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Zaun re-signs, will be Jays' starting catcher

TORONTO -- Newly signed Frank Thomas hopes the Toronto Blue
Jays can add a top pitcher to their roster. For now, they're
content to keep their catcher.

Gregg Zaun stayed with the Blue Jays by agreeing to a $7.25
million, two-year contract Tuesday, a day after catcher Rod Barajas
backed out of an apparent deal.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi quickly resumed negotiations with
Zaun after Barajas decided not to go through with the deal and
switched agents.

"Zaunie was our first choice all along," Ricciardi said at a
news conference to introduce Thomas, the team's new designated
hitter. "We just hit a snag there at one point. We called him last
night and said, 'Zaunie, if you want to be a Blue Jay, we have to
make it happen now.' He was great and we were able to work it out.
We're really happy that he's back."

Ricciardi thought he had an agreement with Barajas, who played
for Texas last season.

"Where I come from, your word and your handshake means
something," Ricciardi said. "Unfortunately, in his case it
didn't. I'll leave it at that. We had more than a handshake."

Barajas needed only to pass a physical for his deal with the
Blue Jays to be finalized, and the deal was originally to be
announced Tuesday.

Instead, Thomas was the featured guest Tuesday. He agreed to an
$18.12 million, two-year contract earlier this month.

The 38-year-old led the Oakland Athletics with 39 homers and 114
RBI this year, batting .270. Thomas has hit .305 with 487 homers
and 1,579 RBI in 17 major league seasons, 16 with the Chicago
White Sox.

"I want to play until I'm 42. I hope to get 600 home runs,"
Thomas said. "I finished fourth in MVP voting this year. I had a
great year. It's not about age."

Thomas said he would like to see Toronto sign a "superstar
pitcher" to compete with New York and Boston.

Ricciardi said the Blue Jays don't have the money to do that,
but would like re-sign free agent left-hander Ted Lilly. Free agent
right-hander Gil Meche attended a Maple Leafs hockey game in
Toronto on Tuesday night. He was shown on the videoboard -- "Future
Blue Jay" was written beside his name.

Ricciardi reiterated that he'd like to sign center fielder
Vernon Wells to an extension. Wells is due $5.6 million next year,
the final season of a five-year contact.

The Blue Jays wanted to bring back Zaun, too, but Ricciardi was
initially reluctant to meet the catcher's asking price. Zaun's new
deal includes an option for 2009 that could become guaranteed based
on appearances.

Zaun was said to have drawn interest from Boston and New York,
where he would have been a backup. He represented himself in talks
with Toronto and was upset when the Blue Jays made a deal with
Barajas.

"One thing Gregg probably realized after handling the situation
himself is that sometimes it's not personal, it's business,"
Ricciardi said.

Zaun hit .272 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI last season as the
backup to Bengie Molina, whom Ricciardi is not interested in
re-signing.

Barajas batted .256 with 11 homers and 41 RBI in 97 games for
Texas. Barajas agreed to an annual average salary with Toronto that
was less than the $3.2 million he made last season. His contract
with Toronto was supposed to a $5.25 million, two-year deal.