Blue Jays past trade regrets: The Cliff Pennington deal


The Blue Jays may be regretting making the Cliff Pennington deal last August

August 8, 2015: Diamondbacks trade Cliff Pennington and cash to Blue Jays for Dawel Lugo

The Blue Jays weren’t quite satisfied with Munenori Kawasaki as their bench infielder and traded for the more experienced Pennington as a rental. The cost was Dunedin’s 20-year-old shortshop.

Pennington didn’t provide any more value than Kawasaki down the stretch and made minimal contributions in the playoffs. Pennington has, however, recovered nicely this year on the Angels’ bench.

Lugo finished 2015 with a .550 OPS in Advanced A ball. This season Lugo has exploded in the Diamondbacks system. He’s raised his OPS over 300 points in Advanced A compared to last season. He’s continued to rake over 11 games in AA and has 14 home runs between the two levels.

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Pennington’s glove was solid but he slumped heavily at the plate. He had two plate appearances, a walk and 0.1 innings pitched (remember that?) in the playoffs and walked away as a free agent after the season. Meanwhile, Lugo (now 21 years old) has caught fire and has found a new home at third base. It is hard to blame the Blue Jays for failing to foresee Lugo’s breakout. He hadn’t shown much of an inkling of this potential since he signed.

The deadline deals of 2015 didn’t result in the ultimate goal of winning a World Series but they gave the Jays an excellent chance. The deals bore a heavy prospect cost but the Jays don’t have cause for much regret so far (revisit those deals here). Somehow, they also managed to avoid having to give up the likes of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna or Dalton Pompey in the process.

The Blue Jays gave up 12 prospects as part of their huge deadline transactions. None of those 12 have exceeded (or in most cases, even met) expectations with their new clubs—except Dawel Lugo.

His deal could be the one the Jays will most regret. Norris and Hoffman have higher ceilings but they were packaged in deals that made the Jays legitimate World Series contenders. Lugo’s trade didn’t help the Jays much in the short term and not at all in the long term. If Lugo continues playing like he has this season, or close to it, he could be a major leaguer in a year or two.

The Lugo-Pennington swap is beginning to look like a bit of a stinker. But one stinker amongst a bevy of clever moves isn’t too hard to stomach. This deadline, thankfully, the Blue Jays won’t likely feel the need to acquire a utility infielder with Devon TravisDarwin Barney, and Ryan Goins soon to be back in the fold.