TORONTO -- The Blue Jays don't want to wind up empty-handed in the event that A.J. Burnett decides not to re-sign with the club this winter. That being the case, Toronto offered the pitcher arbitration on Monday, securing some compensation in the process.
This procedural step ensures that the Jays will receive a pair of early picks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft should Burnett sign with another club. Since Burnett is considered a "Type A" free agent, Toronto would gain a sandwich selection between the first and second rounds and either a first- or second-round pick, depending on the team that signs the pitcher.
All teams have until midnight ET at the end of Monday to offer salary arbitration to their six-year free agents. The players in question then have until Sunday to either accept or reject the one-year offer. In Burnett's case, the pitcher will undoubtedly decline, considering he's on the verge of receiving a lucrative multiyear contract from any number of suitors.
Beyond the Blue Jays, the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Braves and Phillies have all been reported to have interest in Burnett, who won 18 games and led the American League with 231 strikeouts in 2008. Earlier this offseason, Burnett opted out of the final two years of his contract with Toronto in order to test the free-agent market.
The Blue Jays have yet to make a formal contract offer to Burnett, opting instead to wait for the pitcher to listen to other proposals before countering with an offer of their own. If Toronto is unable to re-sign Burnett, the club may reevaluate its offseason plans and fill its rotation internally, especially in light of growing concerns over the poor economy.
Besides Burnett, the Jays also have six-year free agents in catcher Gregg Zaun and outfielder Brad Wilkerson, and they declined to offer either arbitration. If the Jays had offered a contract to Zaun -- a Type B free agent -- the club would've been in line to receive a sandwich pick in the '09 Draft if he signed elsewhere.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.