With Burnett still unsigned, Beeston says Jays won't spend just to do it

TORONTO -- Paul Beeston believes the Blue Jays still have a shot at re-signing pitcher A.J. Burnett.

With the economy sinking, however, the team's interim CEO acknowledged Thursday that Toronto might choose to save the $24 million Burnett passed up this offseason rather than spend it on other free agents.

"It's a possibility," Beeston said. "We can spend $100 million, but if it doesn't make sense, why do it?"

Burnett recently opted out of the final two seasons of his five-year contract, deciding to test the free-agent market and forgo $24 million the Blue Jays would have owed him.

Speaking to the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Beeston said he and general manager J.P. Ricciardi visited Burnett at his Maryland home last month and came away convinced they had a chance at keeping the right-hander, who won a career-high 18 games this season.

The 31-year-old Burnett won 10 of his final 12 decisions and set a career-best with 231 strikeouts. He had a 4.07 ERA.

With the Canadian dollar dropping in value against the U.S. dollar and the global economy in turmoil, Beeston said the Blue Jays won't be big players in free agency.

So far, Beeston said Toronto's season-ticket sales are "consistent" with last year's numbers, but he acknowledged that sponsorship figures are down.

Beeston rejoined the Blue Jays on Oct. 14 to help find a replacement for outgoing president Paul Godfrey, who will leave the team at year's end.

Beeston said he has compiled a list of 35 to 40 candidates for the role of president and CEO. He'll spend the next few weeks cutting that list down before holding interviews, and he hopes to hire Godfrey's replacement before spring training 2009.