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December 6, 2005

Darek Braunecker

A.J. Burnett

Paul Godfrey

J.P. Ricciardi

Jay Stenhouse


JAY STENHOUSE: Today the Blue Jays are pleased to announce we have signed right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett to a five-year contract worth $55 million. Your head table guests, four of which will be speaking before we break into a question-and-answer session. Starting on my right, Mr. Paul Godfrey, president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays. Beside him, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, Mr. J.P. Ricciardi. The newest member of the Blue Jay family, Mr. A.J. Burnett. Beside him his representatives, Mr. Darek Braunecker, Mr. Mark Rogers and Mr. Jim Lundell, followed by Blue Jay manager John Gibbons and pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg. I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Paul Godfrey.
PAUL GODFREY: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. First of all special welcome to A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jay family and special thank you to his team and agent and advisors that are very good discussion and we're delighted to welcome A.J. Burnett to our family. The discussions with respect to A.J. Burnett and the hunting for free agents really started back in February the 3rd of '05. The fact is that that was the day when our ownership under the leadership of Ted Rogers decided to buy the facility that we play in formerly called the SkyDome, but now the Rogers Centre. It's quite obvious that the Blue Jays had to control the destiny of their own building and at the same time, money was committed to fix up that facility and bring it to the standard that the people of Toronto expected it to be when the stadium was first built. But it was obvious as well to Mr. Rogers and to the entire Blue Jay family that the team that played in that building had to be competitive, since it was playing in the American League East, really had to be competitive with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox without spending the vast sums of money that those two teams were spending.
Mr. Rogers increased the team payroll over a three-year period to over $210 million. J.P. Ricciardi was given the task of spending that money wisely and developing a team for the future. It's been four years since we hired J.P. Ricciardi and those of you who were here this morning, to the announcement that J.P.'s contract was being extended for five years to the year 2010, knew the faith that we had in his leadership. So on February 3rd after that announcement was made, the plan going forward for 2006 and beyond was to develop a team not only of good quality players, but good quality people, as well. I think you've seen in the last couple of weeks J.P. has gone out and very carefully monitored the situation of the players that are available and went after the ones that he thought would fit in properly inside the Blue Jay 25-man roster.
So we're not only pleased to have a pitcher of A.J. Burnett's quality in the Blue Jay family, but when you see he starts off on the very positive foot by making a considerable contribution to the Jays Care Foundation of $250,000 over the term of his contract, then you know he cares about the community that he's pitching for in the next five years.
So we're thrilled with his response and saying yes to our offer, and we're not going to spend the $200 million or $150 million the other Major League teams have spent. Our payroll for the year 2006 will be approximately $75 million, which is below the average of teams in Major League Baseball in the year 2005.
So J.P., I congratulate you and your team on making all of the moves that were necessary of strengthening our pitching and our team for the upcoming season. I know the fans of Toronto are elated with what's begun in m the last couple of weeks, and they anticipate not only the beginning of Spring Training, but watching this team compete very positively in the American League east. Thank you very much.
J.P. RICCIARDI: I'll be real quick. We're excited to have A.J. here. It's been a long process but it's been one worth going through. Personally, I'd like to thank all of the rats and they know I am affectionately calling them that because we could not have done it without our scouts, who watched A.J. pitch the entire year. Sometimes we had two guys at every game. Our hats are off to our scouts and more importantly, we're just really happy that A.J. decided to join us and we're looking forward to seeing him and Halladay come out next time we have to walk out in Fenway and Yankee Stadium.
DAREK BRAUNECKER: Certainly on behalf of A.J. Burnett, we're thrilled, ecstatic to be here in this position. I certainly want to thank my two partners, Mark Rogers and Jim Lundell for their assistance through this process, as well. They have been invaluable to myself and A.J. Certainly at this point the most appropriate thanks must go to Mr. Godfrey, the Rogers family and J.P. Ricciardi and his staff for making this happen. They were diligent through this process. They were aggressive. They were all of the things that you're looking for when it comes to the soliciting and recruitment of your client through this process. They identified A.J. quite a while ago as the guy that, I believe, that was the marquis guy, starting pitcher on this market, and they approached it accordingly.
We're certainly honored for the interest that they conveyed through the entire process. They were up front, frank, honest people and we certainly feel as though this is the perfect fit for A.J. Burnett, to finish off his development and ensure that he becomes the perennial All-Star, Cy Young-caliber talent that he has shown in the past.
This is a situation, obviously it's a lot of money, we recognize that. The terms, the five years, it was important to us from the onset of this process that we ensure that we got the length that we believe was appropriate for A.J. and commensurate with his talent. The bottom line is at the end of the day, A.J. submitted a list of potential places that he wanted to play in the beginning of this process, 10, 12 weeks ago and at the very top of the list was the Toronto Blue Jays. That's not agent speak. The fact of the matter is this is the place he wanted to play all along and we're fortunate that they expressed the degree of interest that they did and we were capable of coming to an agreement.
So with that, we say thank you to the entire Blue Jays family. We certainly look forward to A.J.'s arrival in Toronto and we look forward to the competition in the American League East and we look to A.J. having a tremendous amount of success in the next five years as a Toronto Blue Jay.
JAY STENHOUSE: Prior to A.J. coming up to speak, I'd like Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Ricciardi to present him with his brand new uniform for the next five seasons.
A.J. BURNETT: Thank you all for being here. First, I've got to thank my wife, Karen. She has been going through so much, she's the one that has to sit home and deal with me through this whole process. If She's out there and she's watching, thank you, baby, I love you. My two kids, I know we're all real excited to go up to Toronto and start our new life.
You know, Paul mentioned earlier about family, and when I first came up to visit the Toronto Blue Jays, that's what it was. J.P. was there, and I met Paul and his son, and Gibby was there and Arnie was there and I met Roy. It's just, you know, the people that I met there, it's just one big family and that's what you want to be a part of, I think, and that's what success rides on is being able to be around people that you can -- that bring the best out of you and that's one of the reasons I chose the Toronto Blue Jays because I feel just from being around the right people, it's going to make me a better person on and off the field.
On the field, I get to work with Brad Arnsberg again who I'll never forget 2002, the best season of my career, on and off the field, everything clicked and he's a big part of that and I'm looking forward to working with him and him getting me back on the right track again. And this is going to be a fun five years, I'm looking forward to every day of it to go to work and be extremely happy to go there and to win ballgames. Thank you.

Q. I know you grew up a Cardinals fan and Mr. Braunecker was saying that the Jays were No. 1 on your list, why is that so?
A.J. BURNETT: I think we having a relationship with the pitching coach there and him knowing me better than I know myself has a lot to do with. Yeah, we did grow up -- I wasn't really a cardinal fan but my family was. (Laughter.)
I turned into a fan of the game and just to show to the respect of other clubs that are near home and near my family; that was the reason that I was looking at those other places.
As far as the Toronto Blue Jays, it's first-class. The people here, they are mind-blowing.

Q. Paul and J.P., you both made mention of the Yankees and Red Sox, I'm wondering, this team that you have now for 06, is this equipped to contend for the American League east title?
J.P. RICCIARDI: I think we're a lot closer now than we've ever been. I think that's because of B.J. and A.J. and securing some of the areas we were light in the past. I think anybody that has seen us play, we've got a competitive club right now, still a young club that is forming. We're grateful to Mr. Rogers to give us some money to get some pieces to go out ask close that gap. I still think the Yankees and the Red Sox are the front runners in our division but we're looking forward to closing the gap and challenging and getting closer.
PAUL GODFREY: I agree with everything A.J. said. This is a dream he's planned, the day I hired him we knew right from the beginning that there was a lot of work that had to take place over a number of years, and he has stuck religiously to the plan that he initiated to me on the day of his very first interview of what he would do with this organization. He didn't get drawn away by former superstars that were in the twilight years of their career. We knew he had to rebuild a farm system and it would be a year that would go by and we would start to look for the missing pieces that we would need after he had rebuilt the farm system. I think we are entering into that period right now in finding the missing pieces.
The other missing pieces that have to be put together, but we are much more competitive now than we have been in a number of years. I think we are getting closer. It's almost impossible to say right now at this point in time because the Spring Training is still a couple of months off and there are many moving parts of all the teams, but we feel that the last couple of weeks with these two additions makes this club considerably stronger than it's been.

Q. Could you talk about what you think the challenges are?
A.J. BURNETT: Well, that was another reason I wanted to come here. I wanted to accept the challenge and not from run from it. I'm looking forward to going up against this division and I'm looking forward to playing with the skipper and working with Brad again. It's going to be a good run, it's going to be a fun time. As far as I'm concerned, it's a challenge and I'm in. So sign me up, I'm ready to go.

Q. Your agent mentioned a little earlier that this is a lot of money you've been given in this contract and you're a 49-50 lifetime pitcher. How much more do you have to show on the mound yourself as a pitcher and what it is that the fans of Toronto and the rest of baseball have not seen from you yet?
A.J. BURNETT: Well, for one, it's going to be more than 49 wins, I promise you that.
Obviously it's a lot of money and I'm aware of that and I'm fortunate on the one end of this that the Toronto Blue Jays are willing to do that. Like Derek mentioned, when I went up to Toronto the first time, I loved it. I was in love with the city. There wasn't a piece of trash anywhere in the whole place and there wasn't one negative person walking down the street. Everybody said "hi." I don't know if that was his doing (looking at J.P. Ricciardi). But it was a good place and I pitched with a lot of enthusiasm and I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm a competitor and that's what Toronto is going to get.

Q. What convinced you to go against the norm, the current norm and go to five years with pitchers?
J.P. RICCIARDI: First thing we looked at was his age, being so young. I don't think we would get involved with someone maybe in their mid 30s. I think age was a big factor here.

Q. Would that be the same with your previous signing, also?

Q. Was your decision helped in any way by the fact that about a week ago, the Blue Jays signed one of the better closers in the game?
A.J. BURNETT: It did help. It did help. You know, B.J. Ryan, he's legit. I've seen him pitch for a couple of years now.
No, it's a process that you've got to go through. It's stressful as it is, but like I said before, I kind of knew in my heart that this is where I wanted to be from the first time going there and it worked out for the best.

Q. Was there ever a time where you thought this was a situation where you might end up in St. Louis from the outset or did the Blue Jays just overwhelm you with what was going on?
A.J. BURNETT: No, I don't believe it did. I knew where I wanted to go at the end of last season. Obviously I wanted to weigh my options because I'm from Arkansas and it's close to home and it's a very respectful organization.
You know, it all goes back to everything just falls into place. I get to work with someone that I worked with a long time ago that made me who I am today, I believe, at the Major League level, and to be with the good people that the Toronto Blue Jays have from ground up. It's night and day.

Q. What's been your thinking watching the Marlins and what's gone on with them over the last couple of weeks?
A.J. BURNETT: I'm glad I'm not down there anymore. Fire sales are always tough. You feel for a lot of players because you have relationships with them. I'll always be grateful to that organization that gave me a chance, John Boles got me to the big leagues and I'll always respect him for that. And I'm here to talk about the future, though, and this is my squad and I'm very excited about it.
JAY STENHOUSE: Gentlemen, I would like to thank you for joining us today and that concludes the formal part of our news conference. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts...

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