There were clues in speaking with GM J.P. Ricciardi that even inside the draft room in June, he took a lesser role. The negotiations for signed No. 1 pick Chad Jenkins were handled by Jon Lalonde, for Sandwich pick James Paxton represented by Scott Boras by Paul Beeston and for Jake Eliopoulos by Alex Anthopoulos. Ricciardi said he had input.
Here is a direct quote from J.P. on Tuesday, re the draft: “They took some kids who slid. (Jake) Marisnick, (Kris) Hobson, (Robert) Webb. They took them a little later with the understanding that if the top guys didn’t sign we’d have a little bit more money to sign some guys down below and they’d be able to get those guys. So Jonny (Lalonde) did a really good job. He had a really good game plan going in. We’ll see.”
The “they” that Ricciardi is referring to is, of course, the Jays.
On to the mail bag.
Q: Hi Richard,
So let's review. The Jays saved $65 million in dumping Alex Rios and Scott Rolen for financial flexibility and to reinvest in the club. And instead of signing their young draft picks (James Paxton, Jake Barrett or Jake Eliopoulos) they lose all three. How can they get better if they won't spend the money investing on prospects? I don't think I will be spending my money on the Jays next season.
J. M., Toronto
A: I also find it amazing that they failed to land three of their top four picks in the June draft. They knew Scott Boras, the most difficult agent in baseball, was the agent for Paxton. But if you can’t go over slot for a Canadian kid that throws 97 m.p.h. and was projected to be possibly your major-league closer as early as 2011, then what are you possibly going to spend the money on in the future…unless you were not really planning to reinvest that Rios/Rolen money.
And how about going 0-for-8 in signing Canadian draft picks. I recall how excited everyone was that the Jays finally had focused on drafting some Canadian talent. Then they go Canuck-less when push comes to shove. Go figure.
It almost looks like they are clearing the decks for a sale of the club. The Jays will get compensation picks for not signing Paxton, Eliopoulos and Barrett and if there was a new ownership in place by June 2010, they could make their own decision on whether to spend the money necessary to sign a Top 100 draft pick. They already have six picks in the first three rounds next year, which could increase if Marco Scutaro goes elsewhere. No wonder nobody pays attention to baseball’s June draft.
Q: Hi Richard,
What on earth is going on with the Jays? Can J.P. find any more ways to ruin the Jays? The dumping of Rios for nothing and making of Snider into a "Super Two" player (when two days would have avoided that) join the long list of financial incompetence by JP. The worst though is the failure to sign three of the Jay's top four picks - especially after Rios' contract was dumped to free money up. Have the Blue Jays become another Pittsburgh Pirates type organization? There doesn't seem much hope of a contending team for many years to come.
Andrew M., Willowdale
A: Speaking of Rios to the Chisox being such a great deal, I came home last week and gave my wife some great news: I gave away our car for nothing, but it was a good deal because we were paying $1,500 a month in insurance, gas and monthly payments. If I give away our house, pretty soon we’ll be millionaires. That’s Jay-conomics 101.
As for Snider and the Super-Two controversy, in terms of eventually being arbitration eligible, it was based on a projection and is still a long way off. The fact is that as soon as Rios went to the White Sox, Snider should have been on his way to join the Jays. They were caught in an ethical quandary and ended up doing the right thing. Snider began the year with 31 days of major league service. When he was sent down in May, he had 47 more days. If he remains with the Jays until season’s end, that will be 48 more days. The three stints add up to 126 days. In MLB, a total of 172 days constitutes a full season. The only certainty right now is that the Jays control Snider until he is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season.
Yes, he will likely be a Super Two after the 2011 season (the top percentage of players with two-years plus random days in terms of major-league service time). But if history repeats itself and if Snider becomes an important part of the Jays future, they will likely take care of him with a multi-year deal ahead of time like they did with Aaron Hill, making arbitration somewhat irrelevant. So they promoted him. Good for the Jays. Good for Travis.
As for Toronto becoming another Pittsburgh, never. Toronto women have a much better fashion sense, while the hairstyle of choice in the Steel City is still Mary Tyler Moore.
Q: I will make this question brief as I doubt that you will respond: How do you defend your criticism of Mr. Ricciardi for having the Wells contract on the payroll of the team when you seemed to lavish praise on Mr. Godfrey as being the driving force of a contract that you wrote was a smart move in the days leading up to the deal?
Michael L., Toronto
A: I, unlike Mr. Ricciardi, am willing to admit that I made a mistake. The criticism of Mr. Ricciardi re Wells is more for the GM’s habit of pointing at bad contracts as the reason his hands are tied and can’t compete with the Red Sox and Yankees. (See Ryan, Rios, Wells). Thinking back to the year the Jays signed Wells to the unfortunate contract extension, the North American economy was good, the money was out there and it looked like a player like Wells, projected with Manny-like numbers down the road was worth locking up for Manny-like money. Unfortunately for the Jays, the Manny that Vernon has most resembled turned out to be Lee, not Ramirez.
As for the task of assessing at the time whether the deal would be worth it, it is always up to any major-league organization to make that assessment with their own players using the expertise of their scouts, talent evaluators, right-hand advisors and ownership. That’s what they’re paid for. We as columnists are paid to assess what they tell us and then offer an opinion. Someone that is not willing to change his opinion when proven wrong is doing his readers a disservice.
It is just interesting to me that in the 12 months before signing Wells long-term, Mr. Ricciardi was denigrating Wells to the national media in the States as not being a team leader and being overrated. They made an all-out assault at trading Wells in the winter, then when they couldn’t get the right package in return, signed him to a long-term deal. That chain of events – diss, dangle, sign – made some of us in the media believe that the decision to lock Wells up as a long-term Jay was due more to the influence of M r. Godfrey than Mr. Ricciardi. I still believe that.
Q: Could the Jays make a run in the 2010 season? They have Gaston to manage for one more season. They keep Halladay until the contract expires; maybe they ink a fading veteran like Pedro Martinez as a #2 – he would likely play in Canada – he was decent in his last outing and fill out the rotation with the young arms. Maybe they catch a break with some rookies in the batting order and cross fingers?
Frederick Duquette, La Mirada, CA
A: I think I’m having a flashback. That 2010 building scenario, if the Jays are in fact serious about ever contending, was something they should have done in June, earlier this season when they were just starting to fade. That window of opportunity with Pedro et al slammed shut on J.P.’s fingers a while ago. If the Jays are indeed thinking about trading Halladay in the off-season and are counting on Shaun Marcum coming back to join Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil with other youngsters in the mix, then they need a 2-3 mid-rotation starter for Doc plus a couple of solid, emerging bats, led by, maybe, a shortstop. This organization is not looking to spend the Rios/Rolen/Halladay(?) savings in 2010. Maybe in 2011 when B.J. Ryan’s $10 million comes off the books and new ownership is in place, making it officially J.P.’s 10-year plan.
Q: Hi Richard,
I need you fearless forecast. What do you think the Toronto Blue Jays roster (starting 9, 5 starters and closer) will be on Opening Day 2010?
A: Here goes:
CF-Vernon Wells; RF-Travis Snider
SP’s: Joe Saunders; Shaun Marcum; Ricky Romero; Brett Cecil; Scott Richmond.
Q: Three of the best Canadian baseball players (Jason Bay, Rich Harden and Erik Bedard) and one great former Blue Jay (Carlos Delgado) are all free agents at the end of the season. With the money saved from the recent salary dumps, do you think it is conceivable for the Blue Jays to take runs and possibly 2 or 3 of these players? I believe they have an opportunity to win and generate more fan support right now, but it is crucial that fans are engaged in the process. Adding two of the above mentioned household names and re-signing Marco Scutaro would, in my mind, re-energize the Jays fan base. What are your thoughts?
Tim Lichti, Tavistock
A: Consider that the Jays went 0-for-8 signing Canadians out of the 2009 June draft, so what are their chances of signing a high-priced Canadian free agent that will be commanding ridiculous B.J. Ryan, Alex Rios, Roy Halladay dollars for 4-5 years?
Bay just became an American citizen, which doesn’t rule him out of coming to T-O but gives a clue as to his intentions. Harden is injury prone and will never be a staff ace. Ditto for Bedard. As for Delgado, he’s pretty much done as a contributor and if he came in as a DH would only have the chance to disappoint and end his career as a homegrown Frank Thomas. The memories of Delgado as a Jay should remain as they are so his number can some day be lifted to the level of excellence with the other great Jays. Don’t spoil that memory.
You always seem to have a good handle on the situation in Jaysland and I really appreciate the work you do. My question is this: With the Rios salary dump, the current GM and ownership have lost all credibility. While JP will take the hit in the media, Paul Beeston and Rogers (ownership) are even more to blame for allowing this to happen.
What is Beeston doing in all of this other than, allowing it to happen? It’s a sad day and my usual 10-pack of tickets will be at thing of the past after this year. What ownership and management have allowed to happen, starting with the Doc fiasco and culminating in the Rios salary dump, is just tragic. Why would Beeston allow this to happen?
Richard JP French, Toronto
A: I believe Paul Beeston’s first greeting to Ricciardi each morning is: “Hello J.P. How much rope will you be needing today?” If Ricciardi is being set up as the scapegoat, which I do believe, he is being asked to reduce payroll to the bare essentials before a new GM and perhaps new ownership try and rebuild the team and the relationship with the community. There is no new president in place because there is no guarantee Rogers will still be the owners. Beeston is a member of the Order of Canada and one thing that can be guaranteed is that any new ownership will be 100 per cent Canadian.
Q: Hey Richard,
Love the column. My question is in regards to free agent eligibility. How does a player become a 'type A' free agent? I understand that it must be based on performance? For example Zaunie left last year and we didn't get anything for him, but I keep hearing about how Scutaro would be a 'type A' and we can get 2 picks for him if he signs elsewhere (which would be a good deal for us I think). If you could let us know how that works it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
Nigel B., Toronto
A: The fabulous Elias Sports Bureau headed by the legendary Seymour Siwoff is assigned the annual task of determining Type A and B free agents using a self-concocted formula based on the previous two years. Players are ranked against others at a similar position – 1B and DH; 2B, 3B, SS; OF; starting pitchers and relief pitchers. The top 20 per cent are ranked and if they are free agents they rate compensation in the form of draft picks. The problem with Scutaro being a Type A free agent is the same as confronted Orlando Cabrera last winter. Marco is a good player, but is he worth another team giving the Jays two draft picks in June, one of which comes from your allotment? Cabrera, a very good player, went all winter without a sniff before settling on a one-year deal with the A’s.
Q: Hi Richard,
Veering off from the Rios rumblings, I have a question regarding Vernon Wells. Everyone is saying that Wells is untradeable, which I understand. But next season (or the one after that) comes around and he's playing up to, or beyond, his potential, would he not be easier to trade? Is his salary the major hindrance or is it the salary combined with the lacklustre play?
Daniel D., Toronto
A-His salary alone makes him untradeable at this point in time. His lackluster play makes him embarrassingly untradeable. In the future, if the top salaries bounce back and his performance bounces back, then he might become tradeable again. But it’s doubtful unless the Jays were willing to eat huge portions of the contract, which may be the only answer down the road.
I was just wondering what the chances of Aaron Hill winning a gold glove this year were?
David Ng, Toronto
A: The Gold Glove voting is done by managers and coaches and if they have been paying attention, then Hill has a decent chance. But as a former PR guy, I remember bringing the Gold Glove ballots into the coaches’ room at the ballpark and seeing them filled out in 30 seconds, sometimes by committee, most of the time by previous reputation, meaning the same guys tend to win multiple times. Like I said, if coaches have been paying attention then Hill has a fighting chance. Otherwise, it’s Placido Polanco, Dustin Pedroia or Brian Roberts. Round up the usual suspects.
The incident involving Hiroki Kuroda last week (Dodgers’ pitcher hit by line drive by Rusty Ryal of the Diamondbacks) was tremendously scary, and it was great to hear he was released from hospital relatively unscathed. My question is about the play itself. The ball lined off Kuroda's head, shot up quickly, bounced in foul territory and then landed in the crowd. Ryal was thus awarded a rare ground-rule double (the ball didn't leave the infield). If the ball “didn't” bounce foul (that is, just plunked off the pitcher's head and landed in the crowd), would that have been scored a home run? I wouldn't think so, but I keep thinking of Canseco's home run ball off the head a few years back. Can't seem to find anything on the rulebook on this one. Your help here is appreciated. P. S. great mail bag, long time reader.
Geoff Rawlinson, Toronto
A: The number of highlights lately involving head-shots to hitters and pitchers has been scary in and of itself. It’s August and the dog days are here, with tempers being shorter and maybe fatigued reactions being a twitch slower. In any case you’re right about the relief in hearing that Kuroda has been released from hospital.
The ruling even if the ball had bounced directly into the stands off Kuroda’s head would still have been a ground-rule double. Going back to Canseco and the ball off his head over the fence in Texas or the Alex Cora ball at Fenway Park off of (ahemm!) Alex Rios’ glove into the bullpen a couple of years ago, in both cases, if the player had been in the right field corner and the ball had bounced off of him in fair territory and then past the pole into the stands in foul territory, instead of a homer it would have been ruled a double.
Not all body shots are bad things. On August 2, 1984, Cubs; closer Lee Smith entered in the ninth inning with one out at Wrigley Field nursing a 3-2 lead against the Expos. With runners at first and third, Pete Rose lined a ball up the middle off Smith’s ample butt with the ball caroming in the air out to Dave Owen (Spike’s brother) at shortstop. He lobbed the ball over to first base to complete the game-ending double play. Ass-ist to Smith. Just 12 days later, Rose was sneaking down the backstairs of a San Francisco hotel to catch a flight to Cincinnati where he would be a player-manager. It turns out the flight wasn’t the only thing Pete booked.
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