Darren Oliver Gives Toronto Blue Jays Salary Ultimatum

By Thom Tsang
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Oliver might be willing postpone his planned retirement, after all.

Well, if the Toronto Blue Jays are willing to give him a raise in return, anyway.

According to a report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, the veteran lefthander “would rather retire than be away from his family for a salary that is well below market value.” In short: pay me or I walk.

As far as offseason issues go, this is a relatively minor one for the Blue Jays. Oliver has talked about 2012 being his final season throughout the year, and the Blue Jays have been prepared for his pending retirement by loading up its bullpen. That he’s given the team an ultimatum changes essentially nothing for the Blue Jays from the start of the off-season.

Except for the fact that they now have the option to bring him back for one more year, I suppose. Oliver has Although he’s the one who agreed to the $3 million team option that Toronto picked up at the end of the season, he’s not wrong about it being well below market value.

The 42-year old posted a 2.06/1.02 ERA/WHIP, while holding opponents to a .213 average; it’s the best season of his career – which is saying a fair bit because he’s been very good since he first entered what most would’ve considered the twilight years of his career.

You’ll have to go back to 2008 to find a 2.90+ ERA season from Oliver; that’s elite production compared to fellow lefty relievers like Scott Downs and Matt Thornton, both of whom Oliver has outperformed, and both make in excess of $5 million. The example comparison in the Rosenthal/Morosi report, Jeremy Affeldt, just signed for $18 million over 3 years.

So Oliver not exactly out of his rights to want a little more to change his mind about retirement, even if I think the Blue Jays will ultimately balk at the request because of the amount that they’ve already extended their ’13 payroll by. Is Oliver trying to negotiate a new contract in bad faith? You could say that, but I don’t really see this any different from a player requesting a trade…which Oliver basically did earlier during the off-season, saying that he’d want to pitch near his home for the Texas Rangers in ’13 or retire.

As the potential retiree, he has all the leverage over what he wants to do with his career. That said, it’s not as though that leverage changes much for the Blue Jays, who were – and still are – prepared for next season under the assumption that Oliver would retire. And if the team decides they’d like to have Oliver in the bullpen next season, they now have an option to bring him back.

Not much of an ultimatum then, is it?

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