August 11, 2009

Adios Alex!!1




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.

Wrong. (Again.)

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.

Farewell, Alex.


25 comments:

Death By Leafs said...

Sorry to refute, but if he's such a martyr, then why wouldn't he just resign in protest instead of gutting the team he's been re-building? (Continually. For almost 8 years.)

Whatever draft/youth promises he came in with, and whatever organizational pressures he's dealt with (locking-in potential talent with one hand, cutting payroll with the other), the buck stops with the GM.
[[Look at the above statement: could almost exactly apply to JFJ, couldnt it? When his tenure mercifully comes to an end as well, we will - as in the NHL - be left with a rebuild that is just that many more years delayed.]]

I'm not saying that it is his fault, but a GM must be evaluated on his results. We have made zero post-seasons. We have played, to borrow Bob McCown's phrase, in zero meaningful games in September.
In fact, the only reason most of us have to track a Jays season is to see if Halladay can reach 20+ again... and even then JP managed to employ a guy for years who kept pulling Doc out of games to bless him with another ND.

I don't blame JP or think he's inept. But his draft prowess clearly did not extend to team management. I will never consider him a martyr nor shed a tear when his reign finally ends.

William said...

I don't think the Blue Jays have a prayer of competing this year. As such, a salary dump such as Rios makes sense if the team doesn't believe he is going to be the player they signed for all that money. As last year's market showed, there are bargains to be had (Abreu, Hudson) and in this new economy, there will be again. Let's just hope that doesn't lead to more like Kevin Millar.

I also agree that Ricciardi probably had some pressure to dump the salary, so blaming him is stupid.

QJays said...

I'll go with the pro-JP (or at least non-anti-JP) sentiments, though I do find it odd that this is the best they could do with Rios - guess I figued the contact and player were not an equal trade in themselves, but perhaps that's all they ever were. Overall with JP, I still think that when you factor in the down-sides and up-sides, you get a pretty reasonable tenure for the money involved. Nobody hated the Rios contract at the time, but it didn't work out.
The one thing that puzzles me though is the references to B.J. Ryan's money being allocated to anything besides Ryan - he is being paid out the rest of the contract, so it can't be paid to someone else too. That said, the Jays will have some money space to work with unless payroll decreases (which it could). I'm optimistic about next year's pitching and outfield, but some pieces are missing (I don't think Bay will be in T.O. until he is a relatively washed-up and low-risk contract, a la Matt Stairs).

Bhattorious said...

Wells is next

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Are you saying that the only thing that we have to do to get a new Jays' GM is to crucify JP? Or boil him in oil?

Not that it matters. After years of guffawing at the wrongheaded belief that MLSE was cheap and that's why the Leafs didn't win the Stanley Cup Jays fans have awoken to a corporate owner that cares nothing about the team beyond the ability to fill countless hours of programming with terrible baseball and filling a soulless stadium with advertisements.

It would actually be pretty funny if I didn't want the Jays to win. Years of pointing at an imagined bogeyman and all of a sudden it's actually happening to you guys.

This deal has to be part of kissing Halladay goodbye right? Who are the Jays going to attract that will make him think that they have a chance to win in his lifetime?

Mattt said...

I'm not convinced this move means we are destined for a lifetime of mediocrity, as is the position Blair takes.

Was Rios really such a valuable piece that contention is now impossible without him? Or by moving his salary automatically means Rogers is in cost cutting mode, with no intention of fielding a winner?

These are conclusions that a journalist needs to jump to in order to compell a reader to stay interested. Perhaps measuring their opinions based on how often they are right might make it more obvious as to how far off base they usually are...

The Ack said...

Dude, I'm trying to remain an optimist and believe that they'll parlay the savings into more effective players on the market this offseason - really, I am - but ownerhsip has no currency left with me. None. I understand the argument that they've been fairly forthcoming before. They said they'd spend, and they did (regardless of how the contracts worked out).

But that was when Ted lived, man. Ted's dead, baby. Ted's dead.

And Blair freaks me the fuck out. Can he please spin an article implying that a potential sale of the team would be a good thing? Let's run with that underground rumour of Beeston spearheading a group and returning the franchise to glory. That plays better with me than the worst-case alternative scenario of which we will not speak....

infieldfly said...

I know the things that J.P. takes the heat for are not his fault exclusively. The assistant GMs, Beeston, Rogers, etc... are all equally ays responsible, but J.P. is the general manager and part of that job is to be the fall guy. Just as he would be the hero if he builds a champion.

Down Goes Brown said...

I'll just say that I admire your optimism.

Bitey said...

I really think the only way to completely judge this is to wait until the off-season. I don't have too much faith that ownership will put all the money saved back into the team, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because I don't have any other choice.

If they can re-spend the money and make the team better, then it can be a positive for the Jays.

Woefully Irrelevant white Guy said...

I 'm very pessimistic. I'm not a JP fan at all. REbuilding? when you trade your 3rd baseman signed to the mythical 2010 season AND Rios signed for the future, they are rebuilding! They are other teams that would have given bodies to the Jays in the off season. This whole thing is a sad mess. Yes, it's nice to see someone so lazy and heartless off this team. BUT JPO and Bestson have already started that rebuilding process, don't be fooled. When you dump a salary like this without getting anything in return , seriously listen to offers on Doc and get rid of Rolen for cheaper options, that process has begun.....

showcase29 said...

You can call this the TSN turning point of his career...

eyebleaf said...

@ Death By Leafs: Never apologize for refuting. Ricciardi's under contract; If you were J.P., you wouldn't resign either. Isn't it more honourable to admit your mistakes, and try to better set the table for the next guy, than to just walk away? I maintain that JP wants the best for the Blue Jays. I don't think we can compare JFJ and Ricciardi. Different beasts. The NHL's got a cap, the AL East is batshit insane. I agree that the results haven't been there; no playoffs. You're right, that's what matters. Again, I'm not saying J.P. shouldn't be replaced at the end of this season, or next, when his contract is up. I'm saying he isn't a monster. I'd rather he admit to a contract mistake, like Rios, than sit on him and continue to wait for him to reach that level he may never reach. This team can't have Wells and Rios eating up almost $28 million, and producing shit all. Martyrdom for JP!!!!1 Virgins!!!!1

@ William: I understand the angst towards JP, b/c he signed Rios to that deal. But I'm with you: I'm hoping the new economy brings some fantastic deals. I'm hoping the new economy deems players like Rios overpaid at $12 million a season.

@ QJays: Great point about Rios's contract at the time it was signed; nobody hated it. Same with V-Dub. Hindsight is easy. We were able to cut losses with Rios, while not having to pay any of his salary. That's not to say Rios isn't a good player. He is. Potential is still there. But in this market, in the AL East, we can't continue to pay $12 million for potential. As for Ryan, it's probably a pipe dream that we paid him out $15 million, and still have another $15 million to spend. You're right; that's insane. But I'm insane. And I'm still holding out hope for Bay.

@ Bhatti: You're next.

@ PPP: You do want the Jays to win. You just go about it like a big jerk. And, yes, I imagine this certainly spells the end of the Halladay era in Toronto. Although I'd still rather the Jays try and win it with him in 2010. Go for broke. Fuck him. Even though it makes sense to now trade him in the off-season. Yeah, I'd support an off-season Doc trade. Yes.

@ Mattt: I think Blair is reflecting a lot on his Montreal days. If Snider is who we think he is, and you slot him in RF for Rios, I don't think we're that bad off. But I won't bash Blair; he's usually bang on. The best in Toronto. Speaking of which, DO NOT read Griffin today. Brutal.

@ The Ack: You're certainly right about Teddy. He's dead, and shit's been crazy ever since he departed for the next life. I guess we come at it from different perspectives. When I think of the team being sold, I immediately think of the Leafs stepping in, and MLSE's deep pockets. I don't think about the team being moved out of town. You, good sir, are from Winnipeg, so I completely understand your fears.

@ infieldfly: You're right. And you mean "Just as he would be the hero WHEN he builds a champion."

@ DGB: My optimism is something to behold. And I love the fact that you're such a huge closet Jays fan.

@ Bitey: You're right; we'll only know the ramifciations of Rios-Gate in the off-season, when we find out whether the money is being reinvested or not. With more Halladay drama, it's going to be one helluva offseason.

eyebleaf said...

@ Woefully Ireelevant White Guy: First of all, you're most relevant in my books. And being a Jays fan is all about being pessimistic. Well, unless of course you're me. I am the balance. As for Rolen, please remember that HE ASKED FOR A TRADE. How is it Ricciardi's fault? And I still maintain that trade was fantastic; JP sold as high as humanly possible for a Rolen who thought seriously about retiring only one year ago. If the Jays come out and spend another $80 to $100 million next year, I don't think they're rebuilding. The money saved on Rios and Rolen gives us options; isn't that a good thing? Isn't that Ricciardi showing us that, hey, a bullshit season from Rios isn't good enough, and since Wells' contract is the reason Rios had to go, they'll make these tough decisions. Right now we've received nothing in return for Rios, but that could very well change in the off-season. And I maintain that taking offers on Doc was the right thing to do. Halladay won't sign an extension, therefore he MUST be traded.

@ Showcase: Twice, in two days! Pure TSN turning points.

MORE: Buster Olney of ESPN writes that Rios is worth $20 million over 2 years, or $30 million over 3 years. Point being: overpaid. The market is changing, and still moving downward (thank God.)
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/08/olney-on-rios-upton-davis-smoltz-webb.html

And if you haven't yet read Joe Posnanski's article on the death of Moneyball, please do so. He writes that the Florida Marlins route may be the way to go; go with youth, win a title, and trade them all before they sign rich contracts. Then do it all over again. I don't know about you guys, but what other options do we have in Toronto? I'm all for championships every 5 to 7 years surrounded by severe mediocrity, but exciting young baseball teams. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/joe_posnanski/08/05/market.size/index.html?eref=sihpT1 Jesus. Longest comment ever.

Archimedies said...

I'll do my best to sum up my feelings:

It's not that I don't understand WHY Rios was moved. And heck, I'm even starting to agree that yes, it is the right move for the future of the franchise, BUT: all that logic doesn't stop me from hating everything about it. I hate that we have to dump players just to stay afloat, I hate that we have terms like 'Financial Flexibility' used in our press conferences instead of 'Adding Pieces' and 'Championship Contender'. I understand that it's the nature of the market in which they play, and the nature of the economy of the game, but (as a fan) none of those things are my fault. I just so happened to be born and raised cheering for this team that has repeatedly broken the heart of the 8-year old inside of me who couldn't understand why the Jays wouldn't just win again in 1994.

I just want to win. You have a tag that says it best: I miss the God-damn Playoffs. Call me crazy, but not getting a return on one of our best players doesn't feel like a step closer to contention, or a step closer to bringing back Halladay. I just want to win.

matthias @ mopupduty said...

@eyebleaf

I like the Marlins style of team building. However, the Jays haven't been following the same set of rules. When the Marlins trade someone they usually get high level starters, outfielders, or low minors talent. Toronto has brought in a declining 26 year old third-baseman and a couple of relievers. I hope Rios came with at least a bag of balls

Mattt said...

Too late. Read Griffin. I never expect much from him so I wasn't disappointed.

Down Goes Brown said...

I wouldn't even call myself a closet Jays fan. I was an absolutel diehard as a kid (even moreso than for the Leafs) and I've faded a bit with time and distance, but they're still my team. They always will be.

I'm just worn down by the past 16 years, and I'm having a hard time seeing how it gets any better in the next 16. I don't even care about the playoffs, I want to watch a meaningful game in September for the first time since I was kid. I have zero faith that JP is the guy to make it happen.

eyebleaf said...

@ Archi: I feel you, bro. I get the feeling we'll never get back to those days where we can use those words. That's why I'm thinking the Marlins model, moving forward. Of course, as a fan, this stings. I guess I take solace in Snider, and my hope that the money will be reinvested. I too want to win. I'm sick of that "I miss the God damn playoffs" tag. It's been used way too many times.

@ matthias: Moving forward, do you think the Marlins route is viable for the Jays? Also, for Scott Rolen, you don't think EE and two hard-throwing relievers, one of whom could close out games in the future, was enough? Tell me that's not the case.

@ Mattt: I warned you!!!1

@ DGB: It warms my heart to read of your immense Jays fandom. Seriously. I guess it makes sense; those of us who are die-hards of both the Leafs and Jays have a sort of kinship. The last 16 years have definitely been rough. Luckily for me, I've an endless supply of hope. I'll lend you some.

ALSO: RANDY RUIZ HAS BEEN FREED!!!!1 I can definitely drink to that. Looking forward to seeing him be a hero tonight in NY. No pressure.

QJays said...

no pressure indeed - the boy goes yard in his 2nd!

Woefully irrelevant White Guy said...

Eyebleaf, the problem I have with Ricciardi is that we were sold a bill of goods regarding 2010 etc so on. Yes, Rolen wanted out BUT E5 is the option? And getting absolutely nothing for Rios? It seems that Viner and Muhammed told them to cut salary! I want to believe that they would put this money back into the team but I'm very skepital about it. IT seems like the Rogers are concentrating on maximizing profit rather than putting the best team on the field.

Garrett Bauman said...

McCown was really good today, compared the Sox claiming Rios to the Jays winning the lottery. What people need to realize is the contracts were handed out at a time when no one was anticipating the payroll to drop by $20 million. But it did, and the dam had to burst. Hence the Halladay talk. And the Rios departure (but not the Rolen departure, as some writers are making it seem -- that one was at the player's request for family reasons).

Money has been freed up, and if the budget increases next year, there is no reason the team can't improve, or be in position to lock up Halladay should he want to stay.

Anyone looked at Snider's numbers in AAA? Since his back healed, he's found his swing again and been on an absolute tear. Putting up some sick numbers ... yeah I know it's the PCL, but his stats are excellent nonetheless. Like eyebleaf said, Snider replacing Rios isn't a bad thing.

Now if only the pitchers could stay healthy ...

looshV said...

fuck!!!1

eyebleaf said...

@ Q: I was genuinely happy for Ruiz. I think the guys were too.

@ Woefully: Ricciardi sold us that bill of goods on 2010 before the decision to cut payroll, MADE BY ROGERS, was made. So, tell me, how is that JP's fault? Rolen wanted out; that's the point. And even if EE is not the option at 3B, we got two hard-throwing relievers in the deal. For a guy who asked to be traded! For a guy who's old! For a guy who's always injured! JP nailed that trade. I'm skeptical about Rogers putting money back into the team as well; it looks like they're going to treat this bad boy as ONLY a business, which I understand, but which I don't like.

@ Garrett: Thanks for the update on McCown; don't usually agree with him, but do on this. JP's hands are tied b/c of the slashage of payroll. I guess we'll have to wait until the off-season to see what they really want to do. As for Snider, yes, he's tearing it up. He'll be up after Aug. 20 (super-two status bullshit). "Now if only the pitchers could stay healthy." Seriously...

@ Loosh: "fuck!!!1" is about right.

Will said...

"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.)"

Meh. Vernon's raise will more than cancel out Rios' 2010 salary. The contracts already on the books add up to $66.5 million. Unless Bobcat is right about the 20-40 mil increase in payroll, there's nothing extra to spend even with Rolen and Rios gone (unless Ryan's $10 million - not 15 - is moved "off budget")