Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 7

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Comparing general managers in any sport is difficult. Comparing them in baseball is probably most difficult, however, as the playing field is not as level as it is in other leagues. With hockey, football, and basketball all having some form of a salary cap, in theory, all general managers in those sports are working under the same parameters. Now, obviously, there are other factors at work (as any Edmonton Oiler front office employee can tell you, geography plays a part), but money-wise, no one can spend well beyond what every other team can.

This is not the case in Major League Baseball, and it is especially not the case in the American League East. In this division, you have the extremes of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have 2 of the highest payrolls in the Majors, and the Rays, who spend less than most teams, with the Blue Jays usually falling somewhere in between.

The biggest knock against J.P. Ricciardi as general manager of the Jays is that he hasn't sent a team to the postseason. Now, this is a big knock and I get as frustrated as any Blue Jays fan when October comes and we're stuck watching other teams go and have all the fun.

Ricciardi, hired before the 2002 season, has the longest active tenure of any GM who's team hasn't made the playoffs. On the surface, that looks ugly, and it's hard to blame fans who look at that and think a change should be made. Digging a little deeper, though, I'm not sure Ricciardi's done much worse than a lot of his contemporaries.

This is a list of general managers who have been to the playoffs starting in 2002:
Brian Cashman
Terry Ryan
Billy Beane
Bill Stoneman
John Schuerholz
Walt Jocketty
Joe Garagiola, Jr.
Brian Sabean
Larry Beinfest
Jim Hendry
Theo Epstein
Gerry Hunsicker
Paul DePodesta
Tim Purpura
Kevin Towers
Kenny Williams
Dave Dombrowski
Omar Minaya
Ned Colletti
Pat Gillick
Josh Byrnes
Mark Shaprio
Andrew Friedman
Tony Reagins
Doug Melvin

Now, that's a long list, to be sure, but I'm not convinced that every one of them is necessarily better at their job than Ricciardi is just because they got to spray champagne around their clubhouse.

First, I think you need to compare him to his AL East counterparts. Cashman, Epstein, and now, Friedman, are seen as some of better front office minds working in baseball today. Cashman, Yankee GM since 1998, has won 3 World Series rings at the helm of the Evil Empire, although none since 2000. Epstein has 2 championships to his name, the first for the Red Sox since 1918, and Friedman took over the Rays and through some shrewd drafting and trading, transformed them from bottom feeders to contenders. While Friedman has done an excellent job, I'm not sure it's fair to compare his situation to Ricciardi's. While Friedman took over a team that had never won more than 70 games, his squad had amassed a large amount of high draft picks that allowed him to have a large group of high ceiling players either develop for Tampa or be traded elsewhere for useful parts. Ricciardi, on the other hand, took over a Toronto team that had been mediocre at worst for the better part of the previous 5 years, winning somewhere in between 76-88 games from 1997 until 2001. He was also given the task of rebuilding the major league team relatively quickly in the image of the low budget Oakland Athletics, the team where he had been the Director of Player Personnel since 1997. And while Toronto fans may look at what the Rays have done in the past season and a half, winning in the tough AL East on a low budget, I'm not sure many of them have the appetite to go through the full scale rebuilding that something like that would take. Do you want to put up with 10 years of awful baseball for the chance of a good 2 or 3 year run?

It may also not be completely fair to judge him next to Cashman and Epstein, but those 2 have been in charge of their respective franchises for basically Ricciardi's entire run in Toronto. Ricciardi obviously doesn't have the financial resources to compete with the big spenders in the division, and that has hampered his team-building somewhat. While Boston and New York are able to hide bad free agent signings and not let it affect them (Julio Lugo and Carl Pavano come to mind), Ricciardi isn't afforded that luxury, making situations like B.J. Ryan's (and Frank Thomas's, to an extent) look much worse. While Cashman and Epstein are probably decent GMs, I'm not sure they would have fared much better in Toronto than Ricciardi has.

It becomes even more difficult to compare him to GMs in other divisions (and in the National League), I think, because the level of competition is completely different. Is Ned Colletti, the same guy who signed guys like Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Jason Schmidt to awful contracts a better GM because he lucked into Manny Ramirez wanting out of Boston and won a weak division? Probably not.

During Ricciardi's time in Toronto, his team has averaged 81 wins a year (2002-2008). Not a great number, obviously, in fact, it's perfectly mediocre. That's dragged down a bit by the awful 2004 season, which can probably be seen as an aberration, as they've won 80+ games a season since then. However, during this time they have almost always underperformed their Pythagorean record, sometimes by as many as 8 wins. I think this shows that he has put together better teams than the Win/Loss record would dictate, which I think most people miss when discussing his relative success and/or failure.

All in all, when looking at him compared to his fellow GMs, I think Ricciardi stacks up pretty nicely. It's obviously difficult to ignore the lack of postseasons on his resumé, but if you look past that, he's probably in the middle of the pack.

Well, I don't think I can look at it any other ways. Next time out I'll try and sum it up as nicely as I can in some sort of conclusion.


Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 6

Parts I, II, III, IV, V

When looking at players that J.P. Ricciardi has traded away in his time as Toronto GM, it showed that he has a pretty good track record in not dealing away potentially great players. Sure, guys like Jayson Werth or Felipe Lopez might have looked good at times in a Blue Jays lineup, but neither of those guys would have pushed the team over the top in the past few seasons.

Obviously, though, you need to take a look at players who left by either free agency or who were just plain released.

The first big name that jumps out at you is Chris Carpenter. Carpenter, the 2002 Opening Day starter, suffered a shoulder injury and underwent surgery in September of that year. Knowing that he would miss the entire 2003 season, Ricciardi knew he couldn't afford to tie up too much of his payroll in an injured pitcher and offered him a minor league deal in order to keep him in the fold. Carpenter rejected it and instead signed with the Cardinals. Upon debuting with the St. Louis team, Carpenter quickly became one of the best pitchers in the National League. Although his 2004 season was also cut short by injury, he rebounded in 2005 to win the NL Cy Young award. He had another stellar 2006 campaign, helping the Cards win the World Series. However, injuries limited him to just 4 appearances combined in '07 and '08, though he has rebounded nicely this season. While it does sting to wonder 'what if' when thinking of a rotation lead by Halladay and Carpenter, with a limited payroll at the time, Ricciardi couldn't afford to tie too much of it up in a player who wasn't going to throw one pitch that year. Ultimately, this one was likely out of his hands, and it's hard to blame him when it would have been detrimental to the team to use up so much of his resources on someone who wasn't going to play.

Also after the 2002 season, another pitcher left town. Esteban Loaiza, who underachieved in his 2+ years with the Jays, signed with the White Sox. While Loaiza would go on to have a great 2003, starting the All-Star game and finishing 2nd in Cy Young voting to Roy Halladay, he was his usual mediocre self after that, bouncing around to the Yankees, Nationals, A's, Dodgers, and, finally, back to the White Sox before being DFA'd, and he is currently without a team. While Loaiza would have looked good on the '03 Jays team that was short on pitching, letting him go was a no-brainer, even if it just meant getting rid of his salary at that point.

Another minor transaction that took place around this time was the waiving of Brandon Lyon. Lyon has gone on to have a decent career out of the bullpen, even acting as a closer at some points, but relief pitching hasn't been a major area of weakness for the Jays in the past few seasons, so not having someone like Lyon out of the 'pen hasn't hurt the team at all.

Lefthander Scott Eyre was also waived during the '02 season, and has had a decent career as a LOOGY, even somehow garnering an MVP vote in 2005.

Picked up off waivers from Texas to eat up some innings in the rotation in 2003, Doug Davis was released after 12 Blue Jay appearances and quickly signed with Milwaukee. After a few decent seasons in Wisconsin, he signed with the Diamondbacks and has been a good starter for them, as well. While he may have looked like a good option in the rotation at points from '04-'06, good starting pitching hasn't been a huge concern of Toronto's lately.

Following the '03 season, there was much turnover in the Jays pitching staff. The biggest name to leave was Kelvim Escobar. Looking very good once he moved into the starting rotation out of the closer's role, Escobar signed with the Angels. After a decent '04 year, injuries caused him to miss most of 2005, though he rebounded with two very good seasons in '06 and '07. However, injuries continue to dog him, as he missed all of 2008 and has only pitched 5 innings so far in 2009. While it obviously would have been nice to see him in the Jays rotation when he was healthy, allowing Escobar to walk also gave the Blue Jays the 83rd pick in the 2004 draft as compensation, a pick they used to take Adam Lind.

The other starting pitcher to leave town as Corey Lidle. After a 12-15 season, he signed with the Reds before a late season trade sent him to Philadelphia. After almost 2 average seasons as a Phillie, he was traded at the deadline to the Yankees. Before his death, Lidle appeared in 10 regular season games for New York (and pitched an inning and change in their division series loss to the Tigers). The Jays had better rotation options once Lidle left town, and was basically only in Toronto that one year to eat innings (which he did, nicely).

Also jumping ship after 2003 was reliever Trever Miller. After leading the AL in appearances in '03, Miller signed with Tampa Bay. He's bounced around a bit, playing with Houston, Tampa again, and is with St. Louis this year, and has usually been a decent option out of the 'pen.

The obvious biggest name to leave Toronto during Ricciardi's term is Carlos Delgado, who left after 2004. Ricciardi made a token offer to try and keep him, but the team's payroll at the time wasn't enough to pay him what he was worth. After signing with the Marlins, where he spent a year before they traded him to the Mets, Delgado has done what he's done his whole career when healthy: Hit 30-40 home runs and drive in 100 runs. Although he's been injured for most of this year, Delgado's bat would have looked great in the Jays' clean-up spot these past few seasons.

It would be a few years before someone who had been an important part of the team would leave town via free agency again. Following 2006, starting pitcher Ted Lilly tested the free agent waters. Turning down an offer to stay in Toronto, he signed with the Cubs. He's been good in his first 2 full seasons in Chicago, helping the Cubs win the division both years.

Relief pitcher Justin Speier also left town following 2006, signing with the Angels. While he had a very good first season with the Halos, he's been not-so-good since then. Again, bullpen depth hasn't really been a problem for the Jays since Speier left town, so he probably wouldn't have been worth the money it would have cost to keep him in town. Also, one of the compensation picks they received for him was used to draft Brett Cecil, who appears to have a bright future.

The final 'big' name to skip town was Frank Catalanotto. Cat was a solid citizen in Toronto, getting on base at a good clip and playing all over the field. However, he was squeezed out of a spot in Toronto and signed with Texas, where his production and playing time dropped off. Currently, he's in Milwaukee.

Prior to the start of the '08 season, outfielder and high sock aficionado Reed Johnson was released. He caught on with the Cubs, where he had a decent season and (to hear it from some people) was the main reason the Cubs won the NL Central that year. While Johnson had a very good 2006 season, the numbers over his career pointed to the conclusion that he couldn't be an everyday player. While his replacement, Shannon Stewart, obviously wasn't the answer, with guys like Lind and Snider around now (or in the near future, at least) able to play leftfield, Johnson wasn't needed.

The final big name who left of his own accord has been A.J. Burnett. After using the opt-out clause in his contract after 3 seasons, Burnett signed with the Yankees for big money. While it's still early on in his deal, he's having a very good season in New York and it would have helped the Jays a lot to have had him in their injury depleted rotation this year.

So far, these are the only guys to have left town during Ricciardi's tenure who have performed at least decently elsewhere. While you could make a very good team out of the players here, by and large, the situation at the moment dictated that letting these guys walk was the best move (a few exceptions, obviously).

I think I'll finally wrap this up next time, where I'll do my best to compare Ricciardi to some of his contemporary general managers and see how he stacks up there.


Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 5

Back to it. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Once hired, Ricciardi was given the task of shedding payroll and trading off the team's highest paid players.

In his first off-season, made 4 big trades. Players sent out were Billy Koch, Alex Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill, Cesar Izturis, and Brad Fullmer. While no one who came to the Jays in return had much value (aside from Eric Hinske's great rookie season), these trades were made more with the intention of getting rid of high priced veterans.

Koch, the team's closer, was coming off 3 straight 30+ save seasons, his first 3 seasons in the majors. He was shipped off to the A's in the trade that brought Eric Hinske to the Jays. After a good season in Oakland, he was then traded again, this time to the White Sox in exchange for Keith Foulke. He was not the same pitcher, though, as he had the worst numbers of his career in 2003, lost his closer job and was traded to the Marlins in 2004. He was picked up by the Jays for the 2005 season, but was cut during spring training and hasn't appearing the big leagues since, mostly due to the Morgellons syndrome that he and his family was diagnosed with.

Alex Gonzalez, the team's regular shortstop since 1995, was next out the door. Sent to the Cubs, Gonzalez posted about the same numbers in his first few years in Chicago as he had during his Toronto stint. However, he booted an easy double play ball in the 8th inning of game 6 of the 2003 NLCS versus Florida in a play massively overshadowed by the Steve Bartman incident. His play dropped off after this, and at the 2004 trade deadline he was sent to Montreal as part of a 4-team trade that sent Orlando Cabrera to Boston and Nomar Garciaparra back to the Cubs. A few weeks later, he was sent to San Diego before spending the 2005 season in Tampa Bay and appearing in a handful of games for the Phillies in '06 before retiring. A brief comeback in 2007 saw him play a few games in AAA before he retired for good.

Quantrill was coming off of an all-star season and the set-up man was the league leader in appearances. His 2 seasons as a Dodger were very good, as he was a valuable right-handed set-up guy out of the bullpen for Los Angeles, bridging the gap to Eric Gagne. He then signed as a free agent with the Yankees. However, he was probably overused by Joe Torre, as his numbers fell off during his first year in New York and he bounced around between 3 teams in 2005 before retiring after playing for Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The second player sent to the Dodgers was shortstop Cesar Izturis. In a brief stint in Toronto in 2001, Izturis provided solid fielding, but his hitting was lacking. His career since then has remained about the same. While winning a Gold Glove in 2004 and making the All-Star team for the Dodgers in '05, since the trade his OBP has been .299 and he has slugged only .327. Again, this might be the worst trade on Ricciardi's resume, as both players (especially Quantrill) had value at the time, and the return to the Blue Jays was almost non-existent.

Brad Fullmer was the next player sent his walking papers. In his 2 seasons in Toronto, he hit 50 home runs and had an OPS of .832. Traded to the Angels, Fullmer hit 19 home runs for the eventual World Series champions, but injuries eventually caught up with him, as he averaged only 69 games a year in '03 and '04 with Anaheim and then Texas before retiring.

None of the players shipped out during the off-season went on to have long, prosperous post-Blue Jay careers, so the lack of good players in return doesn't sting too much. Cesar Izturis is the only one of these players still in the big leagues.

In the first few months of the '02 season, pitchers Pedro Borbon and Dan Plesac were also traded. Both were done with baseball after the 2003 season. Raul Mondesi was also gone, sent to the Yankees. He bounced around a few teams in the next few years, last appearing in 41 games for the Braves in 2005. Again, nothing of great value was brought back in return, but as none of the players going the other way spent much more time in the league, it didn't hurt too much.

That off-season, infielder Felipe Lopez was sent to Cincinnati in a 4-team trade that brought pitching prospect Jason Arnold to Toronto. Not a salary dump this time, but in 134 games in a Jays uniform in parts of 2 seasons, Lopez's OBP was only .293 and didn't provide the offense that Ricciardi was looking for. Lopez's career has been up and down, and, at times, he has been a very good offensive shortstop at times (making the All-Star team in 2005 while hitting 23 home runs for the Reds). Arnold, on the other hand, never reached the majors and quit baseball after the 2006 season. With the revolving door the Jays have had a shortstop in the past 5 or 6 years, Lopez, at times, might have looked like nice in a Blue Jays uniform.

Shannon Stewart was traded during the 2003 season, prior to his Blue Jays contract expiring. While he had a very good half-season in Minnesota, helping spark the Twins to a division title, he declined after signing a new contract with his new team. A brief return to Toronto in '08 lasted only 52 games and he is currently without a team. The trade brought Bobby Kielty to Toronto, who was then traded to Oakland that off-season for Ted Lilly.

Jayson Werth appeared in 41 games for the Jays in the 2002 and '03 seasons, hitting 2 home runs. With a glut of outfielders, he was deemed expendable and sent to the Dodgers in return for reliever Jason Frasor. As mentioned in an earlier post, Frasor has been a dependable bullpen arm for the most part, while Werth showed promise in his 2 seasons with LA before injuring himself and being released. He has flourished with a starting role in Philadelphia and had a very good World Series, helping the Phillies beat the Rays and win it all in '08.

Mark Hendrickson was also sent packing that off-season, as he wound up in Tampa Bay. He has been perfectly mediocre since, usually posting ERAs in the mid-4s to the high-5s. With the starting pitching talent the Jays have had since then, he hasn't really been missed.

The next notable names sent packing were Dave Bush and Gabe Gross, who went to Milwaukee in the Lyle Overbay trade. Bush has been mediocre, as well, in his time in Milwaukee, and would probably not fit into the Jays starting rotation plans right now. Gross has been shown to have some pop in his bat, first with the Brewers and now with the Rays, but, like Werth before him, fell victim to the large amount of outfield choices the Jays had at the time.

Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson were shortly after that sent to Arizona in exchange for Troy Glaus. Batista hasn't performed well as a starter since the trade to the Diamondbacks and since his signing in Seattle. Hudson, on the other hand, really saw his hitting take off once out of Toronto. Although injury problems caused him to miss the end of the '07 and '08 seasons, he has finished with an OPS over .800 in every year since the trade. The emergence of Aaron Hill as an all-star 2nd baseman, however, takes the sting out of this one.

No one traded out of town since has done much of anything. Troy Glaus had a good first season in St. Louis and Matt Stairs had a big pinch hit home run in the NLCS that helped the Phillies beat the Dodgers, but neither of these 2 have the potential to haunt our dreams for years to come like the prospect of wondering how Michael Young would have done as a Jay does.

Now, obviously, trading away players is only one part of it. Much like I did earlier with the signing of players, next up, I'll take a look at the players Ricciardi allowed to leave via free agency.


Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 4

Un, Deux, Trois

J.P. Ricciardi has presided over 8 drafts as General Manager of the Blue Jays. The baseball draft, probably more than any other sport, is a crapshoot. Couple that with the large amounts of money that some players (read: Scott Boras's clients) demand and the better players aren't necessarily the ones that go earliest in the draft. In spite of this, though, the draft is obviously one of the most important parts of the baseball season for the GM and can definitely make or break them.


In the first round, shortstop Russ Adams was taken with the 14th overall pick. Adams progressed quickly through the minors and made his big league debut as a September call-up in 2004. He impressed, knocking 4 home runs in only 78 plate appearances. Hopes were high heading into 2005, but Adams failed to deliver. Aside from a grand slam hit off of Jonathan Papelbon late in the '07 season that Jamie Campbell likes to bring up whenever Adams' name is mentioned, his Toronto career never amounted to anything. After a brief 17th chance earlier this season, Adams was released and is now in the Padres system.

The second round saw pitcher David Bush picked with the 55th pick. Bush would be called up in 2004 also and was inserted into the starting rotation. He acquitted himself nicely, with a 5-4 record and 3.69 ERA in 16 starts and was penciled into the rotation for 2005. He fell off a bit, however, as his ERA went up almost a run. The following off-season, he was included in the deal that brought Lyle Overbay to Toronto and has had mixed results in the Milwaukee rotation ever since.

Only 4 other players picked by the Blue Jays have seen the majors. Adam Peterson appeared out of the bullpen in 3 games in 2004, putting up a 16.88 ERA in only 2.2 innings. Peterson was then traded to Arizona in exchange for Shea Hillenbrand and has not pitched in a big league game since. Jason Perry, selection number 176, was sent to Oakland in a minor deal that sent John-Ford Griffin to the Blue Jays and eventually ended up in the Atlanta organization. The outfielder appeared in 4 games for the Braves in '08. Drafted in the 18th round, reliever Jordan De Jong had a cup of coffee with the Jays in '07, pitching in 6 games. Finally, right hander Dewon Day who was the 776th young man selected in 2002 spent some time in the White Sox bullpen in 2007 and posted an ERA in the 10s.

From a talent standpoint, this probably wasn't a great start for Ricciardi. No late round hidden gems and his first first rounder never panned out. However, flipping Bush into a useful part like Overbay and Peterson into Hillenbrand into Jeremy Accardo take some of the sting out.

Of course, part of rating a draft is looking at who he didn't take. Notables taken before the Adams pick include B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, and Joe Saunders. Players that were still available when the Blue Jays picked that were also taken in the first round include Scott Kazmir (who was drafted immediately after Adams), Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, James Loney, and Matt Cain, among others. Looking at names like Kazmir, Hamels, and Cain hurts, but both were high school pitchers and the Blue Jays at the time were not going to take a chance on such a player. College players like Swisher and Joe Blanton, however, would have been nice upgrades over what the team received from Adams.


Ricciardi's second draft saw his team picking 13th over-all, a pick he used to draft another shortstop, Aaron Hill out of LSU. Hill was first called up in 2005 and played all over the infield, including 35 games at third base in place of the injured Corey Koskie. His numbers continued to rise (aside from an injury shortened '08 year), and he has put together a very solid 2009 year so far, setting a club record already with 20 home runs at second base and making his first all-star team.

A pitcher was taken in the 2nd round with the 50th pick as Josh Banks was welcomed into the Blue Jay family. Banks would appear in 3 games in 2007, starting 1, and was waived during the '08 year. Picked up by the Padres, he was released by them on his birthday this season.

Another pitcher was selected in the 3rd round with the 80th pick. Shaun Marcum was drafted out of Missouri State and was a solid member of the team's starting rotation in 2007 and most of '08 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He appears to be on track for a return at some point late this season.

Three more selections from this draft have appeared in bigs. RHP Jamie Vermilyea (260) appeared in 2 Blue Jay games in '07 and is currently a free agent. Tom Mastny (320) was traded to Cleveland in the John McDonald trade and had a 6.13 ERA in 80 games over 3 season with the Indians and is now playing in Japan. Finally, Ryan Roberts (530) appeared in 17 games combined for the Jays in 2006 and 2007 as a utility player and has caught on in Arizona in that role this season.

Both Hill and Marcum have been solid major leaguers so far, with only injuries slowing them down. Although Marcum provides good quality for a 3rd round pick, there were also no diamonds in the rough uncovered in this draft, either.

Looking at the first round overall, Hill may be one of the best picks. Top notch fielding and very good offense from a middle infielder, he ranks right up there with other hitters taken like Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, while no pitchers taken have really stood out yet, aside from Chad Cordero (who hasn't pitched since early 2008) and maybe Chad Billingsley


This year, armed with the 16th pick in the draft, David Purcey was taken in the first round. Purcey has posted solid numbers in the minors, and has had some very good starts in the majors, but has yet to put it all together.

Zach Jackson was taken in the sandwhich round with the 32nd pick as compensation for Kelvim Escobar signing with the Angels. Jackson was another part of the trade that brought Lyle Overbay to the Jays, and has yet to catch on in the majors, pitching in 22 games over the past few seasons with a 4-5 record to show for it.

The second round saw catcher Curtis Thigpen selected with the 57th pick. Thigpen spent some time in '07 and '08 as the Jays back-up catcher, posting an OPS of .586 and was sent packing to Oakland before the start of the '09 season.

Adam Lind was then drafted in round 3 with the 83rd pick (also a compensation pick from Anaheim). Lind impressed in a brief September audition in '06, took a slight step back in '07, but really took off once Cito Gaston was brought in as manager midway through the '08 campaign. He has 30 home run potential and could hopefully be a middle of the order threat for the team for years to come.

Casey Janssen (117) and Jesse Litsch (717) are the only 2 other players from that draft class who have appeared in the big leagues. Although both have suffered from various injuries, both have proved to be decent picks, especially Litsch.

Although guys like Thigpen and Jackson didn't pan out, being able to include Jackson in a trade for a good player like Overbay looks nice. Also, picking up the Litsch that deep into the draft, the 24th round, was the first late round pick that paid off for Ricciardi.

Notables taken in the first round prior to Purcey that year include Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and Stephen Drew. Superior players taken after the Jays drafted include Philip Hughes, J.P. Howell, and Huston Street. Purcey still has potential to be a solid major leaguer, but with guys like Lind, Janssen, and Litsch having made contributions to the big club, this was a very decent year for the Jays.


Ricky Romero, a lefthander, was the team's first selection, 6th over-all. Although it appeared that Romero's career had stalled in the minors, he has broken through this season and is a leading contender for American League Rookie of the Year.

The only other draft pick from this class that has appeared in the bigs so far is Robert Ray. It's too soon to tell if he'll be a solid player, however.

The success of this draft hinges almost completely on Romero. Looking at the players taken before him, guys like Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ryan Braun have all been All-Stars. Also, the player taken directly after him was Troy Tulowitzki, a shortstop in Colorado who had a tremendous rookie season and helped the Rockies to the World Series in '07 and it's been said that then-Assistant GM pushed hard to draft him, but was overruled. However, injuries hampered Tulowitzki's sophomore season (although he has bounced back nicely this year). Unfairly or not, Romero will be judged on his success compared to Tolowitzki and the decision on whether or not it was the proper pick may be debated for years.


'06's first pick came 14th over-all and was outfielder Travis Snider. It was a departure for Ricciardi, as it was the first high school player he'd taken in the first round as Toronto GM. Snider would be called up late in the '08 season and had a good month of September, solidifying his place in the plans for 2009. He had a very good first few weeks of the '09 season, but then fell into a slump which saw him sent down to AAA. Snider has all the potential in the world and could very well be a 30 home run threat. There will be questions, though, that he was brought up too early, especially if he struggles again once brought back up.

Some very good talent like Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum was taken in the first round of this draft, although the only player taken after Snider who has made any sort of impact in the majors is Joba Chamberlain.


Armed with 2 first round picks, 16th and 21st over-all, the Jays took 3B Kevin Ahrens and catcher J.P. Arrencibia. Both project as top prospects in the organization

The next pick the team had was a supplemental pick, which was used to pick Brett Cecil with the 38th pick in the draft. Cecil is currently in the rotation in the big leagues and has had some decent starts mixed in with some not so good ones. The 145th round pick of the '06 draft, Brad Mills, has also seen some action in the major leagues, but struggled in 2 career starts and is currently in Las Vegas. The final pick from '07 who has appeared in the big leauges so far is Mark Rzepczynski, the 175th pick. He has also shown some potential and is currently in the starting rotation due to injuries.

The success of this draft will hinge on how well all the first round picks the team had fare. With Cecil the only one to appear in the majors so far, it's still too early to judge the success or failure of the '07 draft.


It's obviously far too early to judge this class just yet. In fact, Ricciardi may be long gone before we know how good or bad it ends up being.

The Jays farm systems seems to be ranked in the middle of the pack most places, so I guess that doesn't say a whole lot about Ricciardi's drafting ability. Although he has drafted some very good players like Hill and Lind and others with potential like Snider, Cecil, Romero, and others, it hasn't really translated to much at the major league level.

I think, overall, like much of Ricciardi's general managing career, he's been decent, at best, in the draft. With Russ Adams as the only really black mark on his record (so far).

Up next, we'll take a look at the players who Ricciardi has let leave during his time in Toronto.

Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 3

Part 1, Part 2

Signing the young talent on your team in is probably one of the most difficult tasks for a general manager. It's a delicate balancing act, not wanting to sign a young player long term to big money too soon in case their production drops off, but not wanting to wait too long and seeing them drive their price up too much. At least when signing a free agent, the player has spent enough time in the league and you, more or less, know what you're getting. This is where a GM can really make his name, so let's take a look and see how J.P. Ricciardi has done in his tenure in Toronto.

The 2002 Blue Jays team had two stand-out young performers, Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske. Wells hit 23 home runs, drove in 100 runs, and provided tremendous defense in centre field. Hinske topped Wells home run total by 1 and posted a .845 OPS on his way to becoming the AL Rookie of the Year. Prior to the following season, they were inked to similar 5-year deals. Wells would earn $14.7 million and Hinske $14.75 million from 2003-2007. At the time, this seemed like a no-brainer, as both players seemed to be cornerstones for an offense that was likely to lose Carlos Delgado following the 2004 season. And, while Wells numbers would drop of slightly following an amazing 2003 season, he was still providing stellar defense, winning three consecutive Gold Gloves in '04, '05, and '06 and was still no slouch at the plate, making his second all-star team in the '06 season on his way to posting very good numbers. Hinske, on the other hand, never lived up to the hype following his rookie year. A hand injury early into his sophomore season seemed to sap his power and his numbers fell for the next few seasons before he was moved across the diamond, from 3B to 1B, and then, eventually, into the outfield and was used mostly in platoon situations or as a left-handed bat off of the bench. While one would be hard-pressed to argue that the Wells signing was a mistake, the Hinske deal never worked out. However, it's very hard to blame Ricciardi for signing what looked to be a stud third baseman up after a very good season. The deal also never really hurt the team, as ownership would soon raise payroll.

The next big decision to cross Ricciardi's plate was what to do with staff ace Roy Halladay. Coming off winning the 2003 Cy Young award, he was inked to a 4-year/$42 million deal. Aside from a sub-par '04 year and an injury shortened '05 campaign, there is no question that this deal (and the subsequent 3-year/$40 million contract that was signed to cover 2008-10) is a feather in Ricciardi's cap. Halladay has been perhaps the best starting pitcher in baseball over the life of the contract and has provided it below market value. The fact that the dollar value is so low for a pitcher of his caliber is a main attraction in the trade rumours that now surround him and could potentially land another player in any deal that may be made.

While, as mentioned, the Eric Hinske experiment didn't end well and he was sent packing in a trade to Boston, Vernon Wells enjoyed a very good 2006 season and the possibility of the best offensive player on the team leaving after the contract ended in 2007 was very real. The buzz seemed to be that the Jays wouldn't be able to spend the money required to keep Wells in town long term, but they proved to be up to the task and a 7-year/$126 million dollar contract was signed. At the time, it was the 6th largest deal in baseball history and from the start, it was assumed that the Jays needed to overpay in order to keep their start player. However, the season after the contract was signed saw Wells posted the worst numbers of his career as he was hampered by injuries most of the year. 2008, the first year of the new deal, saw some injury problems (over 50 games missed), but Wells was probably the team's best offensive player when he was in the lineup. 2009 has seen his numbers decline again, though, and the contract is looking worse and worse by the day. This is to say nothing off the sharp decline in Wells defense, as some stats have him as the worst centrefielder in baseball, by far. A move to a corner outfield position may be in order, but it seems like that decision might be in the hands of Wells himself. While this contract is awful, and there is no way to sugarcoat it, there seems to be some talk that most of the contract talk was done with then-President Paul Godfrey (and, I think it's telling that Wells is seen shaking Ted Rogers hand in that picture). However, as Ricciardi is going to take the lion's share of the praise and/or blame on how the team performs, he has to take at least some of the scorn from this outrageously bad contract.

The next 2 big contracts handed out to young players were the ones signed by Alex Rios and Aaron Hill early on in the 2008 season. Rios's 7-year/$69.835 million deal and Hill's deal, which could be worth $38 million over 7 seasons were both seen as good signings at the time but Rios's play has declined in the season and a half since. However, with the emergence of Aaron Hill as an all-star in '09, the possibility of paying him $10 million in 2014 seems very palatable. It's probably too early to judge either contract, and while the Rios deal may end up hurting a bit, it's hard to see too many problems with Hill's so far.

Obviously, Well's 2nd deal will likely be an albatross that has the potential to harm the franchise in the future, but it seems Ricciardi has a done a decent job of locking up his team's young talent, as Wells, Halladay, and potentially Hill have earned their keep during the course of their first big deals.

Next up, the draft.


Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 2

Part 1 here.

After looking at the trades made during GM J.P. Ricciardi's tenure with the Jays, I found that, at worst, he had done a decent job. Nothing as terrible as trading away Michael Young for Esteban Loaiza, but nothing that would really cause his trading partner to want to take a cold shower the next morning.

Now, obviously, trades are just a part of putting together a team. How a GM spends ownership's dollars when signing free agents (and re-signing his own players) also goes a long way towards how he's viewed among fans, the media, and anyone else who might care.

As mentioned in part 1, when Ricciardi took over, he was given the task of cutting payroll and shipped many high priced veterans out of town in a series of cost-cutting moves. So, as can be expected, high profile free agent signings weren't on the agenda. Ken Huckaby was probably the biggest name to come in, and that's now mostly due to his crushing of Derek Jeter's shoulder on opening day in 2003.

However, once the '02 season was over and most of the expensive talent now playing elsewhere, the purse strings flew open and the money flowed. Mostly in the direction of Greg Myers and Mike Bordick, and the veteran catcher and shortstop both had decent seasons while making a combined $17.23. Obviously, neither of these were designed to be earth shattering, but both players contributed nicely to a surprising 83 win team. Also signed was pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, coming off an 18 loss season in Tampa Bay. Acquired mostly to eat innings, Sturtze didn't really help out there and was moved to the bullpen early on.

The biggest signing of that off-season was Frank Catalanotto. Signed because of his ability to get on base, Cat didn't disappoint in his 4 seasons as a Jay, providing solid production from both corner outfield positions and occasionally as the DH.

After a very good 2003, which saw a ton of hitting but not much pitching (aside from Roy Halladay's Cy Young year), money was spent on the pitching staff. In addition to trading for Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista and Pat Hentgen were signed to complete the starting rotation. Both were signed to very reasonable salaries, however the team stunk and it was clear that Hentgen didn't have it anymore, compiling a 2-9 record and a 6.95 ERA in his second go 'round in Toronto before calling it a career in July. Batista was only slightly better as a starter, before being moved to the bullpen and becoming the closer for the last stretch of 2004 and the entire 2005 season and then being traded to Arizona in the trade that brought Troy Glaus to the Blue Jays. Nothing here for J.P. to hang his hat on, but nothing you can point at that hurt the franchise long term, either. Also brought on board early in the year was Gregg Zaun after being released by the Expos. Zaun would spend the next 4 seasons as (mostly) the starting catcher and was generally solid.

The abortion of the '04 season went into an off-season that saw franchise player Carlos Delgado leave as a free agent, freeing up a lot of cash that hadn't been available previously. Most of this cash wasn't spent on free agents that winter, although there were three noteworthy signings. The first being Corey Koskie. The third baseman was brought in to replace (in part, at least) some of the offense lost by Delgado leaving. Unfortunately, his injury prone history from Minnesota followed him to Toronto as he only appeared in 97 games in his only season as a Jay, while posting the worst OPS of his career (.735) before being shipped to Milwaukee after the Jays acquired Troy Glaus. He would play only one more season in his career, as his injury woes continued and his career was ended prematurely with concussion problems. Also signed that off-season was reliever Scott Schoeneweis, who had a solid first season in a Blue Jay uniform before falling off in his second season and being sent to the Reds before the trade deadline.

What ended up as the most important signing of that off-season, however, was barely a blip on the radar at the time. Scott Downs was let go by the Expos/Nationals and was scooped up by the Jays. His first 2 seasons in Toronto were unspectacular as he was shuffled between the bullpen at the starting rotation, but once he was moved full-time to the 'pen, he took off. Serving as a top notch lefty set-up man to BJ Ryan (and then Jeremy Accardo and then Ryan again) before moving into the closer role this season, Downs has established himself as one of the best left-handed relievers in all of baseball. A great scrapheap pick-up for Ricciardi, and maybe the best signing of his career.

The next off-season saw the money dump truck really back up. Starter AJ Burnett and closer BJ Ryan were both signed to big money contracts, some of the biggest of that off-season, and catcher Benjie Molina was inked to a one-year deal just before Spring Training started. Molina had a decent enough season, hitting 19 home runs and posted numbers basically in line with what he had done with the rest of his career.

The big 2 signings, obviously, were Burnett and Ryan. Burnett signed a 5-year/$55 million contract and was to form an awesome 1-2 punch in the rotation with Roy Halladay. In the first 2 seasons of the contract, he definitely showed flashes of brilliance, but had some injury problems and missed between 10-12 starts in both seasons. In the third season of the contract, he was finally healthy and had some dominant stretches, leading the AL in strikeouts. It was after this season, that he used the opt-out clause that he was given in the deal, and signed an even bigger contract with the Yankees. This signing is a hard one to judge, I think. Yeah, the opt-out clause in hindsight hurts it, but there's likely an argument to be made that the Blue Jays never sign Burnett in the first place without that clause. However, there's a counter-argument to be made that signing Burnett in the first place was a waste of money, as it never got them into the playoffs. I don't think you can really call it a good signing, but it wasn't a bad one, either. It's a push.

Second on the list of big signings that year was closer BJ Ryan. Coming off of 2 tremendous seasons in Baltimore, the Jays signed him to the biggest contract ever signed by a reliever to that point. The first season of the deal saw Ryan make the All-Star team and post a great 1.37 ERA (although his strikeout numbers dropped a bit). After one season, it looked like it would be, at least, a decent signing. Yeah, the money was a lot (5-years/$47 million), but he was a dominant closer on a team that was in need of one. Then, the wheels fell off. After not having a good Spring Training, he had a terrible first few weeks of the season before having the dreaded Tommy John surgery and missing the rest of the '07 season and the start of the '08 campaign. When he did return in '08, he was still a decent pitcher. Obviously, not the dominant one he was prior to the injury, but he was still striking out a batter an inning (although, that was still way down from his peak years of 2004-2006) and still had a sub-3.00 ERA. Not spectacular and in no way worth the value of his contract, but still a serviceable reliever. The wheels fell off again in '09, as Ryan never looked good and lost his closer spot in the early going. Things got so bad that he was usually the last choice out of the bullpen and was released, with the Jays still owing him upwards of $15 million dollars. In hindsight, obviously, this is an awful signing. And, while it didn't even look like it would be a good one before the ink dried, Ryan filled a need on a team that was hoping to contend and someone, somewhere, would have signed him to a big money contract, so it's hard to fault Ricciardi too much for being the one that did. But still, this is the worst free agent contract that the Jays have handed out during the Ricciardi era.

The biggest splash the Jays made in the '07 off-season was signing aging slugger Frank Thomas to be their DH. Coming off a renaissance season in Oakland, hitting 39 home runs for the A's, Thomas was close to reaching the 500 home run plateau. Although his numbers declined almost completely, the Big Hurt was still one of the best offensive players on the Jays that season. However, after a slow start to the 2008 year, he was sat, in order to keep his vesting options, which would have triggered an extension for 2009, from happening. This didn't sit too well with Thomas and he was soon released, with the Jays eating his salary for the rest of the year. Again, like the Ryan signing, this doesn't look good in hindsight. But, again, at the time, it filled a need on a team that was hoping to contend.

Another good scrapheap pick-up that season was Matt Stairs. Signed to a minor league deal, he posted a .917 OPS while filling in in the outfield and at first. He was re-signed to a 2-year deal after that season, but was then sent to the Phillies at the trade deadline, where he hit a big home run in the NLCS against the Dodgers and eventually won a World Series.

The biggest signing before the '08 season was of former World Series MVP, shortstop David Eckstein. Signed to a 1-year deal, Eckstein played only 76 games in Toronto before being sent to Arizona. Eckstein was probably over-payed ($4.5 million), but Ricciardi wasn't convinced that John McDonald could be an everyday shortstop and saw a low-risk option in Eckstein. I put this contract in the same basket as the Molina one. It didn't hurt the team, but it didn't help the team, and I can't blame a GM for trying to improve a position (even if it was only slightly).

Shannon Stewart was also picked up that off-season. Returning to his first team, and making $1.5 million, played only 52 games before getting hurt and, eventually, getting cut from the team. A lot of fans point to this as a bad signing, as it was followed by Reed Johnson leaving town, but the numbers at the time said that Stewart was a better hitter for the role the Jays were trying to fill.

Finally, Rod Barajas was brought in as the back-up catcher, behind Gregg Zaun. Barajas outperformed Zaun and worked well with the pitching staff and was promoted to starter. While not having great numbers, Barajas has shown to have a bit of pop in his bat and has done what the Jays have asked of him, making him a decent signing.

As has been well documented, the Jays were the only team in MLB not to sign a major league free agent before the '09 season. A small number of minor league contracts were handed out, most notably to Kevin Millar.

In all, looking at the big free agent moves that Ricciardi has made, I think he's in the red. The biggest signings (Burnett, Ryan, Thomas) have all come back to hurt him in the end. Now, granted, it's very hard to compare one GM's signings to another's, as you need to take into account payroll limits, needs, and other things, but I think he at least gets some points for trying.

Next up, I'll take a look at how he's spent ownership's money on re-signing his own players.


Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 1

The prevailing though among most Blue Jays fans seems to be that the General Manager, J.P. Ricciardi, is not very good at his job. I guess that's to be expected, though, when every other GM hired since he took over in Toronto in 2002 has at least made the playoffs once.

If you compare Ricciardi to other GMs in the division, it's not favourable, obviously, as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein have both lead their teams to the post-season multiple times and have World Series rings. And any payroll excuses that Ricciardi may have used have gone out the window when Andrew Friedman and the Rays won the division and went to the World Series last season. Even Orioles GM Andy MacPhail has the Erik Bedard for Adam Jones and others trade to hang his hat on. Basically, I guess this is a roundabout way or saying that I can see where at lot of Ricciardi's detractors are coming from. However, I think looking just a little bit deeper, things look better for him.

I don't think there's a scientific way of comparing the relative success of one GM versus another, there are just too many variables (like schedule, for example). I'll try and put my best foot forward, though, in explaining why I think Ricciardi is a pretty decent GM and not worthy of most Jays fans scorn.

(First of all, thanks to MLB Trade Rumors and their J.P. Ricciardi - GM Trade History spreadsheet)

After being hired in late 2001 and being told to drop payroll, he made a series of cost-cutting trades, the most notable being shipping Bill Koch out to his former employers, Billy Beane and the Oakland A's, for pitcher Justin Miller and minor league third baseman, Eric Hinske. Hinske was being blocked in Oakland by Eric Chavez and the A's were in need of a closer with Jason Isringhausen signing with St. Louis. Hinske went on to have a great rookie season in '02 and was the American League Rookie of the Year before hurting his hand and never regaining the same form he displayed in his freshman year. Koch spent a year in Oakland before being shipped to the White Sox for Keith Foulke. At worst, this trade was a push Ricciardi and the Jays, as both teams got one good season out of the principals involved.

Other salary dumps in his first few months on the job include sending players like Alex Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill, Brad Fullmer, Dan Plesac and Raul Mondesi packing. Perhaps the biggest name to come back to Toronto in those moves was Cliff Politte, who was acquired in the Plesac deal from the Phillies, and who was decent for the Blue Jays in '02 before having a not-so-good 2003 season and leaving for the White Sox (where he was excellent in 2005 and a contributing member of a World Championship team that season).

After the 2002 season, the first legit major league player that he acquired was Cory Lidle, again from his friend and former employer, Billy Beane. Going the other way were 2 minor leaguers who never amounted to anything in the bigs (Christopher Mowday never made it out of the minors, Mike Rouse hit .165 in 49 games over 2 seasons with Oakland and Cleveland). Probably a push

Another big move during the '03 year was sending Shannon Stewart, who was heading towards free agency, to Minnesota in exchange for Bobby Kielty. While Stewart helped the Twins regroup from a slow start to the year and lead them to a Central division title, Kielty was after the season shipped off to Oakland, in another trade with the A's, for Ted Lilly. So, turning Stewart, a departing free agent, into a starting pitcher who went to the All-Star game in 2004 has to be seen as a good move for the Jays.

About a month after the Lilly trade, a three-team trade was made between the Jays, the Devil Rays, and the Rockies. The Jays shipped out Mark Hendrickson, who went to Tampa, and received Justin Speier from Colorado. The Jays easily won this deal, as Speier had 3 very good seasons as a Blue Jay and was an invaluable set-up man. Also, when he left as a free agent after the 2006 season and signed with the Angels, Ricciardi used the compensation pick he receieved to pick Brett Cecil, so the trade has even more potential to come out in favour of Toronto.

Another trade later that off-season saw Jayson Werth shipped out to the Dodgers with Jason Frasor coming back in return. While Werth has blossomed in Philadelphia, injuries (which caused him to miss the entire 2006 season) caused the Dodgers to release him and the Jays foresaw a logjam in the outfield in Toronto, with Vernon Wells entrenched in centre, with guys like Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson already around, and guys like Alex Rios and Gabe Gross knocking on the door and needed to clear things up a bit. Getting a serviceable reliever like Frasor was a solid move.

Over the next year, a few minor moves ensued. Perhaps the biggest was sending Adam Peterson to Arizona in exchange for Shea Hillenbrand. Peterson never amounted to much and Hillenbrand filled a need on the team, so you can't say that it was a bad trade.

The first 2 big trades that Ricciardi made were both in December of '05. Gabe Gross, Dave Bush, and Zach Jackson were sent to Milwaukee in exchange for Ty Taubenheim and Lyle Overbay. While Bush has shown brief flashes in his time with the Brewers and won their first playoff game since 1982 last season, he's been inconsistent since the trade. Gross is showing that he's probably not much more than a platoon player, but did have pretty good numbers with the Rays last year on the way to their American League championship. Overbay, on the other hand, had a very solid first season in a Blue Jays uniform before injuring his hand and never completely regaining his form (especially against lefties). However, he has continued to provide Gold Glove caliber defense, which has definitely helped the pitching staff. At worst, I put this at a push for the Jays, as Overbay probably hasn't lived up to expectations, but none of the guys going the other way have done anything out of the ordinary.

A few weeks later, the second big trade of that off-season was made, bring Troy Glaus over from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson. Hudson was coming off a Gold Glove season at second and would improve as a hitter while in the desert, while Batista had another mediocre season in Arizona before signing with Seattle, where he's gone back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. Glaus, on the other hand, had a very good first season in Toronto, making the all-star team and hitting 38 homers, giving the Jays their first big slugging threat since Carlos Delgado had left. Probably a win for the Jays, based on Aaron Hill stepping in at 2B and what the return for Glaus has been since his trade.

Acquiring Glaus made incumbent 3B Corey Koskie expendable, and another trade with the Brewers was made. Koskie was sent to Wisconsin in exchange for Brian Wolfe. Player for player, the trade isn't awful, considering the situation (especially considering Koskie's injury problems caught up with him and his career is now over, unfortunately, because of a concussion) and Wolfe has been, at times, a decent choice out of the bullpen. However, the Jays had to pay the majority of Koskie's contract, which may have hurt their chances at adding another player later on.

At some point in the 2006 season, Shea Hillenbrand's vagina became sandy. He wanted more playing time, despite not doing anything out of the ordinary to deserve any more than he had been getting, and when the team didn't send him a Congratulations card after he and his wife adopted a baby girl, challenged the entire clubhouse to a fight. He was quickly shipped to San Francisco, along with Vinny Chulk, with Jeremy Accardo coming back to the Blue Jays. Accardo was amazing in 2007, stepping in as closer when BJ Ryan went out for the season with Tommy John surgery. An injury last year slowed him down, but he's been decent since returning to the big club this season. Considering the circumstances around the trade, this has to be considered a big win for Ricciardi.

The last big trade (so far) on Ricciardi's resume, is the one that swapped third basemen with St. Louis. Glaus was sent to the Cardinals in exchange for Scott Rolen. While, during the first season, it might have been easy to put this one in the loss column. While Rolen wasn't necessarily having a poor season, injuries limited him to only 115 games while Glaus played nearly a full season and had 27 home runs while his old team needed someone to hit 2 on the final day of the season in order to have just one player reach the 20 homer plateau. However, Glaus has missed the entire 2009 season (so far, at least), while Rolen, apart from not having the home run power that he showed early on in his career, is having a tremendous season, both at the plate and on defense. It's looking like this will be another tally in the win column for Ricciardi and the Jays.

There are some other, smaller, trades that I didn't mention here. Trades like Matt Stairs to the Phillies, getting Marco Scutaro from the A's, or sending David Eckstein to Arizona have potential to go either way, but when you consider that maybe the worst trade that the Blue Jays have made since Ricciardi was hired was having to pay Milwaukee to take Corey Koskie, I'd say he has a pretty decent track record. The only knock against him I could see is that he hasn't made a huge steal of a trade, really ripping of another team, but I wonder how many GMs today have one of those on their record.

Anyway, this has gone on way longer than I originally intended, so I will continue this later, looking at free agent signings and trying to compare him against other GMs in the game today.


Players to Trade

Even my incurable optimism isn't enough to let me believe the Jays have any shot at doing anything this year. I hate seeing the team listed in the 'Seller' section of any trade deadline article, but reality is that's what they are, so I guess it doesn't hurt to take a look at what tradeable parts they have.

Marco Scutaro

The lead-off man is in the middle of a career season, even though his power has dropped off from the unsustainable April he enjoyed. He's WAY ahead of his career norms in basically every stat and, even though he has 'fluke' written all over him, hasn't really seemed to be slowing down (aside from the aforementioned home run pace he set early on) despite what you'd expect from the increase in playing time. I guess, when deciding on whether or not to deal him, JP's going to have to weigh what he'll be offered versus what he thinks the draft picks the team will get as compensation. I know this line of thinking backfired last year with Burnett, but the caliber of players and prospects that would be offered for Scutaro aren't likely to match up to the quality of offers he likely received for AJ.

Scott Rolen

He's still under contract next season at $11 million, so you'd have to wonder if any trade would involve paying a portion of that. Based on what I've heard, it would probably take something overwhelming for the Jays to part with their third baseman, although I guess the Red Sox are interested.

Alex Rios

Despite looking at what might be his worst season since '05, he still has some value. His defense and speed are still top notch, and obviously, the talent to hit 25+ home runs is in there somewhere. His contract is still pretty manageable, too, despite what some might say, but it might hinder any return the Jays could wish to get unless they're willing to pay some of it.


I'd like to think that Scott Downs isn't going anywhere, but he'd obviously get the best return, especially if there's a team out there desperate for a lefty set-up guy. Apparently there's interest in Jason Frasor, who's been pretty awesome this season apart from a few hiccups here and there. I don't know how much value guys like Carlson, League, or Accardo might have, but there are always teams looking to shore up their 'pens.

The only other players that I could see having value are guys untouchable (Hill, Lind, Romero) or untradeable (Wells).

I'm pretty sure I've covered everyone who could possibly be on their way out of Toronto, but I still feel like I'm forgetting somebody...


The First Half

So, going into the 2009 season, it was generally assumed that the Jays were never going to be contenders. For some reason, despite not having a reason to since Joe Carter's home run ball sailed over the left field wall in the '93 World Series, I am more optimistic with the Blue Jays than I am with anything else in my life. Because of this, I had convinced myself that the Toronto squad was much better than they were getting any credit for and were victims of the laziness of sports writers who didn't want to waste any more ink talking about the AL East beyond the mainstays (Boston, New York) and the '08 Cinderellas, the Rays, and they would prove everyone wrong.

And, through May 18th, I was vindicated. My Toronto Blue Jays were the surprise of the baseball world. With a 3-2 victory over the White Sox on that day, they were 13 games over .500, 3.5 games up on the 2nd place Boston Red Sox, and only one half game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in Major League Baseball. My eternal (and usually misguided) optimism had me wondering whether or not I should buy tickets to a Division Series game or wait and spend my money on ALCS tickets. Sure, I knew that they wouldn't play THIS good all season long. The patchwork pitching staff was sure to spring a leak or two here and there and guys like Aaron Hill, Macro Scutaro, and Adam Lind were sure to cool off a bit from their torrid paces that they began the season with. But, I didn't care. I was going to enjoy the ride, with all its bumps along the way, because at least they were going to make a statement that they were going to be players in the division all season long.

Well, so much for that. With a loss on May 19 to Tim Wakefield and his annoying knuckleball, the Jays have plummeted back down to Earth. That loss started a 0-9 road trip which knocked the team out of first place and since the high-water mark of 27-14, they have gone a terrible 17-32. In the American League, that is only (barely) ahead of Kansas City and is a few games better than the lowly Washington Nationals when taking all of baseball into account. To add to all this, the tailspin the team has gone into has lead to trade talks concerning perhaps the best pitcher in baseball and probably every Jays fan's favourite player, Roy Halladay.

Yet, despite all this, for whatever reason, I remain optimistic. I've grown to realize that my money probably won't be going towards post-season baseball tickets (unless I make a trip to Dodger Stadium), I keep moving closer to the realization that Doc's Hall of Fame plaque won't have "TORONTO, A.L., 1998-2016" and nothing else before listing all his career's accomplishments, and I know that another 4th place finish seems much more likely than any meaningful late season games.

I look at the team and it's easy to convince myself that they aren't as horrible as their .347 winning percentage over the past 49 games would suggest. I get just as frustrated as anyone else watching them lose completely winnable games, obviously, but I know (well, hope, anyway) that all the luck that went their way until that trip into Fenway that has seemingly pulled a 180 on them will even itself out and that an opposing outfielder won't make a near-perfect throw to cut down the potential winning run at the plate or someone will sneeze and push what might be a home run for the other team back towards the safety of an outfielder's glove.

Anyway, I'm already way into TL;DR territory (and on my first post!), but I guess I needed to vent a bit and provide a tiny bit of optimism into the abyss of pessimism (a lot of it deserved) that seems to be enveloping all the Blue Jays coverage these days.