Savings grace for Jays

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As a general manager, J.P. Ricciardi has become a pretty fair accountant.

And it is because of the dollar signs dancing in his eyes that Ricciardi traded reliever Scott Schoeneweis to Cincinnati and utility player Eric Hinske to Boston on Wednesday.

Ricciardi is looking ahead to his 2007 budget and by saving $3.9 million US on Hinske (his remaining $1.1 million for '06 and half of his $5.6 million due in '07), $600,000 on Schoeneweis and close to $2 million when he traded Shea Hillenbrand to San Francisco last month, he believes he has put himself and the Blue Jays in an advantageous position without weakening the guts of the lineup.

"Coming into this year, we had $6 million (above and beyond the guaranteed contracts and raises for players they control) we could spend next year. So, by the trades, we're up to about $12.5 for next year," Ricciardi said. "If you want to talk about Vernon (Wells, and a contract extension), we need some money for that. We'd like to bring (Frank) Catalanotto back. We need to fill a need behind the plate so we're still strapped in some cases, but we have to make our money work."

It's not that the Jays are broke. But when you have a $75-million budget, you have to make every dollar count.

"We have to be financially smart with our money," he said. " We'll see where we're at at the end of the year. We're ending the year figuring we'd have $6 million, but now that we've doubled it. We're in a pretty good spot."

Critics will suggest that Ricciardi should have waited until the off-season to move Hinske, that he would be able to get more value back in return than the low minor-leaguer the Jays will receive.

"Based on the fact that there wasn't a lot of interest in the past, we pretty much thought a bird in the hand would give us that flexibility," Ricciardi said.

As for the optics of making a trade to a division rival, a team the Jays are attempting to catch, Ricciardi said the money saved won out.

"Once again, our No. 1 goal is to make our team better and the only way we can make our team better is if we can continue to add some resources financially," he said. "Adding (Troy) Glaus, adding (A.J.) Burnett and (B.J.) Ryan, we're not going to be able to do that again in one year unless our payroll shoots to $95 million.

"In order for us to add to what we've done this year, we've got to be creative financially and this is one way of doing it. It wasn't a matter of who we were sending him to, it was a matter of being able to get that financial flexibility."

In the Jays clubhouse yesterday, Wells agreed that the deal made sense, that Hinske going to Boston is not, well, treasonous.

"It doesn't bother me at all. We've still got to go out and beat those teams," Wells said. "He wasn't getting the chance to play every day here so now he's got a chance to hopefully play and produce. I hope he plays well, just not against us.

"It's a change of scenery and hopefully it will be a good change for him. He knows he's getting thrown right into the fire in a five-game series against New York and he's looking forward to it.

"He can turn into a cult figure in a heartbeat in that city, especially in the series (versus New York) that's coming up. Hopefully he does well."


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