The Toronto Star reported yesterday that relief pitcher Bruce Sutter will sign with the Atlanta Braves for what will amount to $48 million in deferred payments over the next 30 years, which would make him the highest-paid athlete in any sport.

Quarterback Steve Young of the U.S. Football League's Los Angeles Express is believed to be the highest-paid athlete currently under contract, with a deal worth $40 million.

However, Sutter's agent, Jim Bronner, denied any deal had been made, and Braves General Manager John Mullen said, "We don't have the slightest idea who he will sign with. They've indicated we've made them a good offer but they are still going to check out every club that drafted him."

The Star said Sutter has been assured of a no-trade clause in his contract, something that his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Toronto Blue Jays were not willing to concede.

The newspaper said the $48 million figure was based on a telephone interview Friday night with Toronto Vice President Pat Gillick, who had met with Sutter and Bronner.

Gillick said he'd learned that the Braves' offer involved a complex system of deferred payments over 30 years that would pay Sutter $1.5 million a year for the first 15 years and $1.7 annually for the next 15 years.

Gillick described the Atlanta figures as "terrible . . . ridiculous."

Asked if Toronto could compete with the offer posed by Atlanta, Gillick replied: "Maybe, if we sell a couple of breweries."