Yes, I understand that J.P. Ricciardi did not, in fact, get nothing in return when he traded outfielder Alexis Rios to the White Sox. Yes, I realize that this fancy "salary relief" term means a whole lot more in the Xtreme Depression and that this frees up tens of millions of dollars that J.P. can spend elsewhere. But really, Rios had actual real live value: $60 million over the last five years alone despite just $5 million this year as per Fangraphs. And so what if Rios is having a bad year? His BABIP is down this year, a career low .294. Slumps happen, even summer-long slumps, even summer-long slumps smack dab in the middle of his prime. What made Ricciardi pull the plug now?
Besides, you can't build a team on a foundation of money, honey. You need to invest those loonies and toonies in both a farm system and smart free agent signings nowadays. Yes, Ricciardi got salary relief, nearly $60 million of it over four years, which is enough to secure a smattering of middle relievers and aging corner outfielders for a couple of years. But that won't buy championships, not in the A.L. East. A small market team in that division has no choice but to emulate the Rays plan of success: (1) fail for many years and snag high draft picks (2) ... (3) profit. I think J.P. skipped steps 1 and 2 and just started stealing underwear from my dresser drawers.
But the fact remains: Ricciardi's hand was forced because Rios' talents could not fully shine when an even larger bag of waste was blocking up the dollar flow. Blue Jays CF Vernon Wells is owed almost $100 million before 2014, at which point he'll be 35 and have a mailbox clogged with AARP junk mail. In a move reminiscent of Sophie's Choice, J.P. was stuck choosing between the two big OF contracts and ended up giving up the more attractive one. If Wells wasn't around, Rios could rotate into center. But Wells will be around, jingling the pocket change from his Albert Belle-esque contract without the Albert Belle-esque production.
So, while some Scott Podsednik fans might disagree, I must say that this deal was a win for the White Sox and another transaction loss for Ricciardi and the Jays. Sometimes a salary dump is more like a talent dump; at least now all you Blue Jays fans can finally agree with me that the Jays offense is "worsening".