August 11, 2009
So, that "non-story" about Alex Rios being claimed on waivers turned out to be quite the story in the end, didn't it?
Rios is off to the Chicago White Sox. I found out about his travels while on the treadmill. I nearly fell the fuck off.
Now that I've had some time to
have a few drinks collect my thoughts, first and foremost, it's still hard to believe the Toronto Blue Jays allowed their starting right fielder - a two-time all-star, a Blue Jay lifer since being drafted 19th overall in 1999 - to walk away for nothing in return. I wrote only two days ago that it would be unbelievably foolish to allow Rios to leave; that there was absolutely no way it was going down like this.
But I've changed my tune. And not only because I'm a J.P. Ricciardi apologist. While it hurts to see Rios go, it was the right move for him to be "awarded" to the White Sox. Toronto was presented with an opportunity by Chicago's Ken Williams, and it was one they had to take. I love Alex Rios. I believe in Alex Rios. But love is blind. He's not worth $12 million a season.
On the surface, sure, it looks brutal. I read The Mockingbird's take where "Jonny Hale ain't a damn thing changed" (as coined by Drew - LtB) points out that, according to The Hardball Times, the Blue Jays released an underrated fielder who, at an average of $11.7 million dollars a season, "is a bargain." So, I quite understand the angst towards Ricciardi.
(That being said, this notion that Ricciardi works alone in a small corner of the Rogers Centre, making these decisions all by his lonesome, is absurd, infuriating, and driving me batty. Much like the potential tradeage of Roy Halladay, I've no doubt the decision on Rios was an organizational move. It was too big not to be. If you're going to bash Ricciardi, bash his assistants, Tony LaCava and Alex Onthopoulos; bash Paul Beeston; bash Rogers. Bash them all. Not Ricciardi exclusively. Please, and thanks.)
However, I believe the market, down $47 million overall in club payrolls in 2009 versus 2008, will continue in that direction. No longer will the Alex Rios's of the world be worth $58.7 million over five years. That's Jason Bay type money.
We were all emotionally invested in Alex Rios, yet it's safe to say we all expected more. A player making that type of money has to have a career OPS+ higher than 104; has to have hit more than 24 home runs, and driven in more than 85 runs, in one season.
Bay's career OPS+ is 129; he's hit the 30 home run and 100 RsBI mark three times. His career OBP is .041 points higher than Rios's (.376 to .335). Rios is a better defender, with a better arm, and more speed, but I believe Bay is the better overall player. Bay's taking home $7.8 million in 2009, and will likely hit the free agent market this winter. Flip their contracts, and I think you've got a market that makes a whole lot more sense.
There will be no more waiting for Alex Rios. He and Vernon Wells were to be the offensive core of this team; it didn't work out. And there was only one moveable contract between the two of them. Bottom line: I believe the Jays figured they'd eventually, via a trade, have to pay for Rios to play on another team; that's why he's no longer a Blue Jay today. Like it or not, the offensive torch has been passed on to Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, with Travis Snider, the right fielder of the future, waiting in the wings. And I've got no problem with that.
The Blue Jays did receive something for their prized right fielder, who's never posted an OPS above .865 in his six seasons with the team, and I'm sure your already very familiar with the term: financial flexibility.
More financial flexibility. Gone is the remainder of Rios's near-$60 million contract, to add to the $11 million shed in trading Scott Rolen. In 2010 alone, Ricciardi, and his fine support staff, have shed more than $20 million, while adding only Edwin Encarnacion's ($4.75 million) and Josh Roenicke's ($1 million and change) salaries to their MLB payroll. (I'm a dreamer, but here's hoping the $15 million allocated to B.J. Ryan in the 2010 budget is available to fill other holes in the roster. That's more than $30 million to spend next year - Doc's last hurrah.)
Do the Jays have a chance to compete in 2010? As an eternal optimist, you know I think they do. (I think they're still in it this year. After last night's win, if the boy can win their next eight versus New York, Tampa Bay and Boston, they're right back in this thing. Playoffs!1) The pitching is there, and I'm assuming Roy Halladay is Blue Jay come opening day. The same goes for Marco Scutaro. I can support an outfield of Lind, Wells, and Snider. And while it's probably the complete opposite direction the team should be moving in, I'd be all over an incentive-based contract to bring Carlos Delgado back home as the designated hitter. (I'm a sucker for nostalgia.)
If the payroll stays in the $80 million to $100 million range, and I believe it will, Rios had to go. I think it's worth the gamble to have money to play with in a downward trending market, so Toronto can find it's own Bobby Abreu. (Five million!!1 Unbelievable.).
Think of it this way: not including arbitration eligible players, post 2010, the only Blue Jays owed loot are Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells. Financial flexibility for Alex Rios? Sold.
As Stoeten points out over at Drunk Jays Fans, this could be Paul Beeston, and J.P. Ricciardi, setting the table for the next Blue Jays president and, subsequently, next Blue Jays general manager. Ricciardi's come out and said that if they're tearing it down again, he won't be the man to try and rebuild it. So, in essence, Ricciardi might very well be going down as a martyr. What a man. What a hero.
UPDATE: According to Jeff Blair, everything is fucked, and we're all fucked along with it.