Desparate for some hitting, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi made the pitch to a big free agent early yesterday morning and signed Mats Sundin to a 2-year, $20 million dollar contract. The contract matches the offer made by the Canucks that Sundin had neither accepted or rejected.
Sundin is expected to be in the Blue Jay lineup before the all-star break as a DH and the cleanup hitter. Ricciardi commented that the big Swede who is listed at 6'5" and 230 lbs. has the makings of a great power hitter. Since Sundin can't field, he will strictly DH but Ricciardi feels that his prowess with a hockey stick can be transferred over to the baseball diamond. Certainly he felt that potential was confirmed in a batting practice session set up for Sundin yesterday which was on off day for the Jays.
Reaction from the Maple Leafs and Canadiens was shock and disappointment. Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher commented that he was glad to see Mats stay in Toronto but thought that the hockey club was a better fit. He suggested that maybe the 37 year old would be interested in playing 2 sports. Montreal GM Bob Gainey was dumbfounded and suggested Sundin had given up a shot at a Stanley Cup to play a "boys' game". Sundin indicated that what motivated him was a desire to play in the venerable Yankee Stadium. The Yankees move into a new stadium next season.