Posted: Monday November 28, 2005 1:52PM; Updated: Monday November 28, 2005 3:02PM
B.J. Ryan finished 61 games for the Orioles last season, the fourth-highest total in the American League.
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TORONTO (Ticker) -- B.J. Ryan has parlayed an All-Star first season as a closer into a big payday.
On Monday, the Toronto Blue Jays signed the free agent lefthander to a five-year contract worth $47 million.
Ryan's deal is the most lucrative for a reliever, topping Mariano Rivera's four-year, $40 million contract signed before the 2001 season with the New York Yankees. Rivera signed a two-year extension worth $21 million after the 2004 season and his $10.5 million annual salary is the highest among relievers.
Terms of the contract also included Ryan, who turns 30 next month, making a $250,000 donation to a local charity.
"B.J. Ryan is both an outstanding pitcher and person and we're excited to have him join our Blue Jays family," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He stands among the few pitchers in baseball worthy of a five-year contract. I know our starting pitchers will be very happy to hear this news."
After a dominant 2004 campaign as a setup man for the Baltimore Orioles, Ryan moved into the closer's role last season and finished with 36 saves in 41 chances. He struck out 100 in 70 1/3 innings and had a 2.43 ERA. His 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings were the most among American League pitchers with at least 20 innings.
Miguel Batista served as the Blue Jays' closer last season, converting 31 of 39 save chances and posting a 4.10 ERA.
In 2004, the 6-6 Ryan posted a 2.28 ERA and struck out 122 batters in 87 innings.
Originally drafted by Cincinnati in 1998, Ryan pitched in just one game for the Reds before being traded to Baltimore in July 1999.