Blue Jays Trade History Part 8: Roger Clemens

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Apr 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros former players Jeff Bagwell (left) and Roger Clemens (right) throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros former players Jeff Bagwell (left) and Roger Clemens (right) throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Roger Clemens is one of the most polarizing names in baseball history. With his alleged connections to steroids, no one is really sure what to think of his amazing career numbers. While the Blue Jays have a sterling clean track record, they do have connections to players who don’t, like Clemens, who played for the team from 1997-1998, before being traded.

In his career, Roger Clemens was known as one of the best, and most feared, players around. He won seven Cy Young awards, and had an amazing 12 seasons with 200+ strikeouts. When he came to Toronto as a free agent, he showed the Jays they got the player they thought he was, and had back-to-back Cy Young winning seasons.

Clemens was traded to the Yankees before the 1999 season, which was confusing because of how much he dominated in a Jays uniform.

This is what the trade looks like:

February 18, 1999

To Toronto: Homer Bush, IF, Graeme Lloyd LHP, David Wells, LHP

To New York (AL): Roger Clemens, RHP

Homer Bush was an infielder who played 55 games with New York between two seasons before getting traded to Toronto. As a rookie in Toronto in 1999 he had his best season, hitting .320 with five home runs, and 55 RBIs, playing mostly second base. After that, he fell off a cliff and played in 76 games and hit just .215 with one home run and 18 RBIs. He spent one more full season with Toronto, before getting traded to Florida midway through the 2002 season.

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Graeme Lloyd only played one season with Toronto, in 1999. He did pretty well as a reliever, pitching in 74 games, with a 3.63 ERA, 22 holds, and 47 strikeouts. After that season, he was granted free agency, and then signed with the Montreal Expos. With them he did worse, having a 4.35 ERA and only nine holds. He finished his career with Kansas City after bouncing around from Florida, and finally to the Mets.

Wells started his career with Toronto, pitching as a starter, and reliever from 1987-1992. After that, he signed with the Detroit Tigers. After going to Cincinnati and Baltimore through trades, he signed with the Yankees, and in full-circle fashion, ended up back with Toronto through this trade. In New York before the trade, Wells was an All-Star and was third in Cy Young voting. With Toronto, he had a 4.82 ERA in 34 starts with 169 strikeouts. But the next season was much better as he was back in Cy Young voting, finishing third again, by pitching a 4.11 ERA, with nine complete games and 166 strikeouts.

The jewel of this trade is Clemens. Despite his controversy, theres no denying he simply blew hitters away. Before signing with Toronto as a free agent, Clemens pitched with Boston from 1984-1996, winning three Cy Young awards, and one MVP. Once with Toronto he continued his dominance and won two more Cy Youngs, back to back. He was then traded to New York, and started what looked like a decline. With New York in 1999, he had a 4.60 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 30 starts. But in 2001 he started looking like himself, winning yet another Cy Young while pitching a 3.51 ERA and 213 strikeouts.

This trade is a loss for Toronto. Clemens may not have gotten off to a good start with New York, but ended up winning two more Cy Youngs, one with New York, one with Houston, and could’ve anchored a stellar Jays’ rotation. Toronto also didn’t get much in the trade, with Wells being the best piece they got. But, you win some, you lose some, right?

Next: Are the Blue Jays well positioned for a rebuild, if necessary?

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