J.P Ricciardi: Not a Total Failure Part #1

J.P Ricciardi’s time as Blue Jays General Manager was controversial- to say the least.  Eight seasons without making the playoffs, or even any meaningful games in September, is tough for fans to swallow (Overall wins-losses 640-653). However, there are several signings, draft picks, and trades that Ricciardi made which have helped put the Jays in the position they find themselves today: a young team on the verge of contention. With that in mind, I am going to look at one of Ricciardi’s best draft picks: Ricky Romero.

Image courtesy of Infieldfly.ca

Ricky Romero is the Blue Jays best pitcher. He may not be a proverbial “ace,” but he is, at age 26, a very, very effective starting pitcher. He is also team-controlled at a very reasonable salary of 5 years 30.1 million plus a team option for 2016 of 13.1 million (The extension was signed by Alex Anthopolous).

Romero was the first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft (6th overall) out of Cal State Fullerton. Unfortunately for Ricciardi, this happened to be one spot ahead of the pick that yielded a spectacular shortstop to the Rockies. There is really no way to argue that missing out on a gold glove winning, power-hitting shortstop is not a major loss. However, the inherent difficulty of drafting must be recognized. Draft picks (even early in the first round), often fail to ever make the Major Leagues, let alone contribute at a high level. Anytime a high-level starting pitcher is drafted, it is massive gain for a team. Ricky Romero is a terrific “hit” for J.P Ricciardi, and that reality should out weigh any concerns over who he was drafted before.

Just look at the numbers Romero has put up so far in 2011:

72 IP/ 66 K/ 2.88 ERA/ 1.17 WHIP/ 5-4.

While the (generally useless) wins-losses record of 5-4 may not jump out at you, the 2.88 ERA certainly should. The 1.17 WHIP also sparkles on the stat sheet.

Romero’s peripherals are also solid so far this season:


FIP 3.79/ xFIP 3.20/ K/9 8.25/ BB/9 3.13/ HR/9 1.13/ GB% 52.5

Ricky Romero has taken the next step towards becoming a front of the rotation starter. The way I like to think of good starting pitching has little to do with a staff “ace.” Instead, a competitive team should have 3 very good starters, and 2 good starters. As mentioned, I believe Romero is a very good starting pitcher, who will be a prominent part of several playoff caliber Jays teams through 2016 (and hopefully beyond).

What was J.P Ricciardi's best move?

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Tags: Ricky Romero

  • siggian

    No, choosing Romero over Tulo is not a major loss compared to choosing Jeff Clement over either of them, which the Mariners did. Alex Gordon looked like a good pick too earliy on, but not so much now.

  • NoScoutHere

    Even a blind squirrel will find a nut and JP proved that.

    He was HORRIBLE !

    As a matter of fact he was so bad……..

    “How bad was he? ”

    He was so bad that Jays Journal had to make the topic into multi-piece segment instead of one article.

  • Fungo Freddy

    GM’s are always better evaluated in the “rear view mirror”. Presiding over a rebuilding period never makes them popular. I think J.P.’s record after the fact will make him look a lott better.

  • blueboo

    JP had fifty picks for eight years; it’s impossible not to hit sooner or later. I am not a JP fan but what I did like was that he came on every Wednesday and explained the rational, what was going on with the ball club. I believe that probably kept him on board at least two years longer than he should have been there. I would recommend that Alex do the same.

  • Ryan

    This title is strange. Of course Ricciardi made the occasional good move. Has any GM of any team in any sport ever actually made exclusively terrible moves from the day he was hired to the day he was fired?

    • Scott Barber

      Steve Phillips?

      • Scott Barber

        You’re right, virtually every GM in sports has some form of success. (even Phillips- Reyes, Wright ect.). The point I am trying to illustrate with this post and the ones to follow is that Ricciardi’s fingerprints are all over this Blue Jay club- and it’s not all bad.

  • Mat Germain

    I am a self-professed JP Ricciardi “non-fan” because I believe he had no vision or recipe for making the Jays anything more than a .500 club in the AL East. He kept talking about how it was hard to compete against big budgeted teams and about how he needed more money spent. Well, they gave him the opportunity, let him have his spending sprees, and it wound up with the 4 worst contracts in franchise history (Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Frank Thomas, and BJ Ryan). In that sense, overall, he was a horrible GM. Not as bad as many others, but still horrible.

    Having said that, he was a very good talent evaluator. If you read BA much, and I definitely do, you would know that under his watch, the Jays were NUMBER 1 in the number of major league players drafted. And, that’s without the wily strategy brought in by Alex Anthopoulos that has netted the Jays a ton of picks. He usually had the bare minimum, or a little more with 1 or 2 comp picks, and he did a great job with it.I will say, before I present my argument, that he had to find the talent in the top 5 rds about 90% of the time. If he didn’t hit there, he never did seem to get any late rd picks that had any kind of impact on the club.

    In his 1st draft as a Jays GM, he didn’t draft 1 major league player of impact aside from Dave Bush. That was a bust. But, it was a horrible draft year overall, so we’ll let it pass. He drafted Aaron Hill and Shaun Marcum in 2003. David Purcey, Casey Janssen, Adam Lind, and Jesse Litsch followed in 2004, along with Zach Jackson who almost made it. In 2005, it was Ricky Romero and Brett Wallace (he didn’t sign). In 2006 it was all Travis Snider. In 2007, it was JP Arencibia, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, Trystan Magnuson, Michael McDade, Brad Mills, Brad Emaus, and Darin Mastroianni. Some of these are Minors players, but they still have a shot. Then in 2008 and 2009, he drafted David Cooper, Eric Thames, Tyler Pastornicky, Daniel Farquhar, A.J. Jimenez, Michael Crouse, Chad Jenkins, Jake Marisnick, Drew Hutchison, and a league of others who may still have a shot.

    So yeah, as long as you don’t mind tearing 1/2 of the current Jays team apart and calling them all stiffs, you could say he was horrible in every sense. Meanwhile, I’ll respect the job he did drafting players – even if he took very few risks in my opinion – and admit that he was great at getting talent at the top of the draft board.

    • NoScoutHere

      “4 worst contracts in franchise history (Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Frank Thomas, and BJ Ryan”

      Don’t forget that he let AJ Burnet walk for free out of a contact without any compensation.

      Every GM has to have some draft success but JP couldn’t build a team and basically that’s where he failed big time.

      He stayed 4 years too long and set this franchise back.

    • Scott Barber

      The draft record is checkered, no doubt- but who’s isn’t? He had a set plan for drafting as you mentioned, in that he took a lot of low-risk, arguably low-ceiling players, generally out of college rather than high school. It netted some pretty solid players, and that is basically what this post is about.

  • G Man

    I didn’t like the Hinske contract either. Why? I asked myself at the time. I got permanently turned off when he overloaded on corner infielders.

  • Scott Barber

    I would never argue that Ricciardi was a good general manager- simply that there are moves he made that continue to play a pivotal role in the Jays promising future.

  • Duncan

    Scott, I know that JP had a few good picks and trades, but for the most part, he did not come as advertised – a drafting guru. Now, in retrospect, it is possible he was a decent selector of talent, but that the farm system development process was broken. For example, he kept drafting catchers no later than the 4th round every year and only Arencibia seems to have stuck after 8 years of trying. And, since Anthopolous has taken over, the player development side seems to be much better, but this opinion isn’t based on any data. So maybe this was the weakness.

    That being said, where he really suffers is in comparison to AA. And when you do that, good riddance! I just wish AA had been capable of taking over 3-4 years earlier.

  • Steve

    There are a few different comments that I wanted to reply to so I’ll do one general one. 1. People have been trying to claim for years that Ricciardi didn’t draft well. It’s now too obvious that those sentiments are as far from the truth as you can get. As for his trades/signings, he didn’t do too badly. All GMs have good trades and bad ones. You can name his bad ones (I’m sure some of you will), but I can name more that worked out. People always bring up Hinske. What about losing Billy Koch was so painful? As for JPs spending spree, let’s try to look at this objectively. From 2001 through 2006, the Jays had one of the lowest budgets in MLB. When Rogers finally stepped up, they raised the team’s budget to the lower middle range. Compared to the Interbrew years in terms of real dollar value (i.e., what you could buy with it) Ricciardi was still operating on less than what Gord Ash had. Godfrey also wasn’t as savvy as Beeston when it came to getting agreements from Rogers. Whereas Beeston has gotten commitments from Rogers that the money will be there when they need it, Ricciardi had to spend the money or lose it. As for the Wells, Rios, Thomas and Ryan signings. All evidence suggests that Ricciardi tried to trade Wells and that Godfrey nixed it. His fingerprints are also all over the signing. In pinning it on Ricciardi you have to ignore the way he did things because the negotiations for the Wells signing (and the Frank Thomas signing) were handled very differently than all of his other signings. BJ Ryan only looks bad because he failed to recover from his Tommy John surgery. Rios’ salary is also not ridiculously high for his talent level.

  • fred draper

    It’s not that JP didn’t draft OK. It’s that others drafted a whole lot better, and developed better too.

    How else do you explain a 28th place ranking by BA and others.

    The fact that AA now has the system up to 4th or 5th in one year tells you all you need to know.

    • Steve

      The rankings are highly subjective and present a snapshot of the level of talent at a given point in time. It does not take into account a farm system that is short on talent because it has recently graduated a number of players. It also doesn’t take into account players that are underperforming or injured. For example, JP Arencibia had a bad year in 2009 (looking like he would never make it to the big leagues)and that would have been a contributing factor to the Jays low ranking that year, then he was huge in 2010 and that would have helped bring the ranking up. Also, keep in mind also that a farm system’s ranking is not based solely on draft picks but also international free agents and minor league acquisitions. The top players that contributed to the Jays #4 farm ranking in 2011 are Drabek, D’arnaud, Gose (all acquired directly or indirectly through the Halladay trade started by Ricciardi and finished by AA), Lawrie (aquired by trading Marcum – drafted by Ricciardi), the afore-mentioned Arencibia (drafted by Ricciardi), Stewart acquired by Ricciardi), Hecchavaria (international free agent by AA) and several highly touted draft picks from 2009 and 2010 that its way to early to say if they will develop or not. That’s another important factor to consider – that a prospect does not provide any value to his club until he reaches the majors and that many prospects flame out and never make it. There are teams that always seem to do well in these rankings but their prospects never seem to realize their potential in the majors. A more useful way of looking at how well a GM has drafted is by seeing how many of his draft picks have 1. made it to the show, and 2. how much impact they had once they made it. In both of these measures JP ranks in the top 5 in MLB compared to other GMs during his tenure, and he did this without having very many extra picks and without going over slot on his picks. I would say that the evidence shows that he drafted a whole lot better than his peers.

  • G Man

    There is exactly ZERO evidence that the Wells contract rather than trade was Godfrey’s doing. I would be the last one to ever defend Godfrey, but both Godfrey and Ricciardi continue to insist to this day that the contract was at Ricciardi’s initiative.

    What I didn’t like about the Hinske contract was that it was unneccessary. If the budget limitations were as you say, the Ricciardi would have been better off moving assets like Hinske and Wells and Rios before losing control, rather than throwing money at them. He did this with Koch but it wasn’t something he consistently did effectively.

    As I said, the other problem with the Hinske deal was Ricciardi then went out and signed 2 more corner infielders (one of whom, Hillenbrand, he was able to get value from, to his credit).

    I don’t mean to pick on the one deal, but to me it was emblematic of his shortcomings, including other poor decisions on contracts.

    • Steve

      There is no proof that the Wells signing was Godfrey’s doing and you’re right that they both insist that it was Ricciardi’s initiative. But Ricciardi has a tough time keeping his mouth shut and in interviews he has alluded to a certain trade that he made that Godfrey wouldn’t sign off on because he was a fan of the player. Most people speculate that he was referring to Wells and in fact before the signing there were rumours from some good sources that Wells was headed to the Dodgers. Officially, Ricciardi has to maintain that the Wells signing was his initiative unless he’s given up all hope of ever being a GM again. While it’s weak, it qualifies as evidence. So no, there is not zero evidence. Because of the nature of how things are done amongst GMs it’s rare to find strong evidence and so we put two and two together sometimes. I used the word “evidence” in reference to the alleged trade. As for the signing that followed, I still say it (and Frank Thomas’ signing) has Godfrey’s fingerprints all over it. I won’t defend Ricciardi on any other signing, but these two were handled far differently from the way Ricciardi usually handled things. In the end, he was the GM and so he is the one who seals the deal and he is accountable, but the way these two contracts were handled were far more indicitave of the way Godfrey does business than the way Ricciardi went about his business. For one, they were handled with a level of professionalism not usually shown by Ricciardi and I could go on. As for Hinske, I never said I agreed with his signing but the trade to get him was reasonable. It simply didn’t work out that well for either team in the end. When the jays signed Hinske he had just won the Rookie of the Year award and everyone had high hopes for him. He didn’t live up to expectations. It happens. You can’t judge a guy on a handful of deals that you didn’t like and ignore all the deals that did work out. In the end, under Ricciardi the Jays were a .500 club playing in the AL East on a small market budget (without 10 straight last place finishes like Tampa). They didn’t win the big prize. They never came close. OK, agreed – he failed to deliver. But the only way to reach the conclusion that he was a bad GM is to overstate his errors and completely overlook the long list of moves that did work out. If you say you don’t like him, that he has a big nose, that he says stupid things, that he pissed people off, that he was annoying, that he failed to deliver on his main goal, I’m not going to argue with you. But to say that he was a bad GM is just ridiculous – the overall body of work just doesn’t support that in any way.