Cruz for "Nothing"?

Friday, December 20 2002 @ 08:44 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

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.