Blue Jays GM Riccardi Outfoxes Naysayers

Brandon HeikoopSenior Analyst IJune 17, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 10:  Brett Cecil #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on May 10, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Now I am simply confused...

Listening to Toronto's AM 640 yesterday, the sub for Bill Waters was discussing the Blue Jays and taking calls about the Blue Jays. There seemed to be an ongoing theme that J.P. Riccardi did not know what he had in terms of arms in the system. This theme was coming as praise for the young arms in the Blue Jays system with the solid job they had done to this point.

The host mentioned that Jays fans had been told that there is not much in the cupboards, that the Jays were going into the season with five starting pitchers and needed health in order to be competitive.

The first issue is that this is simply obvious. Very few teams can afford to dig deep into the minors in order to cover up long-term injuries to their starting five. I would say that Baltimore, Boston, and San Francisco are two exceptions to the rule, with others being capable of replacing low-end starters, but having no hope of replacing top end starters.

That aside, I find this report to be conflicting with what another writer stated (one whom I ripped up) that the Jays had raised a white flag on the season prior to Spring Training. That is, the author of the aforementioned article mentioned that the Jays actually had nothing in the cupboards and in order to be competitive, should have spent money and draft picks to add proven starters.

However, quite the opposite has proven to be true—something I asserted. The host of the Bill Waters show on AM 640 should have taken Riccardi's inaction during the offseason as evidence that he had faith in the youth that had been coming through. Riccardi's big off-season splash to his rotation was bringing in Matt Clement and a minor signing was Bryan Bullington. Clement proved to be as useless as one could be, but Bullington has offered some nice organizational depth, even showing some of the promise that once made him the first overall pick.

To be honest, as someone who was quite familiar with the Jays system, I didn't walk away from this offseason unimpressed. I figured the rotation would be fine and signing free agents would have been useless.

My problem with the discussion on AM 640 is that Riccardi clearly knew what he had. Riccardi showed this by going against the author at Baseball Digest Daily and not wasting money and draft picks. If Riccardi did not know what he had, he would have went the route of Mark Shapiro and signed a David Dellucci-type player (to a long-term, Major League contract).

With over half the season remaining, the Jays have one of the deepest rotations in baseball. The club can comfortably go to its ninth or 10th starter, adequately replacing all but Roy Halladay. The big issue for Jays fans shouldn't be that Riccardi "doesn't know what he has", rather, it should be that Riccardi is going to have some difficult decisions to make for 2010.

That is, with Halladay, Dustin McGowan, and Shaun Marcum, more or less a lock to anchor the front three spots of the rotation, they also have to figure out what to do with youngsters David Purcey, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Robert Ray, and Brad Mills, converts Casey Jansen, Jeremy Accardo, and Brian Tallet, prospect Marc Rzepcynski, and "veterans" Scott Richmond and Bullington.

Oh, and Jesse Litsch along with 2009 draftees Chad Jenkins and James Paxton would be fringey September 2010 contributors.

While the names after Marcum will not blow anyones socks off, each one is plenty capable of being a high-quality fourth or fifth starter.

However, if Riccardi does not do anything, one voice in baseball will claim that he has raised the white flag, while the another will assert that going 10 or 11 deep by mid-June shows that Riccardi is clueless as to what he has.

I see both as Riccardi not wanting to spend on what he knows he already has. It is Riccardi understanding the market.