Time for Blue Jays to Fold JP Ricciardi's Hand for Him

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Time for Blue Jays to Fold JP Ricciardi's Hand for Him
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

JP Ricciardi reminds me of myself, although maybe not in the way you think.

 

The world in the last three or four years has seemingly been swept up in the craze that is competitive poker. I, unfortunately for my social life, have not.  Thus the reason I sit home and write about baseball.

 

I can clearly predict my poker game with striking accuracy. Hour one: play slow and see some hands. Hour two: Add to your chip stake. Anything after hour two: give away your chip stack like it has the plague because you’re bored and have lost the desire to play the game what so ever.

 

The Blue Jays have publicly stated that they are willing to listen to offers centered on former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.

 

Now, in the coming weeks this will be dissected to death. Who has the prospects to make the deal? Who has the money to pick up the rest of Roy Halladay’s contract, as well as offer a very lucrative extension? I am sure an extension will be part of any deal.

 

Whichever team potentially lands Halladay will quite honestly, have to be a contender as Roy has stated he likes playing in Toronto and if he is to be moved, winning is paramount for the big right-hander.

 

It won’t be the first blockbuster involving a stud pitcher we have seen lately. Actually quite the contrary, as in recent years we have seen similar deals, such as when the Indians netted four prospects for CC Sabathia, including top prospect Matt LaPorte, who has seen a little time with the Indians thus far in 2009.

 

In January of 2008 the Twins and Mets engineered a deal to ship ace Johan Santana to New York. In return the Twins received their current young center fielder Chris Gomez as well as pitching prospects Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

 

I am not about to rate these deals and talk about their successes and failures, but most would be hard pressed to say these weren't high-pressure deals. If you are any one of the GMs involved in these deals, you have to make sure that you get full value for the star, or that you don’t give up too much in the process.

 

In the case of Roy Halladay, if the Blue Jays make a deal they will be leaving it in the hands of JP Ricciardi. The same JP Ricciardi that has indicated that no matter what the outcome he may walk away from Toronto organization that has been under his watch since 2001.

 

So you have to wonder, is a guy that told a room full of season ticket holder, “my number 1 priority is to be a father, it’s not to be a GM” the right guy to be evaluating the trade that may make or break this franchise?

 

If everyone thinks back real hard, they’ll remember that the Cleveland Indians were in a similar situation with another veteran hurler in Bartolo Colon. When they shipped Colon to the Montreal Expos, they managed to get a king’s ransom back in the form of Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee, All-Star and Gold Glove winning outfielder Grady Sizemore, and Reds Gold Glover second basemen Brandon Phillips.

 

That’s the kind of deal the Blue Jays should get and their faithful following will look for. Unfortunately JP Ricciardi will not commit to the team past 2010 and does not have the track record of his mentor and friend Billy Beane when it comes to collecting prospects that become big time major leaguers.

 

My problem comes in putting complete faith in Ricciardi to pull off this major deal. He hasn’t shown that he has the ability or foresight as a GM to make this deal. He also has mentioned earlier that he is not committed to the Blue Jays as is indicated by his lack of interest in being the GM after his 2010 contract expires.

 

In 2001, JP Ricciardi arrived in Toronto fresh off being the Director of Player Personnel for the Oakland Athletics for four years. At the time, the Blue Jays were eight years removed from a playoff performance and Rogers Communications were looking to remain competitive well cutting payroll.

 

With Michael Lewis’ Moneyball all the rage and $1 American costing $1.5922 Canadian, Rogers turned to Ricciardi on November 14, 2001. They thought he could replicate Beane’s magic act of getting more for less out of the Oakland A’s through statistical evaluation.

 

In 2002 JP Riccardi’s Jays finished the season with a mark of 78-84 with a pay roll of $66,814,971 which was good enough for 13th in payroll and 3rd in the American League East. By 2005 Ricciardi had the Jays payroll down to $45,698,000 and still in third place with an 80-82 team.

 

Over the next three years Rogers loosened the budget constraints as the dollar rebounded, getting all the way up to $98,343,520 in 2008. In the seven years of Ricciardi he has managed to up the payroll over 100% and average 81 wins.

 

Although looking at JP the mistakes may not seem obvious, it becomes abundantly clear the ability to evaluate talent and make the big deal escapes him.

 

He has had little to no luck in the trade market in completing deals that clearly made the Blue Jays better in the long run. He has dealt away the likes of Jayson Werth and Orlando Hudson and in return managed to collect some decent parts, but clearly nothing that will make you sit up and go "wow."

 

In resigning his own free agents he has some how continuously convinced Roy Halladay to come back for extensions consistently below market value.

 

He followed that up with the seemingly poor assessment that allowed him to dole out $126 million over seven years to ex-superstar centerfielder Vernon Wells. The Jays are now in their second year of that seven-year deal and Vernon has an OPS of a .729 and is more than two years removed from his Gold Glove form.

 

He also handed out a lucrative contract extension to Alex Rios, who is looking at having his batting average and OPS fall for the fourth consecutive season.

 

Other baffling extensions include the one given to Lyle Overbay for four years and $24 million. Since signing that deal in January of 2007, Overbay has played 349 games, in which he’s managed 79 doubles and 34 home runs, while producing a sad stat line of .255/.345/.417 in the process.

 

Probably the worst of JP’s talent evaluation has been seen in the free agent market. His largest success to date has most certainly been versatile lead off man Marco Scutaro.

 

Unfortunately that is more than eclipsed by the buyouts of Frank Thomas and BJ Ryan. He also structured a deal that allowed AJ Burnett to walk away from the Jays after an 18 win season, going into a season where the Jays were already missing 40% of it’s starting rotation to injury.

 

I am not even so sure that JP Ricciardi is horrible general manager. I have to question the judgment of the Toronto Blue Jays allowing a guy that clearly has stated he is not committed to you beyond 2010, and doesn’t have a track record of brilliant deals, to make a trade that includes the best player on your team and one of the best players in your franchises history.

 

Clearly the Blue Jays have the most valuable chip in play during the month of July…I am just not sure allowing JP Ricciardi to do his job like I play poker after two hours is your best option.

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