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Say what you will about J.P. Ricciardi -- most armchair critics will be roasting him on a spit for this move -- he has guts. Jose Cruz Jr. was unceremoniously dumped because the Blue Jays had two choices: pay roughly $5,000,000 for his services, or let him walk, and spend that money on more pressing needs.

This is what the market has come to, and the Blue Jays are going to be fiscally prudent, no matter what the average fan's opinion. In hindsight, you might think that they could have, and should have, traded Cruz for something, but no other teams are willing to take on mediocre, arbitration-eligible outfielders, with no control over what salary they might be awarded. Jose, and dozens of other players, have become "poison pills" nobody wants to swallow.


In the Sun, Mike Rutsey quotes Ricciardi:

"If we had signed him and tried to trade him that would have been a risk we weren't willing to take."

In other words, we would have been "stuck" with a guy who is not in our future plans, and it would have handcuffed our ability to strengthen the team in other ways. J.P. is right, as usual. It comes as a surprise, but it's no different from Gonzalez-Heredia or Fullmer-Cooper, and this sort of thing will become commonplace among enlightened front offices.

Nobody but me, the union, the players and a handful of crabby sports writers seems to think it's "collusion" -- just the sudden coincidence of at least 29 teams "waking up to economic reality" -- but that theory will gain momentum as all-stars settle for journeyman money and journeymen like Cruz shop their services door-to-door for whatever crumbs are available.

As a Blue Jay fan, I'm not sad to see Jose go, and I would have been much more upset if the club got cornered into overpaying for his services. I applaud the Toronto front office for making this decision, which may be unpopular, but (considering the landscape) was their best option. Don't be too critical of the move until J.P. spends the $5 M; in the altered baseball economy, that should get a replacement RF, another middle infielder and a decent starter.

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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Ian Gray - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 09:28 AM EST (#65436) #
I don't know if it's collusion, Coach-I'm inclined to think that the introduction of a de facto salary cap is what's driving down salaries. And for that, the union has no one but itself to blame.

As for Cruz, I'm simultaneously sad and relieved to see him go. I think this was a good move by Ricciardi, and I've no problems with it, but I can't help but wish that Jose had managed to have the great season he always seemed to be on the brink of. I suppose this makes my choice of favourite player much easier now - Hudson all the way - and I'm sure, like I imagine most people here will be, that this is going to help the Jays, but I'm a little sorry to see Cruz go. Oh well.
_Jordan - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 09:42 AM EST (#65437) #
Wow. My father has an expression he uses admiringly -- "more guts than a five-cent fish" -- and JP Ricciardi qualifies for that compliment.

I sure don't like this outcome, but I also sure agree that it was the best move under the circumstances. Jose Cruz can contribute to a major-league baseball team, but his contributions will not be worth $5 million, not in the new marketplace, anyway. This was a wrenching move, to cut loose a one-time 30-30 player who was discussed by well-informed fans as trade bait for players like Russ Ortiz and Kevin Millwood. But with his injury-plagued 2002, his regression in plate discipline, and the screwed-up nature of the arbitration system, this was the proper course of action. But it still kinda sucks.

The obvious question, of course, is who's in right field? If other teams are dropping good-quality players today, that pool seems the likeliest source for a replacement. I can't see Ricciardi dealing for a right fielder, not with Werth four months away and Gross and (presumably) Griffin less than two years away. It's too early to forecast lineups, but whoever does settle into right field probably won't be batting higher than seventh. Let's see what the options are later today and in February. Whoever the Blue Jays get, he won't cost $5M, and if Jose Cruz's salary buys a league-average RF, a backup shortstop and a fifth starter/swing man, it's money well spent.

Whither Junior? I think he'll get healthy and motivated this off-season -- he was expecting to be dealt, but being tossed over the side must have been a huge blow to his pride -- and put up a 25-25 season somewhere next year, though with his now-standard 60-140 BB/K rate and .320ish OBP. I can totally see him batting third for the Orioles next year at $3.5M -- it's just such an Angelos thing to do. So long, Jose -- sorry it didn't work out, but I think you need to spend some serious time this winter with the guy in your mirror.
Pistol - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 09:51 AM EST (#65438) #
If there was collusion I donít think you would see near the movement we have so far. I think the decrease in the Ďmarket valueí of free agents is more of a case of:

1. Teamís revenues arenít growing anymore so they canít (or wonít) support increasing payroll,
2. The insurance companies not insuring contracts to the degree they did in the past, and
3. To a lesser degree the luxury tax.

With salaries of players under contract typically increasing each year and overall payroll staying relatively unchanged the players that are going to be squeezed are the free agents. When teams have to get better and donít have the benefit of throwing money at players they have to find more ways to maximize the bang for the bucks that they are paying.

In this case JP decided that the Jays would get more bang for the buck by NT Cruz.

I donít look at this as getting nothing for Cruz, I look at it as the Jays getting $5 million of salary relief which they can use to improve.
Coach - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 10:01 AM EST (#65439) #
With the typical exception of George Steinbrenner, the Phillies (who must now be realizing they outbid themselves on Thome, Bell and Wolf) and the Cubs (run by idiots) there has been a simultaneous, dramatic change in organizational policy throughout baseball. I'm not saying it is collusion, but to find any other comparable period of restraint, you have to go back to those times.

If all the money being saved leads to a freeze on ticket prices and cheaper beer at the ballpark, I fully support the new order.
_Papa Squid - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 10:13 AM EST (#65440) #
I wonder where the MLB fire sale of the Expos came into play in all this and how much it affected the ability of JP to trade Cruz. I, too, was hoping that they would be able to parlay Cruz into a #3 starter (and as noted, they still might, with the $5M now available to them). Lots of people are saying that the Expos situation basically lead to no action at the winter meetings.

I would love a freeze on ticket prices and cheaper beer, but somehow I don't think that's gonna happen...

The Squid
Dave Till - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 10:37 AM EST (#65441) #
Reduced salaries won't lead to cheaper beer or ticket prices. The owners will charge whatever the market will bear for tickets; the only difference is that they won't be able to use escalating player salaries as an excuse.

I think the luxury tax may be having some effect, but I think most of what is happening is just ordinary market forces. General managers are beginning to realize that paying good money for mid-level ballplayers - or below mid-level - is a dumb idea. To put it another way: I would guess that Derek Bell has had more of an influence on baseball salaries than Bud Selig.

I don't think this is a return to collusion, though: top-level free agents are still changing teams, and some teams are still using free agents to fill holes. If too many good players are left unsigned, some smart GM (Ricciardi?) is going to swoop in and pick up some bargains. A player like Cruz is overpriced at $5 million, but would be very useful at $1 million.
_Kent - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 11:37 AM EST (#65442) #
All day, I'm sure reports of similar moves by other teams will come trickling in. The Angels are expected to let Brad Fullmer go, and are said to be looking at David Ortiz, who the Twins dropped, as a replacement.

The D-Rays, their payroll already stripped to the bare bones, will non-tender Esteban Yan, Paul Wilson and Tanyon Sturtze; the latter is on Toronto's shopping list at a much reduced price from what he might have been awarded in arbitration.

Useful spare part Frank Catalanotto, one-dimensional Tiger Robert Fick, lefty Mark Redman and Royals 3B Joe Randa are others whose names are being mentioned in various reports.

Squid, the Expos' announcement that they would trade everyone was certainly a factor in the lack of activity, around Cruz and many, many others. What it seems most of you disagree with me about is whether that was a random coincidence, or diabolically clever timing by BeelzeBud. Dave: I'm not ignoring the effect of Operation Shutdown :-)
_Ryan Adams - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 11:48 AM EST (#65443) #
I'm not surprised by what's happening now with contracts. This started happening last offseason after the peak two years ago (the year Rodriguez and Delgado got their big contracts). This is a continuation of the trend.

I always liked Cruz and I'm disappointed that he wasn't able to become more than an average player. During his professional career he's displayed all the hitting skills you like to see -- he just wasn't able to use them all at the same time. He's had five batting coaches at the major league level (by my count) and I have to wonder if the conflicting approaches might have led to his periodic struggles.
Craig B - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 11:50 AM EST (#65444) #
Sturtze would be a good guy to bring into camp and enter into the battle royal for the 4th and 5th starter roles. Even if you have to sign him to a major-league deal, a heavily incentivized deal might work for both sides.

Weird pitching-coach-related insight: through 2002, two of the ten most-similar pitchers to Sturtze according to baseball-reference.com are Dick Pole and Mel Queen.
_Richard - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 12:12 PM EST (#65445) #
Just as I thought it was business as usual,Godzilla to the Yanks ,this news breaks.

I think J.P. was uncharacteristically being a little disengenious about the 5 million per year arb salary. I think Cruz given his 2002 campaign was probably quite a bit lower but, with the winner take all arbitration process why gamble.

Ryan's point is well taken about 5 hitting coaches,but from what I've gathered its actually 6,as Jose Sr. vetted all hitting advice.

It's sad to see Jose never reach a level of consistency,[I blame his god awfull swing],still I can't argue against this transaction.
_Jordan - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 12:22 PM EST (#65446) #
I'd be happy to look at Sturzte, but he's never had a good BB/K ratio, and against all the laws of gods and man, he gave up 271 hits in 224 innings last year. Ouchie. Paul Wilson had some good buzz surrounding him last year, but he's been mediocre at best on the field and looks more like a project than a pickup -- a Don Gullett special.

I would love to see Catalanotto in a Blue Jays uniform, though -- he's Dave Berg on steroids, a utility player with an .825 career OPS and with a .330/.391/.490 line in 463 ABs in 2001. However, he's far likelier to go to a team with a full-time infield opening and a slightly higher payroll -- the Red Sox should stick him next to Nomar for 140 games and watch him go. I don't know why the Rangers are letting him walk.
_Sean - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 01:17 PM EST (#65447) #
This just in--Atlanta traded Kevin Millwood to the Phillies for Estrada!!!

What a remarkably asinine move by the Braves: if they were set on dumping payroll, couldn't they have managed to place Millwood on a non-divisional-rival team?!

As it now stands, Philadelphia should score a *lot* of runs next year, and now they have a perfectly acceptable rotation with Padilla and Wolf rounding out the top 3, with Duckworth and whomever filling out the other two slots. I'm comfortable in predicting that the Phillies will win the NL East.
Dave Till - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 01:20 PM EST (#65448) #
Re Cruz and his struggles: I think his problem is that he just can't hit good breaking stuff. If you can throw good pitches, Jose won't be able to hit them. His high walk totals are because he's smart enough to know that he can't hit certain pitches, so he lays off them.

Cruz reminds me of Lloyd Moseby. Except for about a two-year stretch, the Shaker had the same problem. I still remember seeing Moseby hitting against John Candelaria - Lloyd couldn't touch him with a canoe paddle.
_Ryan Adams - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 01:35 PM EST (#65449) #
\What a remarkably asinine move by the Braves: if they were set on dumping payroll, couldn't they have managed to place Millwood on a non-divisional-rival team?!\

What the...?

Surely the Braves could've done better than Estrada. He's a decent player, but there's no way he's worth Millwood, even when you factor in salary. It's arguable that the Jays got more value in the Pat Hentgen trade.

With the number of strange moves the Braves make, sometimes I wonder how they've managed to stay this competitive for 12 years.
_Jordan - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 01:44 PM EST (#65450) #
It's ironic that both the Jose Cruz threads here and at Primer were taken over by the Millwood trade. That would be bad irony, of course, rather than good irony. Anyway, Millwood has its own thread now, if you're interested.
_Kent - Friday, December 20 2002 @ 05:58 PM EST (#65451) #
Ironic? It's like rain on your wedding day. :-)

Here's an ESPN roundup of players expected to be non-tendered.
Pistol - Saturday, December 21 2002 @ 09:20 AM EST (#65452) #
"Cory of Lidle value, Jays need to spend on hitters

By BOB ELLIOTT

Outfielder Jose Cruz made more starts (43) in the No. 5 spot in the 2002 Blue Jays lineup than anyone else this season.

And now, he is gone.

Is a No. 2 starter -- righty Cory Lidle -- more important than the run-producing Cruz, who started 120 games in total and drove in 70 runs?

Well, Lidle, who will make 35 starts tops, and his $4.8 million US contract, are here.

Cruz, in line to earn roughly $5 million in salary arbitration in 2003, was deemed too rich for the Jays and is gone.

The Jays attempted to deal Cruz in Nashville and now get nothing in return.

And a Merry Christmas to you too.

That tells you the thinking going on at 1 Blue Jays Way: Pitching over offence. "

Wow.
Coach - Saturday, December 21 2002 @ 10:32 AM EST (#65453) #
Here is the whole column; Elliott also says:

Would Millwood have been a better fit with the Jays than Lidle, a former replacement player with the Oakland A's?

We think so.


This cheap shot assumes that J.P. and staff would have a crystal ball so accurate, only they (among MLB teams and millions of fans) would have anticipated the extremely surprising developments that led to the dump of Millwood. Reasonable? We think not.
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