The Toronto Blue Jays brought back their old flame, 1B Brett Wallace, in a trade today with the Baltimore Orioles. Brett Wallace, who will turn 28 in August, was considered by many to be the Blue Jays #1 prospect in 2010, the same season he was ranked the MLB’s #27 prospect by Baseball America. As first reported by David Hall, who covers Baltimore’s AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, the deal will send “cash considerations” back to the Orioles.
Brett Wallace embodies the age old baseball saying: prospects will break your heart. Originally a 42nd Round pick by the Blue Jays in 2005, Wallace decided not to sign, and instead attended Arizona State where he would see his stock skyrocket. Returning to the MLB Draft in 2008, Brett Wallace was selected 13th Overall to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wallace was traded three times within his first two professional seasons. This could mean that three teams desperately wanted Wallace, but it is just as likely that three teams saw Wallace as expendable. This can only be viewed with the benefit of hindsight, however, and it cannot be denied that many projected stardom for the young slugger.
July 2009: STL trades Brett Wallace to OAK for Matt Holliday
July 2010: TOR trades Brett Wallace to HOU for Anthony Gose (Admit it. This excited you at the time)
Brett Wallace’s stock undoubtedly peaked with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010, where he slashed .301 / .359 / .509 with 18HR and 61RBI over 95 games with the Las Vegas 51’s. Blue Jays fans were left to imagine Wallace hitting in the heart of the order for the next decade, perhaps someday forming a powerful lefty battery with Travis Snider. I’d love to go back in time and warn myself of the impending heartbreak, but, such is baseball.
Following his move to the Houston Astros, Brett Wallace was almost immediately promoted to the Major League roster, where he swung between struggles and greater struggles from 2010-2013.
Before throwing another shovel full of soil onto Brett Wallace, it’s important to look at this deal within context. An injury at the Major League level, such as Adam Lind‘s, can have a domino effect through the Jays Minor League affiliates. With Dan Johnson joining the Blue Jays, a hole was created in the AAA Buffalo Bisons lineup. This was quickly filled by AA New Hampshire call up 1B Mike McDade, furthering the ripple effect of a roster shuffle through the system. Brett Wallace, as you may assume from his numbers, has been brought in as Minor League depth. For such a low price, I commend Alex Anthopoulos for bringing in a familiar face who can help solidify the Bisons roster, while the Blue Jays continue to call up players by the handful.
If Brett Wallace surfaces on the 25-man roster this month, then yes, I think it’s safe to say that something has gone wrong. The fall from Top Prospect in 2010 to being DFA’s by the Houston Astros (the Astros!) in early 2014 has not been glamorous for Brett Wallace. Even though baseball prospects break your heart, a small flame of hope flickers (deep in the background) through their entire career, a hope that someday, it will finally “click”. Remember, when Jose Bautista was 27 years old, he arrived in Toronto as a fringe-level body in the outfield. Am I boldly drawing unearned comparisons to scrape some hope out of the Blue Jays down time? You bet I am.
For the Toronto Blue Jays, there is not much to lose in this transaction (says a man who doesn’t write cheques for Rogers). No prospects were lost, and the Blue Jays added a bat that shouldn’t impact the Major League team greatly, but will allow for some Minor League stability that will afford Alex Anthopoulos greater flexibility. For the Toronto Blue Jays, a strangely-drawn circle has completed itself. At the very least, Brett Wallace gives Jays fans a reason to keep a hopeful eye on the Minors, with expectations low, and hopes high of a late-blooming baseball story. Dare to dream?