THE TORONTO Blue Jays bid upward to $50 million for the negotiating rights to Japanese righthander Yu Darvish, according to a report.

The New York Post, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, reported that the Blue Jays' bid - "above $40 and possibly close to $50 million." - is believed to be the highest.

MLB is expected to announce the winning bid as soon as it is accepted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish's current team.

Other teams reported to have bid are the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and Chicago Cubs. Bidding closed Wednesday and the Ham Fighters have until Tuesday to announce the winner. The team with the top bid will have 30 days to reach an agreement with Darvish. If it doesn't, the posting money will be returned.

Darvish has a career 1.99 ERA in Japan and throws between 92 and 95 mph.

According to the Post, Darvish is expected to make approximately $12 million a season.

Noteworthy * 

Former Phillies lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero agreed to a 1-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

* Texas offered lefthander Derek Holland a 5-year extension that would buy out his arbitration-eligible years and delay free agency, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Holland was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 198 innings last season.

* Minnesota agreed to a $21 million, 3-year contract with Josh Willingham, who played for Oakland last season.

* Boston signed free-agent infielder Nick Punto to a 2-year, $3 million deal, according to ESPNBoston.com.

The 34-year-old Punto, who played for the Phillies from 2001-03, played for St. Louis last season.

* Major League Baseball owners ratified a 5-year collective bargaining agreement, sealing 21 consecutive seasons of labor peace through 2016.

Owners voted unanimously to approve the deal during a telephone conference call. The players' association announced Dec. 1 that its executive board had ratified the agreement, which was signed Nov. 22.

* Home run king Barry Bonds may be confined to his Beverly Hills, Calif., home, imprisoned for 15 months or simply placed on probation after he is sentenced today for giving evasive testimony to a federal grand jury probing sports doping. Bonds, 47, was tried for lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 that was investigating a Bay Area laboratory involved in the sale of banned substances to athletes.

* Attorneys for Fox Sports are appealing a Delaware bankruptcy judge's order approving a process for the Los Angeles Dodgers to sell media rights to future games. Fox Sports is asking a federal district court judge in Delaware to immediately halt the implementation of the bankruptcy judge's order while he considers Fox's appeal. The district judge has scheduled a teleconference with attorneys today to discuss the appeal. The Dodgers' plan calls for initial bids by Jan. 13 and completion of the sale by April 30. Fox says the sale process violates its exclusive rights under an existing contract with the Dodgers. But the Dodgers say a media rights sale now in conjunction with selling the team itself is the best way to maximize value for creditors and emerge from bankruptcy.