Duane Ward was a significant member of the back end of the bullpen for the 1992 and ’93 championship teams. At the time it was a curious move to trade an established starter for Ward, but it certainly paid off for the Jays of the early 90’s.
Duane Ward is best known as one half of one of the most feared two-headed relief monsters in the early 1990’s, along with Tom Henke. Ward was Henke’s set-up man for the 1992 season, and took over the closer’s role in 1993.
But before that, he was part of a seemingly small trade with the Braves, coming to Toronto in a 1-for-1 trade with Atlanta.
This is what the trade looks like:
To Toronto: Duane Ward, Right-Handed Pitcher
To Atlanta: Doyle Alexander, Right-Handed Pitcher
I know some people will be mad at the notion that either one of these players was in a small trade, but at the time, that’s what it was. Alexander was a pretty solid pitcher for the Jays, having two straight seasons with 17 wins, and getting into the top 30 for AL MVP voting twice, in 1984, and 1985. But in 1986, he had a severe down year with a 4.46 ERA, and only 65 strikeouts in 111 innings pitched.
Ward was a pitching prospect at the time of the trade, not even exceeding rookie status until 1988. When he got to the majors, though, he was great. Despite being blocked for the closer’s spot by Tom Henke, he became one of the most feared reliever’s in the majors, even placing ninth in Cy Young voting in 1991.
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Teaming up with Henke, Ward helped shorten games, which helped lead the Jays to their first world series championship in 1992. When Henke left following that championship, Ward showed that he could be the shutdown closer the Jays thought he could be, setting a franchise record with 45 saves, on his way to a second consecutive world series. Ward had a 1.95 ERA in 107.1 innings in ’92. and a 2.13 ERA in 71.2 in 1993 as the closer.
This trade counts as a win for the Jays because Ward became a dominant reliever, while Alexander continued his decline. He ultimately lost a career high 18 games in 1989 before retiring.