Some whos, whats, whens, wheres, hows-and sometimes whys-of trades the Toronto Blue Jays have made at and around trade deadlines in the past.
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
The Trade Deadline brings out the best-and the worst- in baseball fans. The rumors, the realities and the possibilities all converge in a perfect storm of excitement and frustration. Everyone has a chance to be a genius by sharing a trade option that proves to come to fruition, while others (present company included) become poster children for Pin The Tail on the Donkey games. Every year we vow not to get sucked into the Black Rabbit Hole and every year we are driven to distraction at home and work by the time 4pmET comes around.
This article will not bore you with trades the Blue Jays should make. Nor will we attempt to present a ranking of All-Time Best and Worst Toronto Blue Jays trades. But I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the more interesting trades from the past 44 years just to give us all some perspective on why we care so much.
As with most expansion teams, the first 5 years of the Blue Jays existence saw trade deadline moves (and transactions overall) swap retreads and used-to-be players just to put a product on the field while prospects developed. The following might be the most head-shaking example of running on a treadmill after increased win totals occurred during the lead up to the trade deadline.
Prior to the 1985 Player Strike, the trading deadline was June 15th. On the 15th, the Blue Jays traded Wayne Nordhagen to the Phillies for Dick Davis. It didn’t take long for management to tire of Davis’ erratic behavior and on June 22nd, he was shipped via a waiver deal to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later. Ironically, Nordhagen had been immediately traded to the Pirates by Philadelphia for Bill Robinson. So 3 days later, Nordhagen became the PTBNL in the Davis trade. Net result: Wayne Nordhagen, over the course of one week, was traded for himself.
Finally a legitimate contender under Bobby Cox, Toronto acted at the deadline to bolster their lineup in pursuit of their AL East Division crown. First they traded slugging prospect Len Matuszek to the Dodgers for hitting machine Al Oliver. Their other major deal happened in advance of the Waiver Deadline and marked the first of several transactions that saw failed first round picks being sent for immediate help. Matt Williams (no, not THAT Matt Williams), the 5th pick overall in 1981, Jeff Mays, and Greg Ferienda to the Rangers for Cliff Johnson. Johnson arguably had the greatest immediate impact of any Blue Jays deadline acquisition prior to David Price.
Hardly one of the most memorable trade deadlines in Blue Jays history, 1989 is an example of how Hall of Fame Executive Pat Gillick often exploited the trade market to add to his major league roster. Gillick had been asking for Mets OF Lee Mazzilli before acquiring Mookie Wilson for Jeff Musselman and minor leaguer Mike Brady. When unable to clear a 40-man roster spot to accommodate these and other deadline acquisitions, the Mets placed Mazzilli on waivers. Gillick promptly claimed the switch hitter and double-dipped the Mets with one trade.
The Championship Years
The majority of Blue Jays fans will point to 1992 and 1993 as the apex of the franchise. Back-to-back World Championships will have that affect. But there are several interesting aspects of trades made around the early 1990s trade deadline that directly contributed to those titles.
One of the greatest birthday surprises I ever experienced happened on August 27, 1992. Personal favorite David Cone was acquired by Toronto from the Mets for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. It also is a shining example of a great baseball trade. Both the Jays and Mets benefitted greatly from the performances of the players involved, even though not immediately in case of the Mets.
As for 1993, remember that the failure to acquire coveted rotation piece Randy Johnson (at a high prospect cost) did lead to the Jays to add Rickey Henderson at the deadline in return for Steve Karsay (okay MLB pitcher) and Jose Herrera (who?).
Any Blue Jays fan could write an epic history of the failures of the Gord Ash era. But the constant state of confusion is best summed up in July of 1998. Despite already boasting a formidable lineup, Ash felt compelled to sign aging Tony Phillips as a free agent on July 1st. By July 31st, the team had seen enough to trade him to the Mets for the infamous Leo Estrella. In fairness to Ash, Estrella did make a bigger (sic) contribution to Toronto than the 2002 J.P.Ricciadi acquisition of Scott Wiggins– he of the 2 2/3 innings spread over 3 appearances and yielding a WHIP of 2.250. The cost? Raul Mondesi, who went on the slug 51 homers for the Yankees over the next 2 seasons.
For Trade Noodniks like me, the 2015 Trade Deadline is the Holy Grail. What Alex Anthopolous set in motion, both for the immediate good and the future bad, is the things every kid dreams of when trading baseball cards in 1977 and every fantasy baseball GM in the early 90s wished they could put together. AA acted with a brashness and confidence that would make AJ Preller and Jerry DiPoto blush. Troy Tulowitzki….David Price….even Mark Lowe and Ben Revere. Excuse me while a wipe the tears of joy from my eyes.
The Shapiro-Atkins Years
The first year of the new front office regime saw Shapkins distracted by another playoff run. The Francisco Liriano Reese McGuire Harold Ramirez haul for Drew Hutchinson was a good start. Focused on rebuilding a depleted farm system, later years saw the acquisitions of Teoscar Hernandez and Santiago Espinal, but also the likes of Jacob Waguespack Corey Coppins and Kyle Johnston.
2020 was first year the Blue Jays were in the hunt for a playoff spot. Atkins did steal Robbie Ray from the Diamondbacks and wrangled Taijuan Walker from Seattle at the deadline. But the Jays also lost some players on DFA waiver manoeuvres they would like to have back (most notably Daniel Vogelbach).
What does all this information mean to you for 2021? One simple piece of advice-just enjoy the thrill ride. Get mad. Jump to your feet and applaud. Call that friend you love to annoy and set them off on a tirade. But simply just enjoy the day. Even more than opening day of free agency in the NHL and NFL, the MLB Trade Deadline is a must-follow moment and an unofficial holiday for baseball fans.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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