12/14/2004 2:21 PM ET
Jays, Koskie sign three-year deal
Third baseman happy about the opportunity
By Ian Harrison / Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- Corey Koskie knows baseball history, but his comes wrapped in a Maple Leaf flag.
|Corey Koskie hit 25 home runs in 118 games in '04. (Adrian Wyld/AP)
The Canadian-born third baseman, who spurned other suitors to sign a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, said he's long dreamed of playing in his native land.
"My first year in the big leagues when we went into Yankee Stadium, reporters would come up to me and say 'What does this feel like? You're in the same place Babe Ruth played,'" Koskie said Tuesday. "I was like 'Yeah, this is cool, but my place is SkyDome, because that's what I grew up watching, that's the same place where the likes of Paul Molitor and John Olerud and Tony Fernandez played. Those were my heroes growing up.'"
So when Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi came calling with a contract offer, Koskie was all ears.
"It was really exciting to know that the team I grew up with was interested in me," Koskie explained. "Every Canadian kid's dream is to play for the team you grew up watching. I remember where I was when Joe Carter hit his home run to win the World Series. This is a real happy day for me and my family."
Koskie's deal includes a $6.5 million club option for a fourth season that kicks in automatically if he makes 1,200 plate appearances over the next three years.
National pride or not, Koskie didn't flinch at signing on to battle big spending teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees with a Blue Jays outfit coming off a 67-win season. That's because Toronto's young lineup reminds him of the Minnesota Twins teams he played for over the past seven years.
"You look at my last three years with the Twins, every year we've come in with [the critics] saying we have no chance to win," Koskie said. "We always found a way to win. There's more to winning a division than big names. There's a bunch of parts to the puzzle, a bunch of cogs in the machine. Everybody has got to do their little part."
A proud Canadian, Koskie will likely be the focal point of advertising campaigns as the Blue Jays seek to boost attendance. Team president Paul Godfrey called him "a lightning rod of interest" for Toronto baseball fans.
On the field, the Jays will be counting on Koskie to post big numbers in the middle of their lineup, helping offset the loss of slugger Carlos Delgado. They're making room for him at third base by moving incumbent Eric Hinske over to first.
"We've admired Corey from a baseball standpoint for some time," said Ricciardi, who raved about Koskie's ability to wear down pitchers and get on base. "Corey was No. 1 on our list. We thought we could do a lot of things with him in our lineup."
As for Hinske, Ricciardi said he didn't mind switching positions.
"He said 'If you can get Corey Koskie, I'll go anywhere.'"
There are some durability concerns with Koskie, who missed 44 games with a variety of ailments last season and hasn't played more than 140 games in any of the past three seasons.
"If I'm a little banged up, I have trouble slowing down a little bit because it's not part of me," Koskie said. "That little bang-up turns into a big bang-up because I keep on pushing myself."
If he can stay healthy, Koskie gives Toronto a defensive upgrade at the hot corner, fitting in nicely alongside slick-fielding Orlando Hudson at second and youngster Russ Adams at shortstop.
"If we're becoming a pitching-and-defense club, so be it," Ricciardi said when asked if his team-building philosophy is changing. "It's not a bad thing to become."
Ricciardi also said he remains optimistic about his chances of adding another bat, and is continuing to pursue free agent starter Matt Clement.
"We're trying to get our prom dates early this year," he joked.
Ian Harrison is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.