Baseball Toaster Just A Bit Outside
Thinking of a Master Plan
2005-12-24 11:48
by Erik Siegrist

As a contrast to Kenny Williams, let's look at one of the other big players this winter -- that of Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi.

Usually you can tell what a GM has in mind when he has a busy offseason. He'll concentrate on bolstering the pitching staff, or filling specific holes, or adding a big bat. You can see some semblance of a plan in the moves he makes.

With the Blue Jays' offseason though, the only plan seems to be "Spend money." Granted, this was a team with multiple holes, but so far Ricciardi's moves have lacked (buzz word alert! buzz word alert!) any semblance of synergy.

For instance: Ricciardi dropped about a hundred million dollars in contracts on two pitchers. Regardless of what you think of the size of those deals, A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan are both clear upgrades for the Blue Jays staff. But let's look at some numbers:

Halladay - 2.60, 6.86
Burnett - 2.42, 8.53
Towers - 1.23, 4.83
Chacin - 0.99, 5.37
Lilly - 0.92, 6.84

Ryan - 1.23, 12.80

AL Average - 1.59, 6.16

The first number is 2005 groundball/flyball ratio; the second is K/9 rate. What jumps out at me is that the new guys don't rely much on their defense, instead getting plenty of outs on their own. The rest of the rotation, however, are still pitchers who need some (or in the case of Josh Towers and Gustavo Chacin, a lot of) help from the guys behind them. The two big guns at the top of the rotation are also fairly extreme ground ball pitchers.

This is a picture of a team for which defense, and infield defense, is fairly important.

Ricciardi followed up those signings by bringing in Lyle Overbay, a first baseman who should be a solid offensive upgrade at first base on Shea Hillenbrand, but also a huge defensive upgrade (albeit at a relatively unimportant spot). That's a move with some synergy -- helping out the new pitching with a small defensive boost.

This week, however, Ricciardi followed that up with a deal (still awaiting approval) to send Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista to Arizona for Troy Glaus.

Hudson is of course the reigning AL Gold Glover at second base, and one of those unusual players who got the award because he's actually really good. Just to pick one defensive stat at random, Clay Davenport has had him worth 27, 16 and 17 runs above average the last three years. His replacement would probably be Aaron Hill, who put up decent numbers in limited work at 2B last season but is unproven.

Glaus, meanwhile, hasn't posted a positive RAA at third base since 2002, and would be a downgrade with the glove from Corey Koskie. So to support the $100 million in pitching contracts they've already shelled out, the Jays make a trade that adds more salary and weakens them defensively at two infield positions, thus undermining the value of the money they've already spent.

Of course I'm not looking at the impact of Glaus on the Jays' offense, which should be significant. And the Jays could always DH Glaus, leave Koskie at third and deal Shea Hillenbrand, assuming Glaus takes kindly to the idea.

I'm just saying that as a series of moves, the Jays aren't so much having pieces fall into place as throwing pieces in the box and shaking it up, hoping to see something they like when they take off the lid.

(And like the Marlins did with Carlos Delgado, the Jays have given themselves an out if they don't like what they see -- Ryan and Burnett both have heavily backloaded deals. Another third place finish in the AL East will likely result in an offseason just as busy as this one, but with the talent flowing in a different direction...)

2005-12-24 19:15:15
1.   Alex Belth
Cause ain't nothing but sweat inside my hands...
2005-12-24 20:39:24
2.   Schteeve
So maybe Riccardi thinks, 'I just added two pitchers who get their own outs, so I don't need the defense, I'll just go get some bats.' It's a pretty myopic way of looking at things, but in his mind, maybe there is some synergy.

Just playin devils advocate.

Merry Christmas.

2005-12-25 09:54:55
3.   bigjonempire
Hudson was expensive for an almost purely defensive player. Hill should be able to provide cheap above average defense and a bat with at least equal but potentially much more oomph to it.

Orlando Hudson is the coolest dude in baseball right now, but Arizona could use someone cool.

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