GMs Sacked: J. P. Ricciardi

One has to wonder if the failure to move Roy Halladay this past deadline was the straw that broke the proverbial back of Ricciardi’s job security, or perhaps even was the primary motivator, but either way, Ricciardi is out as the General Manager of Toronto, a mere hours after it was first leaked that the Padres were axing GM Kevin Towers. Curious that both came on the final weekend of the season rather than after it.

The Blue Jays have made a habit the past five seasons of hovering around .500, but never breaking through the barrier high enough to actually compete for a playoff spot. Despite winning 80 or more games every season since 2004, the Blue Jays have finished 15 games (2005), 8, 11 and 9 games out of the playoff race between 2005 and 2008 and they are 18 games out this season. Ricciardi’s overall record reflects that as Toronto has gone 642-652 while he served as GM.

Aside from the record, or rather just as you might imagine, during Ricciardi’s tenure, the Blue Jays were labeled as a team that would draft ultra-conservatively. That strategy led to a decent crop of role players, but rarely any homegrown elite players and thus Ricciardi was forced to foray into the free agent market, which turned out to be the source of some of his biggest blunders like the B.J. Ryan and Frank Thomas contracts.

Extensions of the few good players inside the organization rarely went well either as evidenced by Alex Rios (luckily dumped on the White Sox this season) and Vernon Wells. For the time being, Assistant General Manager Alexander Anthopoulos takes over Ricciardi’s duties though there’s not likely to be much to do between now and the time when a permanent hire is made.

With New York and Boston mainstays in the AL East more than ever thanks to a growing financial competitive advantage as team-owned cable networks skirt around revenue sharing policies and the well oiled Tampa Rays now poised to remain in the conversation for years to come, the future looks as difficult as ever for Toronto to make a name for itself in postseason play.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


35 Responses to “GMs Sacked: J. P. Ricciardi”

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  1. MU789 says:

    I hope that Ricciardi did not turn down the rumored trade with Boston because if he did that alone could be enough to sack him. Even if it was just Bowden & Buchholz and a decent minor league prospect it was probably the top of the market for Halladay.

    Maybe Towers and Ricciardi can trade teams. It would be interesting to see if they could do a better job with Toronto and San Diego than what the other one did.

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    • Torgen says:

      The Boston offer was crap in terms of its actual utility to the Jays, who already have tons of pitching and need infielders.

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      • mattymatty says:

        The Blue Jays have a team FIP of 4.35, 16th in baseball, so no, the Blue Jays do need pitching. And if you don’t go in for all that advanced statistical jibber-jabber, the Jays ERA this season is 4.47, tied for 20th in baseball.

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      • Torgen says:

        Jays had almost exactly the same FIP as the Yankees and Rays and better than the Angels and Tigers despite both Marcum and Litsch missing the whole season. (Also McGowan, but I’m not convinced he’ll ever be back so I’m not really counting him.) 2008 Jays already proved that the best run prevention in the majors doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot. And I’m talking about their minor league system–they have no 3B or SS prospect above A ball and their top 2B and C prospects flamed out in AA.

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  2. cpebbles says:

    It seems like just last year any sabermetric website would have already had a half-dozen posts overstating the strength of Ricciardi’s teams by claiming he’d be flying several pennants if he was in any other division in baseball. Strange how the final straw was not trading his best player a year and a half before free agency. Yeah, Halladay had more value in July than he will in December, but it’s not like any of the talked-about trades was built around a player with no warts.

    Anyway, long overdue. Ricciardi presided over three distinct attempts to rebuild in Toronto, and I would argue that all three failed. I don’t see him getting another shot any time soon. Too many bad moves, not enough good ones during his time in Toronto.

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    • JH says:

      I don’t know…the front page of this website was pretty clear that Ricciardi shouldn’t trade Halladay for anything less than a king’s ransom in established young major leaguers back when the rumor was floating around.

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  3. Nick F says:

    Okay, two things.

    1. The Wells contract was an ownership move
    2. People need to seriously shut up about the rumored Boston trade. Oh boy, a bunch of overrated pitching prospects!!!! If you haven’t noticed (and everyone who goes nuts about the trade obviously doesn’t), the last thing the Blue Jays need is pitching. They have a ton of it. They need offense, and Boston doesn’t really have anything worth trading for Roy Halladay.

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    • funkyb4ss says:

      Except that trading Hallady is a rebuilding move. If they get good pitching in return, that’s fine. As a GM I sure wouldn’t mind going into the offseason overloaded with pitching. Lots of teams have interest in Bucholz and Bowden so you’d be able to trade for those bats you need. At least then you’re gettiing max value for your prized pitcher, and that’s the point of this argument. JP tried to set his own market and failed.

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  4. John D says:

    Not trading Roy Halladay wasn’t the mistake that got JP fired. JP’s mistake was the way he handled the entire mess. He was the one who put Halladay on the market quite openly and left his best player and the team in an endless state of limbo with ridiculous press conferences and media releases seemingly everyday. It was JP and JP alone that created the entire fiasco with his juvenile tactics that ultimately ended up being a PR nightmare.

    I do wonder whether or not JP would have been fired had he not made the entire organization look like a laughingstock off the field, multiple times over the past few years, be it the absolutely ridiculous situation with Adam Dunn, the way he handled BJ Ryan’s injury with the media and the fans (“They’re not lies if we know the truth” will always be a classic line) and of course the entire Roy Halladay saga. Although it certainly did not help that his entire tenure as GM was one of mediocrity.

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    • Pete says:

      I think I would agree with this. I don’t know enough about the workings of the Blue Jays franchise, but it certainly seemed like JP very badly overplayed his hand.

      Add to that the fact that he was brought in to make the Jays a good squad IN SPITE of their financial disadvantages, and yet he threw good money after bad repeatedly. This included the greatest blunder of all… a big contract to a damn closer. I’ll buy that the Rios and Wells extensions were actually more harmful, but how can you toss all that money at a glorified reliever?

      Anyway, this isn’t that surprising.

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  5. Nick Smith says:

    Ricciardi didn’t trade Halladay because he didn’t get a worthy offer and he didn’t get a worthy offer because the Jays weren’t willing to trade him within the division. And that’s a decision that I think was made by someone above Ricciardi.

    Regardless, it’s a far cry from when he was so highly regarded in the industry that the Jays extended him for five years to keep the Red Sox from hiring him away. Not sure he’ll ever get another GM gig now.

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  6. Shawn says:

    I’m curious. How do you put the best pitcher of this decade on the block and NOT have it turn into a big show? How do you contain a US media that was obsessed with getting Halladay traded, especially when all the big market teams are involved? JP did nothing wrong. He said they would take offers and they’d have to be blown away. That stance was consistent and unwavering. No one ponied up so he stayed a Blue Jay. His value hasn’t really dropped all that much and keeping him gives the Jays another opportunity to improve the team this winter to convince him to re-sign.

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    • Pete says:

      It’s because he, through all reports, was after literally the damn moon to get Halladay traded. If the media is to be believed he wanted the three best prospects from any given organization, and no one is stupid enough to do that for a year.5 rental pitcher, no matter how brilliant.

      As I said above, I’m not close enough to the situation to comment beyond what’s been reported. But it sure seems as if Ricciardi overplayed his hand HORRIBLY.

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      • Ari says:

        If you’re not close enough, why not trust the people who are close enough and are telling you that he didn’t make a mistake? Every single year the issue of Halladay being traded would come up, and every single year JP would say that they would have to be astounded by an offer to move him, and that would it would have to be very painful for another team to acquire him (and rightfully so, seeing as he’s the best pitcher in baseball). Just because Ken Rosenthal decided to run with the story this year and declare that Halladay is as good as gone, and then subsequently get proven horribly wrong, does not mean JP made a mistake in any which way. He did the right thing, and that was not accepting an inferior package for Halladay just because the national media was hounding him and assuming that a trade was inevitable. Ricciardi needs to be applauded for standing up to that pressure and not making a move to appease the media.

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      • Pete says:

        Fair enough. I’m basing this off of what I’ve heard through the mess that is the MSM, which is why I threw that qualifier in there. If the reports were true then that’s an egregious error, and if not then not.

        So is this stuff about “give me your top 3 or 4 ‘spects” a load of you know what, Ari?

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  7. You can’t fault J-P for the spate of pitching injuries to the starting staff (McGowan, Marcum, Litsch, and later Ray, and others from time to time). That was almost surreal. As for AJ Burnett, I suppose the only way he would sign was if he was given an opt-out clause, which he used at the first opportunity after giving us exactly one effective season. Even the contracts to Wells and Rios looked okay at the time, but the lineup was never protected by a true bopper that would take the pressure off all those line drive hitters he kept trading for. It seemed that offensively, they were always missing something. Sometimes it was power, sometimes speed, sometimes hitting for average. The main thing for me, though, is his penchant for shooting his mouth off. Nothing was ever his fault, and he needlessly alienated players, other executives, and fans alike, with his endless bragging and boasting. His big deals fell flat, his contracts got the worst out of his big-ticket players, his sub-500 record speaks for itself, and on top of it all, he was the most unpopular sports figure in Toronto, which is saying something. His time was absolutely up, and everyone knew it.

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    • Aaron/YYZ says:

      Actually, you can JP for the pitching injuries. Will Carroll has discussed this at length in the past, but essentially something about the Jays system of managing pitchers also breaks them. I don’t know if it’s something about Arnsberg or a larger issue with the organization, but the Jays have exhibited a pattern of breaking starting pitchers of the past number of years and they have done nothing to correct it.

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    • Torgen says:

      If clutch hitting isn’t a repeatable skill, then you can’t blame JP for this being a losing season because the Jays have lost 7.5 games this year to poor clutch hitting. If that was neutral, the Jays would be in a dead heat with the Rays this year (assuming none of the extra wins came against the Rays) and JP’s career record would be above .500.

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  8. strom thurmond says:

    How about this blunder that few talk about. Letting Carpenter, Escobar and Delgado get away with zero return. Another blunder was releasing Brandon Lyon with 2 outrights left at the age of 22 and getting nothing for him.

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    • Torgen says:

      Delgado had a no-trade clause and refused a trade.

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    • Shawn says:

      Yea, because so many teams were after Carpenter. It looked like he was done and the Cards took a flyer on him. This is nothing but 20/20 hindsight complaining.

      As Torgen said, Delgado wouldn’t waive his no-trade. Most importantly, their payroll was going down to $50 million after that year and Delgado would’ve cost $18+ million. This is why they had to make that embarrassing $6 million offer to him. Escobar wasn’t brought back for similar reasons. He wanted around $6 million. You can’t afford to bring back an injury prone $6 million starter on a $50 million team.

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    • Jim says:

      ‘Another blunder was releasing Brandon Lyon with 2 outrights left…’

      I have no idea what that means. After drafting Lyon in 1999, the Blue Jays lost him via a waiver claim in 2002 to the Red Sox, who later traded him to the Pirates(who then traded him back to the Red Sox along with one of the same players in the original deal a year later).

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  9. lexomatic says:

    strom: i’d leave carpenter out of that equation. it’s a different story.
    delgado should’ve been offered arbitration, but wasn’t because ownership wanted to cut costs and didn’t want to get stuck with 25% payroll in one player… even if he was good enough.
    escobar from what i remember was also lowballed like delgado, but it woudn’t have taken too much to match. i don’t think escobar would’ve become the same player he did become though staying in toronto.
    i don’t think lyon has been anything special, but i’ll concede your point.

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  10. Steven says:

    This firing, Wedge canned and Towers chased out of baseball….

    Finally sabermetrics is revealed as the fraud that it is….. proof is in the pudding afterall.

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    • Nate says:

      Right, because that James/Epstein experiment in Boston has gone terribly since 2003.

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    • Shawn says:

      Yep, the entire league adopting Moneyball concepts in some form or another is a clear sign of its failure. Let me guess, you think evolution and global warming are a “fraud” too.

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    • Pete says:

      Um… what?

      Dayton Moore’s brilliant success in KC demonstrates that Old School Ways rock! Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty have done GREAT things with the Reds! The Nats look pretty hot!

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    • MPC says:

      Wow. Ever heard “don’t feed the troll?”

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    • JoeR43 says:

      This is a stat nerd site, you forget people who post here actively seek trolling just so they can respond to it.

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  11. elgringo79 says:

    Not only did Ricciardi fail to rebuild the team or make it efficient, but he acted like a complete jackass half the time. Lying, arguing, blaming, berating, and generally running his mouth. Look at how other superstar pitchers were traded by rebuilding/cash-strapped teams. Did you hear the Twins, A’s, or Padres acting like street-corner Rolex salesmen? Acting like Santana, Harden, or Peavy was the only good pitcher ever, and worth your first, second, and third born children? No, they quietly worked the phones, negotiated, and then pulled the trigger to get what they could. In that regard, a sidewalk Rolex salesman is a better business man than Ricciardi, because at least after flapping their gums they’ll make the deal. No, he acted more like a hack poker player who tries to scare everyone out of the pot and then meekly folds when they all call him.

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    • Bill says:

      The Santana trade was every bit the fiasco that the attempted Halladay trade was. Eventually the Twins caved to the market, but before that they also were making some exhorbitant demands. The Peavy trade was even worse than Halladay. They were asking for half the Braves farm system and the rumors swirled all winter. Ricciardi made a lot of mistakes, but I can’t fault him for holding on to Halladay.

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  12. Torgen says:

    Will JP Ricciardi’s greatest legacy be proving that wins above replacement aren’t fungible after all?

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  13. Jonathan Ullberg says:

    I think Bill Bavasi was the only GM in baseball who would give up such a package for a “top-of-the-rotation” pitcher. Santana returned little, Halladay couldn’t get dealt, Peavy got a decent return but nothing blowing anyone out of the water, Cliff Lee was dealt for the 5-8 prospects on the Phils and Sabathia wasn’t a great package either. Some decent deals in there, but nothing incredible. I guess the Haren deal is another one, but c’mon, it’s Billy Beane.

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  14. Matt B. says:

    Sorry, but JP got a bit of a raw deal. There are a ton of factors that go into this and he had some serious handicaps (namely nobody would sign in Toronto) that he couldn’t overcome in the draft (where he was weaker). Just did a piece on him, in “defense”.

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