The Blue Jays have released B.J. Ryan, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. The 33-year-old lefty signed a five year $47MM deal with the Jays before the 2006 season that was, at the time, the largest deal ever for a reliever. The contract expires after 2010, but the Jays still owe Ryan about $15MM.
"Hey guys, talk about the best player on my team for a while as I try to sweep a disastrous free agent signing under the rug!"
At the time the Jays signed Ryan to that deal, it was the largest ever to be given to a relief pitcher. He was only 29 years old, but as Joe from RAB mentioned a little while ago, some of the more knowledgeable voices in baseball saw his elbow as a ticking time bomb. Joe goes into more detail about how the market for relievers played out that offseason, with Billy Wagner ending up with the Mets, Ryan signing with the Jays, Tom Gordon going to the Phillies, thereby leaving the Yanks with Kyle Farnsworth.
In 2006, the Jays got even more than they expected, and Ryan was the best of those four relievers by far. He appeared in 65 games (72.1 IP) with a 1.37 ERA (333 ERA+) and a 0.875 WHIP. He gave up only 3HR and while converting 38 saves. The following year, he pitched in 5 games before missing the rest of the season Tommy John surgery. He came back in '08 with a respectable campaign (58 innings, 2.95 ERA, 32 Saves) and appeared to be an effective reliever once again.
This year, however, he fell so far that the Blue Jays paid him $15M just to disappear, conceding any potential value they could get out of him this year or next. He walked 17 in 20 2/3 innings, had an ERA of 6.53 and threw just over 50% of his pitches for strikes. This doesn't appear to be guy who just needs a change of scenery; he might be done for good. By virtue of who he was, though, it's likely that a team will take a flier on Ryan.
Fangraphs estimates that the Jays have got $10.8M out of Ryan's 2006 season, only slightly more than 1/5th of his contract represented ($9.4M). Since then the Jays will have revieved only $1.4M worth of services over the last four years of that contract (including -$0.7M in 2007, -$2.2M this year and nothing in 2010) while paying $38.6M. Ouch.
Praise be to Mo.