The Jays at the August Deadline: A Mixed Bag

This man was a Pirate until the August trade deadline of '08

Today is August 31st, meaning it is the last day that teams can make trades this season.  MLB’s waiver trade deadline hits tonight at midnight, so teams have only a few hours left to boost up for the stretch run. 

While the waiver deadline isn’t as exciting as the non-waiver deadline because players must first pass through waivers before they can be traded, it doesn’t mean that trades don’t happen.  Already this season there have been 17 different deals, with big names such as Jim Edmonds, Jose Guillen, Derek Lee, Rod Barajas, Brian Fuentes, and Manny Ramirez changing uniforms.

What does this mean for the Blue Jays?  Likely nothing.  Their most tradable assets (Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor) have already been claimed on waivers and blocked, meaning they are going nowhere.  The three names most likely to leave the team are Lyle Overbay, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brian Tallet, but with Encarnacion on the DL and Tallet pitching like a 95-year old woman, there will likely be no takers. 

Back in July I wrote a column analyzing Toronto’s historical activity at the July 31st deadline, and outlined the three best and worst trade deadline deals in club history.  Since the waiver deadline is now here, I thought I’d reprise that column for August deals.

After compiling a full list from baseball-reference.com, two things were evident.  The first was that there hasn’t been a whole lot of moves.  In 34 Augusts (including 2010), Toronto has made a total of only 30 deals.  Of those 30, only 18 of them were player-for-player trades.  The remaining 12 were comprised of waiver claims (such as last year’s Alex Rios to Chicago on waivers) and players-for-cash deals (such as Eric Hinske to Boston in 2006). 

The second is that of the moves that have been made, few have involved “name” players.  Toronto’s August trade history is littered with journeyman and lesser tier players such as Francisco Cabrera, Chris Michalak, Scott Eyre, Josh Phelps, Scott Schoenweis, and Hector Luna.  Names that have a little more clout, like Matt Stairs, David Eckstein, Otis Nixon, and Randy Myers, fall into the straight salary dump or “favour to a veteran player” categories.  For that reason, it is very hard to separate good from bad, and to come up with a best three and worst three list.

Instead, below are 500 Level Fan’s take on what has turned out to be four of the most memorable August trades in Blue Jays history.

1987: Oswaldo Peraza and a PTBNL to Baltimore for Mike Flanagan

Flanagan came over for the stretch drive in ’87, and pitched well – 3-2, 2.37 ERA in 7 starts – but not enough to prevent Toronto’s year end collapse.  While he re-signed for three more average years with the Jays, this trade is notable for who the PTBNL became – none other than long time MLB closer Jose Mesa.  While it’s impossible to say that Mesa would have amounted to anything in Toronto, with Henke and Ward in front of him, he does have 321 career saves.   The Blue Jay record belongs to Tom Henke at 217.

1991: Rob Wishnevski and PTBNL to Milwaukee for Candy Maldonado

Batted .277 down the stretch in 1991 to help the Jays win the AL East, then hit 20 HR in 1992 to help them repeat.  His biggest contribution was the ’92 ALCS agains the A’s where he hit .273 with a .905 OPS, 2 HR, and 6 RBI to send the Jays to their first World Series.  Wishnevski never made the majors, and the PTBNL became William Suero, who ended with 30 career AB.  Not a bad trade for a World Series.

1992: Jeff Kent and a PTBNL to New York Mets for David Cone

This is a tough one to judge.  Obviously the Jays would not have won the 1992 World Series without Cone.  He pitched well down the stretch and in the playoffs, and even hit well in the World Series.  This can never be considered a bad trade because the ultimate goal for a franchise is a World Series championship.  But Cone left after the season (he did return briefly in 1995) and Jeff Kent went on to become one of the greatest 2B of all time – a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, and the 2000 NL MVP.  Baseball reference lists him as a likely hall of famer. 

2008: Robinzon Diaz to Pittsburgh for Jose Bautista

This one is still fresh enough that we can enjoy it.  There is not much to say about J-Bau that hasn’t already been said on this blog or on other Jays blogs.  He is having an MVP-calibre season and recently won his third player of the week award.  As for Diaz?  He’s currently hitting .253 in triple-A…for the Detroit organization.  Jackpot.

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