With the two-game exhibition series between the Blue Jays and Pirates set to begin this Friday in Montreal, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the trade that took place eight months ago between Pittsburgh and Toronto.
When I first got news that the Blue Jays had acquired Francisco Liriano from the Pirates in exchange for Drew Hutchison, I thought to myself “wow, that’s quite the deal for Toronto.” Imagine my surprise upon learning that along with Liriano, Toronto would also be receiving two highly touted prospects in Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire.
Obviously there’s still plenty of things that can happen to change the outcome of this trade and determine who eventually got the better of it, but the fact that Ross Atkins was able to get Pittsburgh to throw in two prospects in addition to a stud left-handed starting pitcher was one of the craftier moves this Blue Jay fan has seen in a long time.
Granted, Liriano wasn’t having a stellar year in 2016 prior to being traded, especially for a player making over $13 million per season. But to think that Pittsburgh wanted to shed his salary so badly that they were willing to include McGuire and Ramirez and only get back Hutchison in return almost boggles the mind.
Who knows, perhaps Hutchison will be able to figure things out in Pittsburgh under the tutelage of their great pitching coach, Ray Searage. Searage has had plenty of success helping Pirates pitchers over the years, some of whom include Edinson Volquez, A.J. Burnett, and even J.A. Happ back when he was in Pittsburgh in 2015.
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There was actually a time not long ago, before the emergence of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, when Hutchison was pegged as a possible future ace of the Blue Jays rotation. That being said, even with Liriano’s substantial salary, if I was Pittsburgh I wouldn’t have traded him straight up for Hutchison, and I certainly wouldn’t have thrown in Ramirez and McGuire to top it off.
Like so many trades, this move involved two players who had lost their way and in an effort to get them back on track, both teams thought it best to move on and give both Liriano and Hutchison a fresh start somewhere else. With this trade, the Blue Jays saw a wonderful opportunity to not only improve their team immediately but to also re-stock their farm system and build for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s still far too early to determine who got the best of this trade. But as things stand right now, Hutchison, unfortunately, continues to struggle to find his game, and after a poor spring (10.02 ERA in 20.2 innings) has been optioned to the Pirates Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.
Liriano, on the other hand, has been everything the Blue Jays knew he could be. This spring he’s posted a 1.88 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 14.1 innings of work and is arguably the best 5th starter in all of baseball.
As for Ramirez and McGuire, it’s still amazing to think that in addition to getting the best pitcher in this deal, Toronto also received two prospects who have as good a chance of reaching the big leagues as almost any prospect in the organization.