Every team has at least one player that they gave away or gave up on too soon. Detroit has John Smoltz, the Red Sox Jeff Bagwell and Minnesota David Ortiz just to name a few. The Jays have also had their fair share of players that left Toronto to find greater success somewhere else. To be totally clear were talking about players that either didn’t have a chance to make their mark in Toronto or players that took off once they took off the Jays uniform. In other words guys like Roy Halladay and Shawn Green don’t apply because they kicked ass both in Toronto and beyond.
Traded to Toronto from the Rangers for Michael Young and Darwin Cubillan, 2000
Loaiza barely makes the list, but I needed a tenth guy so here he is. Toronto traded for Loazia just past midseason in 2000. That trade will appear on the list again later as the Rangers easily got the best player involved. Anyway, after arriving in Toronto in 2000 Loaiza would start 14 games the rest of the season, posting a 5-7 record and a 3.62 ERA. He would spend the next two seasons in Toronto and as a Jay he went 25-28 with a lofty 4.96 ERA. In 2002 Loaiza was 9-10 with an ugly 5.71 ERA and following the season he left via free agency to sign with the White Sox.
Something suddenly clicked for Loaiza in Chicago as he had the best season of his career in 2003, going 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and a career-high 207 strikeouts. In his previous two seasons in Toronto Loaiza had only 197 strikeouts combined. He would go on to finish second in CY Young voting behind former teammate Roy Halladay. I don’t think many people were sad to see Loaiza leave Toronto, but his sudden transformation in 2003 made fans wonder where that Loaiza was when he was in Toronto. However, 2003 proved to be an anomaly as Loaiza never came close to repeating those numbers again in his career.
9. Kelvim Escobar
Signed by Toronto as an amateur free agent, 1992
Escobar had some good seasons in Toronto, but he could have been better if the Jays had assigned him one job and let him stick to it. Escobar was with Toronto from 1997 to 2003. He was moved in and out of the rotation during that time and also spent some time in the closers role. His best season as a starter in Toronto came in 1999 when he went 14-11 with a 5.69 ERA. Three seasons later as the closer he recorded 38 saves. Oddly enough he returned to the rotation again the next season.
When he became a free agent in 2004 the Angels snatched him up with a $18.75 million contract over three years. The Angels put Escobar in their rotation and left him there. He had a solid debut season with the Angels in 2004 with a 11-12 record and a 3.93 ERA, but he really took off in 2007, going 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA. In 2008 injuries started to take their toll on Escobar and he was never the same.
Williams started his career with Toronto in the bullpen in 1993. After toiling away in the bullpen for a few more years he found his way into the rotation in 1996 and stuck there for the next three seasons. He started to show promise in 1998 with a 10-9 record and 4.46 ERA before getting traded to the Padres with Carlos Almanzar for Joey Hamilton. In retrospect not a great trade for the Jays. In just under three seasons with the Jays Hamilton was 14-17 with a 5.83 ERA.
In the same time with the Padres Williams was 30-28 with a 4.35 ERA. In 2001 Williams was traded to the Cardinals where he delivered his best seasons. Williams peaked in 2003 when he went 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP to make his first All-Star game. During his four seasons with the Cardinals Williams was 45-22 with a 3.53 ERA. Maybe the Jays gave up on Williams just a little too early?
Werth spent part of two seasons in Toronto, but he didn’t see the field much, playing in only 41 games. With the Jays Werth got only 94 at bats, hitting .234 with two home runs and 16 RBI. Before the 2004 season he was traded to the Dodgers for Jason Frasor. After scuffling in Los Angeles for a couple seasons Werth signed as a free agent by Philadelphia in 2006. He rounded into form in 2009 when he made his first All-Star Game and got a few MVP votes after hitting 36 home runs with 99 RBI and 98 runs scored. He continued to produce at the plate in 2010 with 27 HR and 85 RBI and it earned him a huge contract with the Nationals in 2011 His first season with Washington was a disappointment but he’s got six more seasons to live up to his $126 millions contract.
Fielder made his debut with the Jays in 1985 and over four seasons appeared in only 220 games, hitting .243 with 31 home runs. His most productive season was in 1987 when he played in 82 games, had 175 atbats and hit .269 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI. Following the 1988 season Fielder went to Japan to play for the Hanshin Tigers. He hit 38 home runs while playing everyday in Japan which earned him a contract with the Detroit Tigers. Fielder took off with the Tigers in 1990 hitting 51 home runs and driving in 132 RBI. At the time he was only the 11th player in MLB history and the first in 25 year to reach the 50 home run mark. Fielder never hit 50 homers again, but he did top the 30-homer mark five more times, clubbing 319 home runs in his career. In 1996 he was traded to the Yankees where he was part of the first Yankees team to win the World Series since 1978.
Wells is an interesting case because he did find his way back to Toronto later in his career. I think if you had asked him though he didn’t want to be there. Wells made his debut with the Jays in 1987. That season he appeared in 18 games, two as a starter, posting a 4-3 record with a tidy 3.99 ERA. He bounced around between the bullpen and the rotation never really getting the opportunity to stick as a starter. Wells was in many ways known more for his ornery personality (including a few runs ins with Cito Gaston on the mound) and during Spring Training in 1993 he was released.
He was quickly signed by the Tigers and over the next four season spent time in Detroit, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He started to find his groove with Tigers in ’95, going 10-3 with a 3.04 ERA. After leaving the Orioles in 1996 he signed with the Yankees where he really blossomed. In two seasons in the Bronx he went 34-14 with 13 complete games, seven shutouts and his infamous perfect game against the Twins in 1998.
He returned to Toronto in 1999 as part of a package for Roger Clemens and in his second stint with the Jays he won 37 games over two season, including a career-high 20 wins in 2000. Wells made good on his potential with his second turn with the Jays before getting shipped to the White Sox, but what would have happened if the Jays had not given up on him prior to the 1993 season?
Leiter was acquired from the Yankees for Barfield in 1989 and for a number of years it looked like the Yankees fleeced the Jays in the trade. Between 1989 and 1992 Leiter appeared in only nine games for the Jays while battling blisters, recovering from two different surgeries, injuries to his elbow and tendinitis. When he finally got healthy in 1993 he started to show why the Jays wanted him, going 9-6 with a 4.11 ERA as a spot-starter/reliever. Starting in 1994 Leiter was entrenched in the rotation and went 17-18 with a 4.19 ERA over the next two seasons.
Despite efforts to re-sign him Leiter left Toronto via free agency in 1996 to sign with the Marlins. In his first season with Florida he made the All-Star team and finished ninth in Cy Young voting after going 16-12 with a 2.93 ERA with a career-high 200 strikeouts. A year later he helped lead the Marlins to a World Series title. Leiter’s best season was still to come in 1998 with the Mets. That season he went 17-6 with a career-best 2.47 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, four complete games and two shutouts.
After leaving Toronto Leiter would win 15-plus games four times, make two All-Star teams, pitch in the World Series for the Marlins and the Mets and post an ERA under 3.50 six times. Too bad none of those numbers had come in a Jays uniform.
Young never played a single game for the Jays before getting traded to the Texas Rangers along with prospect Darwin Cubillan for Esteban Loaiza in 2000. Young debuted with Texas later that season and took over the starting duties at second base in 2002. When Alex Rodriguez left Texas in 2004 Young was moved to shortstop and flourished. He was an All-Star for the next six seasons and appear in the mid-summer classic seven times overall. Since 2004 he’s hit over .300 six times, hitting 20-plus home runs four times and he’s also driven in 100-plus runs four times.
Young has proven to be Mr. Versatile in Texas starting his career at second before moving to short and then moving to third to make room for Elvis Andrus. Two seasons later he was on the move again taking turns at first base and DH when the Rangers brought in Adrian Beltre. I wonder if Young could have filled in any of those position which such effectiveness had he not been shipped out of Toronto in 2000?
Would the Jays have won the 1992 World Series if they hadn’t traded Jeff Kent for David Cone? That’s an impossible question to answer of course and so is what kind of career would Kent have had if he had remained a Jay. After getting traded out of Toronto Kent hit 20-plus home runs 12 times and he topped 30 home runs in a season three times. He also drove in 100 or more runs eight times.
Kent bounced around a bit throughout his career going from the Mets to the Indians to the Giants, to the Astros before finishing his career with the Dodgers. His best season came with the Giants in 2000 when he batted .334 with 33 home runs and 125 RBI to win the NL MVP. Kent was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger award winner who hit 377 home runs in his career. 355 of those homers came while playing second base, a record for the position.
A lot was expected from Carpenter after he was taken with the fifteenth overall pick in 1993. His first season in Toronto was in 1997 when he appeared in 14 games, going 3-7 with a 5.09 ERA. He would spend six seasons in Toronto, compiling a 49-50 record and a 4.83 ERA. His best season as a Jay came in 2001 when he went 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA and an ugly 1.410 WHIP. Spotty command was a problem for Carpenter throughout his years in Toronto, as that was the second lowest WHIP he posted as a Jay.
In 2002 Carpenter had shoulder surgery and refused a minor league deal from Toronto, instead becoming a free agent. The Cardinals took a chance on Carpenter, who missed the entire 2003 season due to a torn labrum. In 2004 Carpenter started to live up to his vast potential with a 15-5 record, 3.46 ERA and what was at the time a career-best 1.14 WHIP. In 2005 Carpenter blew those numbers away winning 21 games while posting a 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP to win the Cy Young Award. In eight seasons with the Cards Carpenter is 95-42 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. One has to wonder what the Jays could have done with the combo of Roy Halladay and Carpenter leading the rotation in the 2000s?
Somewhat honorable mentions:
Did I forget anyone? Love the list or maybe hate it? Maybe someone should be higher or lower in the rankings? Let me know in the comments section.