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.

1 comment:

eyebleaf said...

Great post.

Just found this blog; need to read the other Ricciardi pieces. But I am a Ricciardi supporter.