained on a timetable to return by spring training. ... Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young, the 2007 National League Comeback Player of the Year, was sent outright to Triple-A Syracuse.