J.P. Ricciardi falls on his sword:
Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi refuses to make any excuses about his club’s dismal performance this season and willingly takes the blame.
“I take full responsibility for what’s going on,” Ricciardi said last night as the Jays wrapped up a four-game series against the Rangers.
“The team’s not playing well. Obviously we’re not happy with that, but someone has to be held accountable and I accept that responsibility.”
There’s long been a sense out there that Ricciardi has been hamstrung and controlled by his bosses in ways that a lot of other GMs aren’t. He is rumored to have been forced to sign Vernon Wells and Alex Rios to those gigantic contracts against his better judgment and, as this article makes clear, his projected payroll was radically and abruptly scaled-back after the death of Ted Rogers last winter.
In light of that — and in light of Ricciardi’s historic lack of humility — one wonders what, exactly, he’s taking the blame for. Maybe he’s just sick of it all and is begging to be put out of his misery. The cynic in me, however, wonders if he has been given assurances that his job will be secure in exchange for taking a P.R. shot for upper management.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.