Will A. J. stay with the Jays? Better open the vault to keep him.

According to his agent, A. J. Burnett will decide on Monday as to whether or not he will opt out on the two years and US$24 million remaining on his contract. The the big question though isn’t if A. J. will opt out but if the Jays can afford him when he does. It appears on the surface that there is a chance that he might actually want to stay in Toronto. His agent has kept an open dialogue with Jays’ management in recent weeks, and his friendship with ace Roy Halladay appears strong enough that it could play to Toronto’s advantage. Of course his relationship with the fans and media has been tepid at best during his first three seasons, but any hard feelings will most certainly be trumped by dollar signs. And just how much would it take to keep the hard-throwing right-hander in a Jays uniform? Well, put it this way, Barry Zito posted a 10-17 win-loss record last season with a whopping 5.15 ERA and pocketed a cool US$14.5 million. A. J. in comparison was almost unhittable in the second half of the season and won 18 games while striking out an American League-high 231 batters. My guess is that he will be looking for a salary somewhere in the neighbourhood of $16 million per season over a five-year term. Is he worth that much? Maybe not. Do the Jays need him? You bet.

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