Trading seems like it would be one of the more fun part of being a Major League GM. It certainly is when you’re running a team in a video game like MLB: The Show or in your MLB fantasy league. Trading in the Majors is a lot different though. Swapping assets with another team can be a boom or a complete bust to your team if you trade away or acquire the right or wrong players.
The Blue Jays have made some very successful trades in their history and in fact you could say they’ve duped the other side numerous times. But, what makes the best trades? Getting more than gave away seems like a given, or at least improving your team more than you hurt it.
Do you have to completely fleece the other side to make a good deal? It can’t hurt, but a trade that makes your team into a contender should also rank pretty high on the list. With all of that taken into consideration here’s our Top 10 Blue Jay trades of all time with a few honorable mentions thrown in at the end.
Ted Lilly spent three seasons in Toronto as a serviceable starting pitcher. He may not be an ace, but he is a solid left hander and one thing is for sure. He’s a way better pitcher than Bobby Kielty is an outfielder.
During Lilly’s three seasons with the Blue Jays he posted a 37-34 record and a 4.52 ERA for some pretty mediocre Toronto teams. His best season was likely 2004 when he went 12-10 with a 4.06 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP and he appeared in the All-Star game. He also struck out 7.7 batter per nine innings that season and posted the best WAR of his career at 5.0.
Kielty arrived in Toronto in 2003 as part of a lackluster trade that sent Shannon Stewart to the Twins. During his lone season in Toronto he appeared in 62 games, hitting .233 with four home runs and 25 RBI. Apparently Billy Beane and the A’s thought that kind of production was worth the equivalent of Ted Lilly.
Kielty spent part of four seasons with Oakland mostly as a backup outfielder, never appearing in more than 116 games in a season. In 293 games for the A’s Kielty hit .250 with a .334 OBP, 25 home runs and 127 RBI. Oakland usually does well when they trade away a starting pitcher, but they missed the mark badly with Lilly.
9. 1995 – Blue Jays traded Howard Battle and Ricardo Jordan to the Philadelphia Phillies for Paul Quantrill
Quantrill, from London, Ontario, had been pitching in the Majors for five years before the Jays stole him from the Phillies. Starting in 1996 Quantrill was a reliable arm in the Toronto bullpen for six seasons. In 386 games for the Jays, which actually included 20 starts in 1996, Quantrill compiled a 30-34 record with a 3.67 ERA.
Quantrill was joked to have a rubber arm and logged over 80 innings in five of his six seasons in Toronto. In 1997 Quantrill posted a 1.97 ERA, allowing only 19 earned runs over 88 innings. His best season in Toronto was also his last in 2001. That season Quantrill made the All-Star team, a rare feat for a reliever that isn’t a closer, and he finished the year with an 11-2 record, a 3.04 ERA and a 1.181 WHIP.
Going the other way in the deal were prospects Howard Battle and Ricardo Jordan. Battle, appeared in five games with the Phillies in 1996, but toiled in the minors the rest of his time with Philadelphia. After spending time in the Dodgers and White Sox Minor League systems Battle ended up in Atlanta in 1998 and saw action in 15 games with the Braves in 1999. He actually hit well in limited duty with a .353 average in 17 at bats, but following the season he ended up in Japan where he finished his baseball career.
Jordan spent only one season with the Phillies in 1996, but found some success in the bullpen. In 26 games Jordan posted a 2-2 record with a 1.80 ERA. He flamed out after that though spending the next two seasons with the Mets and Reds. In 1998 he posted an ugly 24.30 ERA in six games with Cincinnati and was released before the end of the season.
He spent time in the minors with the Yankees and Dodgers, but would not pitch in the Majors again.
This trade actually worked out really well for both sides. Near midseason in 1986 Alexander wanted out of Toronto so Pat Gillick flipped him to the Braves for a young Ward. Before the trade Ward had only appeared in 12 games with the Braves posting an ugly 8.00 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP.
Ward continued to struggle with the Jays, but started to put it together in 1988 when he went 9-3 with a 3.30 ERA out of the bullpen. Through the late 80s and early 90s Ward was a key cog in the Toronto bullpen, acting as Tom Henke’s understudy in 1991 and 1992. Ward claimed the closers role when Henke departed in 1993 and set a club record with 45 saves that season.
During the 1986 season Alexander went 6-6 with a 3.84 the rest of the season with the Braves. He couldn’t keep it up for a horrible Braves team in 1987, going 5-10 with a 4.13 before getting traded to Detroit for John Smoltz. Alexander excelled for the Tigers with a 9-0 record and a 1.53 ERA, but Detroit lost what could have been a future ace in John Smoltz.
Sharperson was a first round pick of the Blue Jays in 1981 and made his Toronto debut in 1987. After appearing in 42 games for the Jays that season he was traded to the Dodgers late in the year. While with the Dodgers he won the World Series in 1988, but he was mainly a utility/bench player during his time with Los Angeles, never appearing in more than 129 games in a single season.
Somehow though he was an All-Star in 1992 despite finishing the season with only a .300 average, three home runs, 36 RBI, and 48 runs scored. Sharperson’s career ended on a sad note. In 1996 he was playing for the San Diego Padres AAA team in Las Vegas when he got called up to join the Padres in San Diego. While driving to San Diego he was involved in a car crash and died after being ejected from his vehicle. He was 34 years old.
Guzman debuted with the Jays in 1991 and became a fixture in the rotation during the glory years in the early 90s. In his rookie season he went 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chuck Knoblauch.
During his first three seasons with the Jays Guzman was a combined 40-11 with a with a 3.28 ERA. In 1996 he went 11-8 and led the AL with a 2.93 ERA. He also posted an amazing 3.11 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio that season. Getting Guzman for Sharperson was a huge steal for the Jays.
This trade was seen as a huge steal when the Jays pulled it off in 1997 and as far as I’m concerned it still is. Cruz was on fire at the plate for the contending Mariners in 1997 and it was a huge shock when Seattle continued their revolving door policy in left field and shipped him to Toronto for bullpen help.
Cruz Jr. brought some excitement to Toronto right away hitting 14 home runs and driving in 34 RBI in 55 games. He never really lived up to the expectations placed on him in Toronto following his rookie season (could he really though?) but he did have some impressive seasons with the Jays.
In 2000 the first time he played more than 106 games for the Jays, he clubbed 31 home runs to go along with 76 RBI. The following season he went 30-30 with 34 homers and 32 steals. He also drove in a career-high 88 runs while hitting .274, also a career-high for a full season.
Going the other way to Seattle was Spoljaric and Timlin. Spoljaric, a rare Canadian that played for the Jays struggled with Seattle and in two seasons posted a 4-6 record with a lofty 6.11 ERA. He went on to be traded a number of times going from Seattle to Philadelphia, then back to Toronto again before getting shipped to St. Louis with Pat Hentgen. He finished his career with the Royals in 2000.
Timlin lasted two seasons in Seattle with a 6-5 record, 3.17 ERA and 20 saves. He left via free agency and bounced around Baltimore and St. Louis before really finding a home with the Red Sox where he was part of the World Series champion teams in 2004 and 2007.
The Mariners made another bad trade the same day they moved Cruz. They also shipped two young prospects, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb. Ugh!
5. 1991 – Blue Jays traded Junior Felix, Luis Sojo and Ken Rivers to the California Angels for Devon White, Willie Fraser and Marcus Moore.
The Jays could have traded those three guys for White alone and still have easily won this trade.
Junior Felix is likely remembered for Jays fans for one of two things. No. 1 he caught the final out of Dave Stieb’s no-hitter. No. 2 he hit a home run on the first pitch of his first Major League at bat with Toronto. The rest of Felix’s career in Toronto wasn’t very memorable, hitting .261 with 24 home runs and 111 RBI over two seasons. He remained with the Angels for two season following the trade, hitting .257 with an unimpressive .299 OBP before getting snatched up by the Marlins in the expansion draft. Two years later after a brief stint with Detroit he was out of baseball.
Luis Sojo’s time in California was also a short one. In two seasons, in which he saw action in 219 games, he hit .265 before returning Toronto in 1993 in a straight-up trade for Kelly Gruber.
Ken Rivers? Never played a game at the Major League level.
The Jays biggest piece of the trade was obviously White, but let’s touch on Fraser and Moore briefly first. Fraser only spent part of one season in Toronto in 1991, appearing in 13 games and posting a 6.15 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. Not surprisingly he was waived midway through the ’91 season.
Moore never played a game for the Jays, but did latch on with the Colorado Rockies in the early 90′s in the bullpen.
Devon White wore out his welcome in California and it ended up costing the Angels a gold glove center fielder. In 1990 in his last season with the Angels White played in only 125 games and hit a career-low .217. He also failed to win a gold glove which was the only year that happened between 1988 and 1995. When he arrived in Toronto White became an elite table setter at the top of the lineup and a rock of a defender in center fielder. White didn’t make a lot of spectacular catches in the outfielder but that was because he made such great reads on balls and got to them so quickly he didn’t need to. That’s why he won a gold glove every season he was with the Jays. I’d trade a dozen Junior Felix’s for one Devon White.
Heading into the 1993 season and looking to repeat as World Series champs the Blue Jays starting shortstop was Dick Schofield. He really was, look it up if you don’t believe me. Schofield was solid in the field but the veteran wasn’t much of a threat at the plate. On May 12 against the Tigers Schofield collided with Milt Cuyler and broke his arm. That left shortstop in the hands of Alfredo Griffin and Luis Sojo. For a team looking to win another championship that wasn’t going to cut it.
Pat Gillick found the answer a month later when he shipped outfielder Darrin Jackson to the Mets for former Jay and fan favorite Fernandez. Fernandez’s return to Toronto couldn’t have gone better. In 94 games he hit .306 with 50 RBI, 15 steals and 45 runs. He also provided the typical Tony Fernandez gold glove defense and along with Roberto Alomar made up the best defensive tandem up the middle Toronto has ever had. In the postseason Fernandez excelled, hitting .318 in the ALCS and in the World Series he batted .333 with nine RBI.
What did Toronto lose in Jackson? No offense to Jackson but not very much. Jackson was hitting .216 when he was dealt and his bat did not find new life in the National League, as he hit only .195 in 31 games with the Mets. He bounced around the White Sox, Twins and Brewers the rest of his career, never playing in more than 114 games in a season. Toronto didn’t have a problem filling Jackson’s spot in the outfield either, filling the hole with future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson at the trade deadline.
What a one-sided deal this turned out to be. Not only did the Jays swindle Fred McGriff from the Yankees, but they also got Dave Collins and Mike Morgan for a pair of players that would do very little to help New York.
McGriff was drafted by the Yankees in the 9th round in 1981 but would never appear in Yankees pin stripes. He made his Major League debut with Toronto early in the 1986 season and in five years with the Jays showed epic power with his helicopter swing. McGriff would top the 30-home run three times with the Jays, knocking out what was at the time a career-best 36 dingers in 1989. McGriff hit 125 home runs with the Jays before getting dealt after the 1990 season in a trade we’ll talk about later on.
Hollins played only two seasons with the Jays, but he was an impact player on the bases. In 1984 Hollins used his wheels very effectively stealing 60 bases (still a team record) with 15 triples while hitting .308. During his two seasons with the Jays Hollins stole 91 bases.
I forgot that Morgan even played for the Jays in the early 80s. That’s understandable though considering he played for 12 teams during his 25 year career. He pitched for the Jays in 1983, appearing in 16 games and posting a 0-3 record with a 5.16 ERA.
The two players the Yankees got in the deal were Tom Dodd and Dale Murray. If you’re asking “Who?” you’re probably not alone. Dodd never made it to the Majors with the Yankees and only appeared in eight Majors League games total, all with Baltimore. Murray, a relief pitcher, spent three seasons with the Yanks, compiling a 3-6 record, a 4.73 ERA and a horrid 1.45 WHIP. Who’s need McGriff when you’ve got those two studs?
Is there anything that we can really say about this trade that hasn’t already been said? It completely changed the franchise trading away two cornerstones for two players fans may have not known much about at the time. In fact, at first the trade wasn’t very popular with fans because it saw fan favorites Fernandez and McGriff leave Toronto. Fans soon came around though when they realized them immense talent we had in Alomar and the clutch power hitter Carter turned out to be.
Saying good bye to Fernandez and McGriff wasn’t easy though. Fernandez had made his mark with the Jays with his slick fielding, speed on the base paths and timely hitting. McGriff was just entering his prime as one of the elite power hitting first base men in the Majors. The “Crime Dog” was deemed expendable though with John Olerud ready to take over at first base.
In Alomar the Jays received arguably the best all-around player Toronto has ever had. He had it all. He could hit for average and power, steal bases and get to balls in the infield that no other second baseman could. In Carter the Jays receiver a veteran who was a consistent run producer. Joltin’ Joe drove in 100-plus runs in six of his seven seasons in Toronto and he also cracked the 30-home run plateau four times. Alomar and Carter hit the two most important home runs in franchise history and were a part of the gutsiest and most important trade Pat Gillick ever made during his years in Toronto.
Is it any wonder the Pirates have been so bad for so long when they traded Joey Bats for what has turned out to be spare parts?
So, who is Robinzon Diaz? From the Dominican Republic, Diaz was signed by the Jays as an amateur free agent in 2000 and eventually became known as their catcher of the future. After progressing through the Minors, starting in Rookie Ball and climbing all the way to AAA, Diaz made his debut with the Jays at catcher in April 2008. In the only game he would play in a Jays uniform he 0-4 with a strikeout. A few months later he was shipped to Pittsburgh for Bautista. He would play 43 games with the Pirates, hitting .289 with one home run, and 20 RBI. After the 2009 season he left the Pirates after being designated for assignment and signed on with Detroit. He never made the Majors with the Tigers and ended up with Texas to start the 2011 season, which he spent in the minors. He was on the move again after the 2011 season signing a minor league deal with the Angels. He currently plays with the Angels AAA team, the Salt Lake Bees.
Do I really have to tell you about Bautista? Since arriving in Toronto he has hit 114 home runs in 450 games and by far leads the Majors in homers over the last two seasons. Two Silver Slugger awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, MVP votes (not as many as he should have gotten though!) and a number of Blue Jays records and all it cost was Robinzon Diaz.
1978 – Victor Cruz for Alfredo Griffin and Phil Lansford
1982 – Phil Huffman for Rance Mulliniks
2004 – Tom Mastny for John MacDonald
2009 – Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez for Brandon Morrow
2010 – Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie
Agree or disagree from the list? Think we left an important trade off the list? Let us know in the comments section.