Oh Canada! With Canada Day coming up later this week what better time to take a look at some of the best Canadians that have suited up for the Blue Jays. It’s not a long list of great players, but the Blue Jays have had a few homegrown stars during their history.
The full list of Canadians that have worn the Blue Jays uniform is actually pretty short. Right now it’s a list that includes only 17 players. Most of those 17 only saw a few games with the Jays, while a few others stuck around for a few seasons and made an impact either at the plate or on the mound. Right now there is one canuck on the roster that will hopefully one day top this list. It shouldn’t take you long to figure out who I’m talking about . Until that day here’s the current Top 10 Canadians that have worn Blue Jay blue (or black on occasion).
Some of you may be asking who the heck is Vince Horsman? I’ll admit there may be some bias in me back-ending this list with Horsman, but that’s what the comments section is for.
Horsman was signed by Toronto as a amateur free agent in 1984. It took him a few years to reach the Majors. Horsman appeared in four games out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays during a late season call-up in 1991. In those four games he pitched in four innings, allowed two hits and walked three while allowing no runs to score. That comes out to a 0.00 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP from his small sample. Following the 1991 season Horsman’s brief tenure with the Blue Jays came to end after he was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics. He would spend three seasons in Oakland before finishing his North American baseball career with Minnesota in 1995.
Here’s why I’ve included Horsman from the list. He may have been born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but he’s actually from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Dartmouth is just across the bridge from Halifax by the way, so anyone who’s from Dartmouth was likely born in Halifax. You know who else is from Dartmouth?Yours truly that’s who. Horsman’s Blue Jay debut got a lot of play and coverage by the local Halifax media back in 1991. It’s also really cool when you’re nine years old to see someone from your hometown playing for your favorite baseball team. It gave a lot of young ballplayers some hope that just maybe they could make the big show one day too.
Ducey, a Toronto native was signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1984. He would make his Toronto debut three years later in 1987 when he appeared in 34 games, batting a lowly .188 with a .298 OBP. Ducey did become part of Blue Jays lore during his first season. On September 1 against the Orioles Ducey hit his first Major League home runs, one of an MLB record 10 hit by the Blue Jays that day.
Ducey was basically a fourth outfielder/bench player during his six-season stint with the Blue Jays, never seeing action in more than 54 games in a single season. His bat just didn’t have enough clout to earn him a lot of playing time. In 188 games with the Jays Ducey his only .231 with a .307 OBP and a.628 OPS. He hit only two home runs as a Blue Jay and had a 73 OPS+. Near the 1992 traded deadline he was traded along with Greg Myers to the Angels for reliever Mark Eichhorn.
Ducey had a second stint with the Jays in 2000 after getting traded from the Phillies to Toronto for John Sneed. He played in only five games with Toronto before oddly being traded back to the Phillies less than two weeks after he was originally acquired as the “player to be named later” for Mickey Morandini.
The Butler brothers,Rob and Rich each spent a short time playing at home in Toronto. Rob signed as an amateur free agent with Toronto in 1990. He made his Toronto debut in 1993 appearing in 17 games while hitting .271 with a .375 OBP and a .729 OPS. Butler might have seen more playing time if he hadn’t hurt his hand while attempting to steal a base. In the postseason Rob got two at bats in the World Series and delivered a pinch hit single off Curt Schilling. He is the only Canadian to win a World Series ring with the Blue Jays.
After the ’93 season Rob played in 41 games in 1994, but his bat never awoke, hitting .176 with a .250 OBP. After the season he was traded to the Phillies, but only played part of one season in Philadelphia, posting a .292 average in 43 games in 1997.
In 1999 Rob came back to Toronto as a free agent. He only appeared in eight games and hit .143, spending most of the season in the minors.
Rich latched on the the Blue Jays when he was also signed as a amateur free agent in 1990. He made his Toronto debut in 1997. That season he played in seven games and batted .286 with a .375 OBP and a .732 OPS. Following the season the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Butler with the 10th pick in the expansion draft. He would spend two seasons in Tampa before leaving as a free agent. He signed on with the Mariners shortly thereafter but would not play in another Major League game.
Spojaric was signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1989. After a few successful seasons in the minors he made his debut with Toronto at the beginning of the 1994 season. His first stint in the Majors was a short one though. He appeared in only two games, including one start, and was roughed up for 10 runs on five hits while walking nine over only 2 1-3 innings. That comes out to an ugly 38.57 ERA and a 6.00 WHIP.
Spoljaric didn’t get the callback to the big leagues again until the 1996 season. Pitching out of the bullpen that season he appeared in 28 games and compiled a 2-2 record with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.
The following season after posting a 0-3 record and a 3.69 ERA in 57 appearances Spoljaric was traded to Seattle along with Mike Timlin for Jose Cruz Jr. at the trade deadline. After two disappointing seasons with the Mariners he moved on to Philadelphia where he was lit up in his few outings. The Phillies then shipped him back to Toronto for Robert Person.
After rejoining the Blue Jays Spoljaric pitched in 37 games and made two starts to post a 2-2 record and a 4.65 ERA. After the season he was on the move again, headed to St. Louis with Pat Hentgen in a trade for Alberto Castillo, Matt DeWtt and Lance Painter. Spoljaric’s overall numbers with the Blue Jays over parts of four seasons included a 4-8 record, a 4.31 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP.
The Blue Jays signed Richmond as an amateur free agent in 2007 after went undrafted out of college and played a few seasons in the Northern League.
He made his Major League debut a year later getting the start against Tampa Bay and taking the loss after giving up three runs over 5 1-3 innings. Richmond spent most of the season in the minors but did start five games for the Blue Jays, posting a 1-3 record with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He did post an impressive strikeout to walks ratio of 10:1.
Richmond began the 2009 season in the Blue Jays starting rotation and started strong with a 3-0 record an a 2.70 ERA in the month of April. A shoulder injury landed Richmond on the DL for almost the entire month of July and when he returned he failed to recapture his early season success with a 2-6 record in his last 11 starts. Richmond would finish the season 8-11 with a 5.52 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP.
Richmond’s shoulder flared up again in the spring before the 2010 season and he began the year on the DL. After rehabbing he began the long road to returning in Dunedin while slowly moving up the minor league ranks. He wouldn’t pitch for the Blue Jays again until 2011, when he faced only one batter in April, inducing a fly out.
Richmond remains in the Toronto organization, currently pitching in AAA with Las Vegas. In Vegas this season he’s currently 6-5 with a 5.46 ERA in 16 games.
McKay began his Major League career with the Twins in 1975. After a few mediocre seasons in Minnesota the Blue Jays took McKay in the expansion draft.
He started at third base on opening day 1977, going 2-4 with an RBI. During the Blue Jays inaugural season McKay appeared in 95 games, but hit only .197 with a .222 OBP.
McKay received more playing time in 1978, getting into 145 games and his numbers at the plate did improve. He raised his average to .238 while his OBP was .268. He also hit seven home runs, had 45 RBI and scored 59 runs.
The 1979 season was McKay’s last in Toronto. He appeared in only 47 games and hit .218 before being released at the end of the season. He signed with Oakland and played three more seasons in the Majors before beginning what has been a very successful coaching career. He has been a coach on three World Series winning teams, including the 1989 Oakland Athletics and the 2006 and 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. McKay was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.
Koskie was supposed to be the Blue Jays big free agent signing for the 2005 season. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. Koskie was a late round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 1994 going in the 26th round. He would debut with Minnesota in 1998 and spent seven years with the Twins, his best being in 2001 when he hit 26 home runs and had 103 RBI. His WAR that season was 5.9 and his OPS+ was 121.
Koskie was a free agent after the 2004 season and Toronto went after him, signing him to a three-year $17.5-million contract. Numerous injuries stunted Koskie’s production in his first season in Toronto. He played in only 97 games hitting a career-worst .249 with a .337 OBP, a .735 OPS and a career-worst OPS+ of 94. His home runs total fell to 11 and he posted a WAR of only 1.1.
Koskie’s unimpressive debut season caused his time in Toronto to be quite short. Following the season Toronto traded him to Milwaukee for Brian Wolfe. Koskie’s career was cut short in Milwaukee after he sustained a concussion on July 5, 2006 chasing a pop up. The concussion forced Koskie to miss the rest of the season and despite a few comeback attempts he never played another game in the Majors.
Lawrie came to Toronto from Milwaukee following the 2010 season in a straight-up trade for pitcher Shaun Marcum. It didn’t take him long to make it to the Majors.
Lawrie made his Toronto debut on August 5, 2011. His debut might have come sooner if he had not suffered a fractured hand a few months earlier. In his first game with the Blue Jays Lawrie collected a hit and an RBI in his first at bat. His season would end early after he suffered a fracture middle finger prior to a game on September 21. In 43 games Lawrie would post a .293 average with a .373 OBP and a .953 OPS. He hit nine home runs, had 25 RBI, seven steals and a 3.5 WAR.
Lawrie started the 2012 season off slowly, but started to heat up in June, especially after he was moved to the lead off spot in the batting order. Through 65 games Lawrie was hitting .287 with a .335 OBP and a .753 OPS. He’s hit seven home runs and has driven in 29 runs so far. Most impressive is Lawrie’s 4.0 WAR, which has been bolstered by 3.0 defensive WAR.
Before getting his ticket to the Majors from the Montreal Expos Stairs was a slugger on the East Coasting winning the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League MVP in 1987 and 1988. In January, 1989 Stairs signed with the Expos as an international free agent. After a short time in Montreal he would find great success in Oakland where he hit 38 home runs in 1999. After leaving the Athletics Stairs bounced around the Majors making stops with the Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Royals, Rangers and Tigers before joining the Blue Jays in 2007.
In his first season with the Jays Stairs made an immediate impact at the plate. Stairs received more playing time than expected due to injuries to Lyle Overbay and Reed Johnson. In 125 games that season Stairs hit .289 with a .368 OBP and a .917 OPS. He also hit 21 home runs, drove in 64 runs and posted a WAR of 2.2. Stairs’ OPS+ that season was an impressive 138
The following season Stairs stats started to fall off, but he still cracked 11 home runs and drove in 44 runs in 105 games. Stairs bat was still in high demand and Toronto traded him to the Phillies for Fabio Castro. While with the Phillies Stairs won his first World Series title and delivered off the bench for Philadelphia in the postseason with a clutch home run off Jonathan Broxton in the NLCS. Remember in case of emergency, use Stairs.
Quantrill was drafted by the Red Sox in the 6th round of the 1989 Draft. He spent three seasons with Boston beginning in 1992 before he was traded to Philadelphia in 1994. Following the 1994 season Quantrill became a Blue Jay after the Phillies traded him to Toronto for Howard Battle and Ricardo Jordan.
In his first season in Toronto Quantrill started out in the Blue Jays rotation making 20 starts and appearing in 38 games overall. In those 38 games he posted a 5-14 record with a 5.43 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. Those number showed an immediate improvement the following season when Quantrill joined the bullpen full-time. Quantrill pitched in 77 games that season and posted a stellar 1.94 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. Quantrill was the most reliable arm in the Blue Jays’ bullpen. In 2001 Quantrill made a rare appearance for a non-closer in the All-Star game. He finished the season with an 11-2 record, a 3.04 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He also led the league in games for pitchers with 80.
Following the 2001 season the Blue Jays traded Quantrill to the Dodgers along with Cesar Izturis for Chad Ricketts and Luke Prokopec. Quantrill’s rubber arm fit in well in the Dodgers’ bullpen as he led the Majors in appearances in 2002 and 2003 with 86 appearances and 89 appearances respectively. He also record a career-low 1.75 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 2003.
After two seasons with the Dodgers Quantrill joined the Yankees bullpen where the heavy workload finally started to catch up with him. After a mediocre season and a half with New York Quantrill finished out his Major League career with short stints with the Padres and the Marlins. Quantrill was part of the coaching staff for Team Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and in 2010 he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Other Canadian Blue Jays:
Shawn Hill, Mississauga, Ontario
Paul Hodgson, Montreal, Quebec
Adam Loewen, Surrey, British Columbia
Simon Pond, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Steve Sinclair, Victoria, British Columbia
Denis Boucher, Montreal, Quebec
Jays Listed Bonus Lists:
Top 10 current Canadian Major Leaguers
10. Russell Martin
8. Erik Bedard
7. Scott Diamond
6. Jesse Crain
5. Ryan Dempster
4. Justin Morneau
3. Brett Lawrie
2. John Axford
1. Joey Votto
Top 10 Canadian Major Leaguers of all time
10. Corey Koskie – 5.9 WAR with Twins in 2001, career cut short by injuries.
9. Paul Quantrill – Rubber Arm, appeared in 80+ games in a season five times
8. Jason Bay – 2004 Rookie of the Year, 30+HR and 100+ RBI in a season four times
7.Eric Gagne – 2003 Cy Young winner converted 84 consecutive saves
6. Matt Stairs – Career .262. hitter with 265 home runs and 770 RBI.
5. Joey Votto – 2010 MVP season hit .324 with 37 HR, 113 RBI and a 6.7 WAR. On pace for even better numbers this season.
4. Justin Morneau – 2006 MVP season hit .321 with 34 HR, 130 RBI and a 4.0 WAR.
3. Tip O’Neill – Hit .435 in 1887 and won the Triple Crown with 14 home runs and 123 RBI.
2. Larry Walker – His 1997 MVP season was massive – .366/.452/.720, 49 HR, 130 RBI, 143 R, 33 SB, 409 total bases, 9.6 WAR
1. Ferguson Jenkins – The only Canadian in Cooperstown, 1971 CY Young winner