The Mets know J.P. Ricciardi signed Vernon Wells, B.J. Ryan and Frank Thomas to questionable deals, but they still wanted to hire him. So did the Red Sox for that matter. But their interest in Ricciardi probably had little to do with those multi-million dollar contracts. Theo Epstein likely wanted the former Blue Jays GM around because of his shrewd under-the-radar pickups and consistently productive drafts. It was a major reason why Mets GM Sandy Alderson hired Ricciardi.
“I know first hand he’s a superb talent evaluator," Alderson said when the Mets announced the hiring earlier this week. "He’ll be a tremendous resource in a variety of areas.”
Ricciardi, Toronto’s GM from 2001-09, added expensive free agents who didn’t perform as expected so, like former Mets GM Omar Minaya, he got fired. It would be unwise to try to analyze Ricciardi’s tenure in Toronto in a few hundred words, but certain deals will give us insight into what the executive brings to the Mets and why Sandy Alderson wanted to reunite with his former Oakland colleague.
Every one of Ricciardi’s drafts from 2002-07 produced at least one major league regular. Dave Bush (2002), Shaun Marcum (2003), Aaron Hill (2003), Casey Janssen (2004), Adam Lind (2004), Ricky Romero (2005), Travis Snider (2006), Brett Cecil (2007) and J.P. Arencibia (2007) are all Ricciardi draftees. It’s still early to be evaluating the 2008-09 draft classes, but Tyler Pastornicky (2008, no longer with Toronto), Eric Thames (2008), Jacob Marisnick (2009) and Chad Jenkins (2009) are promising.
Jose Bautista deserves credit for turning his career around, but Ricciardi was the one who traded for him. Ricciardi also bought low on Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, Scott Downs, Scott Richmond, Josh Towers and others. They aren’t all MVP candidates like Bautista, but none of those players cost the Jays much and they all contributed.
Ricciardi overspent on free agents and, at times, on his own players. He signed Frank Thomas and A.J. Burnett to contracts that didn’t work out particularly well. The Blue Jays owe Vernon Wells $86MM through 2014 because of a deal they offered under Ricciardi. And the Blue Jays spent $10MM on B.J. Ryan this year because Ricciardi overpaid for his services after the 2005 season.
But Alderson didn’t hire Ricciardi to overpay for closers or center fielders (the Amazins already have that covered). With decades of experience in big league front offices, Ricciardi has developed an eye for talent that should help the Mets.