Some Philly-centric bloggers were quick to pillory J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays GM, for the simple fact that he didn't give away Roy Halladay to the Phillies. (Of course, they didn't say Mark Shapiro of the Cleveland Indians should be fired for trading them Cliff Lee for a song, either. Hmmm!) Subsequently, the Blue Jays allowed Alex Rios to be claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox and dealt away the aging-but-still-good Scott Rolen for prospects, which were moves that were met with derision by some demoralized Jays' fans and a lot of criticism by the media. I take a contrarian view: these were necessary moves that were mandated by corporate ownership to reduce payroll -- the Jays are still stuck with one albatross contract, the vastly ovepaid Vernon Wells -- and give them the potential means to keep Roy Halladay as a Blue Jay for life -- this would be a very good thing.
(Okay, maybe I'm being too hard on Riggs. He might not actually be on record as saying Ricciardi should be let go.)
This quote sums up the perfectly rational executive Ricciardi happens to be, and I subscribe whole-heartedly to his philosophy of building a competitive team in the tough AL East division, given the financial limitations he's forced to operate with (now if only Vernon Wells were to be claimed on waivers ...).
Q: How do you view your team after all of this dust has cleared?
A: We like our team, we really do. We like the nucleus we have in place. We think Hill and Lind are going to be stars and are on their way. We think Snider is going to be a very good player. We like our team. We have a very good catcher in Arencibia coming. We like our arms on the mound. There’s a lot of really good things happening here. What I think we’ve realized is the reality of the division. We know it, but we’ve come to realize it even more so. This is not a division you can be good in, you have to be great in it to make the playoffs [my emphasis]. We’ve been good the last three years. The ownership has been great to us. They’ve allowed us to spend some money over the last three years, and the last three years we were high 80’s in wins. We’re not good enough to win the division.
What we have to do is take a step back and start looking at ways that we can start building to get great. I think with the Cecils and the Romeros and all the young arms we have, along with the Hills and the Linds and the players we have coming we have a really good foundation and nucleus to get there. But I think we have to be smart about the fact that right now we’re not great and you have to be great to win this division.
I think it’s extremely important. You have to realize that we’re a club that had a $20 million cut in payroll this year. So with that savings going into next year, along with the Rolen savings along with the players we acquired for Rolen, we were able to hopefully utilize that money to address some of our needs. I’ll only be able to answer the question over the next five years how that money works in our favor.
Going forward, Ricciardi can either trade Halladay if he a) isn't able to sign Halladay to an extension or b) gets an offer he thinks is fair market value for the most reliably excellent pitcher in baseball. And because the Blue Jays' team strength is young pitching, they can afford to make a decision from a position of strength, not weakness.