Today marks the 15-year anniversary of when standout Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud was shipped to the New York Mets in one of the Jays’ worst trades of the decade and perhaps even in franchise history.
Despite hitting 25 doubles and 18 home runs with a .854 OPS (including a .382 on-base percentage), Olerud’s numbers, though still good, had dropped from his MVP-caliber 1993 campaign. So the Jays, paying $5 million of his $6.5 million 1997 salary, unloaded Olerud, one year away from free agency, to the Mets in exchange for right-handed pitcher Robert Person.
The change of scenery — and perhaps the motivation of playing in a contract year — did wonders for Olerud, as he hit .294 for the Mets in 1997 with 34 doubles, 22 home runs, and 102 RBIs. It was his strongest offensive season since 1993, finishing the year with a .889 OPS in 154 games. Unsurprisingly, Olerud’s return to form earned him a two-year contract extension with the Mets.
Person, on the other hand, didn’t figure into the Mets’ future plans and he shouldn’t have figured into the Jays’ plans at all.
The 27-year-old was used in the rotation in 1997 and managed a 5.61 ERA in 22 starts, with 125 hits and 60 walks in 128.1 innings. Since that failed, the Jays tried him out of the bullpen the following year in 1998, where Person surrendered 30 earned runs in 38.1 innings (7.04 ERA) along with 22 walks.
After posting more disastrous numbers in 1999, the Jays traded Person to the Phillies for Paul Spoljaric in May of that year.