THE CANADIAN PRESS
J.P. Ricciardi’s eight-year run as GM of the Toronto Blue Jays ended Saturday with his firing. Here’s a look at some his best and worst decisions at the Jays’ helm.
RHP Roy Halladay’s contract extensions – Ricciardi got arguably the best pitcher in baseball to twice sign below-market deals, first a US$42-million, four-deal in 2004 and then a $40-million, three-year deal in 2006 that carries him through next season.
CF Vernon Wells’ first contract extension – In the spring of 2003, Wells agreed to a $14.7-million, five-year deal that carried him through ’07 and saved the team plenty of money. Unfortunately, that signing was paired with a $14.75-million, five-year deal for Eric Hinske that negated those savings.
2B Aaron Hill’s contract extension – A cost-effective $12-million, four-year deal with a unique option structure that allows the Blue Jays to add one, two or three years to the back end of the contract.
OF Frank Catalanotto – Cut by Texas, Ricciardi signed him for $2.2 million and got four strong seasons from him in return. Then when he left, the Jays received two picks (3B Kevin Ahrens and SS Justin Jackson) in the ’07 draft as compensation.
The retreads – SS Mike Bordick, C Greg Myers, INF Chris Gomez, OF Matt Stairs, LHP Scott Downs and C Rod Barajas are among the players plucked off the scrap heap to have contributed a fine season or two.
CF Vernon Wells’ second contract extension – Few criticized the $126-million, seven-year deal handed out after the ’06 season, and in fact, some thought it might have been a bargain. He has yet to live up to the contract, but there’s too many years left to declare it the disaster it looks to be right now.
DH Frank Thomas’ $18-million, two-year deal plus a vesting option – It was the $10-million vesting option (linked to a statistical threshold) for 2009 that led to Thomas’ angry release last April, as the Blue Jays saw his rapidly deteriorating skill-set and couldn’t risk letting him reach the plate-appearance benchmark that would guarantee it.
LHP B.J. Ryan’s $47-million, five-year deal – Ricciardi’s first big free-agent signing, the addition was part of a rebranding of the team. Ryan was good in ’06, was injured in ’07, had a so-so ’08 and then fell off the map this year, leading to his release and a $15-million writeoff. Ouch.
3B Corey Koskie’s $17 million, three-year deal – The Anola, Man., native spent just one miserable, injury-plagued season in Toronto before Ricciardi decided he needed an upgrade, and Koskie was pawned off on the Brewers, who also got $6.5 million to defray the contract’s cost.
RF Alex Rios’ contract extension – The $69-million, seven-year deal is another that still can’t be fully judged, but it sure doesn’t look good. At least Ricciardi managed to pawn this one off on the White Sox, who must find a way to focus his many talents. He’s said to have become lazy and indifferent once he got the big money, and his cursing at a heckling fan during a team charity event displayed his immaturity.
RHP A.J. Burnett’s $55-million, five-year deal – The last-minute opt-out included in this deal allowed Burnett to depart after a career year in 2008 and strike it even richer with the Yankees, who gave him an $82.5-million, five-year deal.
3B Eric Hinske and RHP Justin Miller from Oakland for RHP Billy Koch on Dec. 7, 2001 – The first of Ricciardi’s 42 trades, he landed Hinske, the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year, and Miller, who had one decent season, for Koch, who declined rapidly after a strong ’02.
3B Scott Rolen from St. Louis for 3B Troy Glaus on Jan. 14, 2008 – His hands tied after Glaus’ trade request, Ricciardi landed Rolen, who gave them a solid season and a half before he was flipped July 31st for 3B Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart, who both have potential upside.
SS Marco Scutaro from Oakland for INF Graham Godfrey and RHP Kristian Bell on Nov. 18, 2007 – Given the chance to play everyday, Scutaro performed at an all-star level, at essentially no cost. And if he leaves as a free agent, the Jays will get two draft picks for him.
INF Shea Hillenbrand from Arizona for RHP Adam Peterson on Jan 12, 2005 – Peterson never amounted to anything while Hillenbrand had an all-star season in Toronto before his blowup with manager John Gibbons in ’06; days later Hillendbrand was packaged with RHP Vinnie Chulk to San Francisco for RHP Jeremy Accardo, who saved 30 games in 2007.
OF Raul Mondesi and cash to the Yankees for LHP Scott Wiggins on July 1, 2002 – Moving the disgruntled player and most of his contract was like a gift from the heavens.
SS Cesar Izturis and RHP Paul Quantrill to the Dodgers for RHP Luke Prokopec and RHP Chad Ricketts on Dec. 13, 2001 – A deal partly motivated by the need to move money, the young Izturis blossomed into an all-star and Quantrill remained productive, while Prokopec’s arm blew out and Ricketts had no game.
RHP Jason Arnold from Oakland in four-way deal with Arizona and Cincinnati for SS Felipe Lopez on Dec. 15, 2002 – Lopez ended up with the Reds where he became an all-star, while Arnold never advanced beyond triple-A.
OF Bobby Kielty from Minnesota for OF Shannon Stewart and LHP David Gassner on July 16, 2003 – While Kielty was eventually traded for Ted Lilly, salvaging this one, he did little else with Toronto while Stewart helped carry the Twins to the post-season.
OF Adam Lind, 3rd round 2004 – A potential middle of the order presence for years to come was selected after a large crop of mostly mediocre players went before him.
2B Aaron Hill, 1st round 2003 – Chosen 13th overall, the all-star in hindsight might have been the No. 1 pick, with only Baltimore OF Nick Markakis, White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin and Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley making similar impacts.
OF Travis Snider, 1st round 2006 – Chosen 14th overall, with Tampa 3B Evan Longoria and Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum among those taken ahead of him, the 21-year-old is expected to become a franchise cornerstone in the near future.
RHP Jesse Litsch, 24th round 2004 – An organizational pick, Litsch won 20 games over his first two seasons before elbow surgery ended his 2009 after two outings. He’s a mid-rotation starter who should be a reliable innings-eater.
RHP Shaun Marcum, 3rd round 2003 – A true pitcher with the ability to carve up opponents, has the mentality to be a legit No. 2.
SS Russ Adams, 1st round 2002 – Ricciardi’s first draft pick as GM was compared to Walt Weiss, but flopped. Even worse, his presence in the system prompted Ricciardi to pass over Colorado SS Troy Tulowitzki in 2005, and how good would he look up the middle with Hill?
LHP Zach Jackson, supplemental 1st round 2004 – The 32nd overall pick in a weak top-end of the draft never lived up to his advanced billing, although the Jays managed to package him with Dave Bush and Gabe Gross to get Lyle Overbay from Milwaukee in ’05.