No Free Agents For the Jays?

http://mlb.mlb.com/images/2004/01/27/ojZWR8AM.jpg

Hmmm.  So J.P. Ricciardi is at it again.  The master of excuses, misdirection, and lowered expectations has kindly informed the baseball world that A.J. Burnett is the Jays' one and only free agent target, and that if A.J. goes elsewhere:

 

"I don't think there's anybody else out there that, for what you'd probably have to get involved with from a money standpoint, that we would feel comfortable getting involved with. I think we'd probably stay in-house."

 

Ricciardi also spent some time complaining about the economy and how it's affected the Jays' spending, nixing the many rumors that had linked the Jays with everyone from Rafael Furcal to Milton Bradley to Manny Ramirez to Derek Lowe. 

Let's face it:  A.J. is gone.  The Jays are not prepared to go 5/80, which looks like it will be what it takes.  But what I can't figure out is this - let's say that A.J. spurns the $54 million or however much the Jays were willing to use on him.  Why wouldn't they then think about the best other way to spend that money they're obviously willing to invest in the team? (hint: $11 million a year could likely pay for Bradley, and perhaps even Furcal).  Does Burnett offer some special value on the free agent market as compared to other free agents?  Hardly.  That's simply not the case, and I can't believe that Ricciardi would be content in what has to be his (last) last chance with the Jays to not only stand pat but substantially cut payroll from last season, not replacing several missing key pieces from last season or addressing the glaring weakness that sunk an otherwise excellent team.

Ricciardi mentioned trades, and it has been a practice for other GMs to empty out the farm system when their backs are against the wall and they need to win now, but JP has always been reluctant to trade his prospects (as Richard Griffin pointed out in today's Star), so I'm not sure that will happen.  I like JP's trade record, actually, but the Jays' major league roster and high minors talent, other than in the bullpen, is pretty thin to be dealing away their major league talent. 

The Jays are down significantly in payroll from last season, with no one due a big raise through arbitration.  They need a starter and a dh, at the very least, quite badly but they don't have extra major-leaguers to trade and they don't want to give away their few prize prospects.  It would seem that free agency is the perfect way for them to augment the roster, and yet JP is ruling it out? Furcal won't even cost draft picks (and Bradley is only a Type B), so they're especially good deals as they will truly only cost money.

No way - it has to be just another example of misdirection, and lowering expectations.  We heard it all last season, before J.P. dealt Glaus for Rolen in a bold challenge trade, and got us all hot-and-bothered by almost (or not depending on who your read) getting Lincecum for Rios.  We will see what happens, but lest we forget, this is the man who thinks says it's not a lie if he knows the truth.

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