Blue Jays: Anthopoulos’ 2015 gamble worked beautifully


A little more than two years after the fact, we now have a pretty clear picture of what the Blue Jays gave up during their big trades in 2015. Despite the fact that this season has been frustrating, those trades have definitely worked out in Toronto’s favour thus far.

As Blue Jays fans discuss their frustration with the way this season has played out, you’ll often hear gripes like “it’s Alex Anthopoulos’ fault for trading away all our young pitching”. While it’s true that he did trade a lot of young arms, you’d be surprised to see how well those moves have played in the Blue Jays’ favour.

We all remember the moves I’m talking about, but just in case anyone reading this is in the dark, they were as follows:

  1. Blue Jays acquire Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.
  2. Blue Jays acquire David Price for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt.

I’ll start with the second trade, mostly because I hear some of you saying “but we only had Price for just that stretch run”. I’m telling you it doesn’t matter, it was still a great move.

Price was incredible for the Blue Jays down the stretch, and quite frankly, there is no way the team makes the playoffs that year without his contributions, and the spark that the trade brought to the franchise and the city. Not re-signing has also turned out to be the right decision as well (thus far), but I can’t stress enough that this trade was the one that put the team over the top. He went 9-1 in 11 starts with the Blue Jays, throwing 74.1 innings and posting an ERA of 2.31. However, it was the morale boost that his acquisition provided the roster that might have been his most valuable contribution.

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Jose Bautista famously tweeted Anthopoulos with a message of, “Is it true?”, followed by, “YES!!!!!”, when he learned of the newest addition. It wasn’t just the help for the pitching staff, but also a signal to the fan base that the front office was wholly serious about winning. I would argue that trade was the biggest catalyst to the revitalization of the Blue Jays’ fan base, and that would be worth trading some pretty hefty prospects.

Except, the Blue Jays didn’t really do that, at least not yet. Matt Boyd spent the majority of the season in the rotation for the Tigers, making 23 starts, and posting a record of 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA. The left-hander is still just 26, so it’s possible he makes some leaps at the big league level, but things haven’t gone so well for the former 13th round pick thus far.

As for Norris, who was the prize of the deal at the time, has posted a 5.59 ERA in 21 appearances, 17 of them being starts this season. He recently rejoined the rotation this week, but his career hasn’t started off the way he or the Tigers had hoped either. Labourt pitched his way into a cup off coffee at the big league level this season, and might have a future as a bullpen arm, but hardly anything to fret over losing in a trade (sorry, Jairo). It’s not too late for these guys, but so far the Blue Jays look to have made out like bandits, even for a rental.

The Tulowitzki deal will end up getting lamented a little more, but again those whiners should examine the big picture. I understand that it’s tough to stomach paying Tulowitzki 54 million over the next three seasons, but if he’s healthy he’s still an asset on the field. As far as looking back to 2015 until now, he’s brought value in several ways as well, particularly in 2015.

That season, Devon Travis had gone down with a season ending shoulder injury, and the Blue Jays were thin up the middle. Bringing in Tulowitzki allowed Goins to start at second base, and the infield defence was suddenly among the best in the game. And as was the case with the Price trade, bringing Tulowitzki to Toronto signalled the intent of the front office as well, especially with the additional years of control over the All-Star shortstop.

As for what the Blue Jays gave up, again the cost is pretty easy to take. Jeff Hoffman was the centrepiece of the deal, and he was 6-5 with a 5.34 ERA in 16 starts, and 21 appearances overall. He fared roughly the same last year when he was called up, so he hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm. He’s still just 24 as well, so there is plenty of time for him to figure it out and fulfill his promise, but thus far he’s struggled.

Miguel Castro has had the most big league success of all the traded arms, but he’s definitely had a rocky road to get there. He’s now pitching in relief for the Baltimore Orioles and doing quite well with a 3.29 ERA in 38 appearances, but he was actually cut from the Rockies organization before Baltimore took a chance on him. He may have found a productive home in the bullpen, but he certainly didn’t turn out to be the starting pitcher Colorado hoped they were trading for.

Jesus Tinoco is still just 22, but he had a 4.99 ERA in 24 appearances in High A this year, and doesn’t project to be an impact big leaguer. Finally, Reyes played 49 games for the Rockies after they couldn’t find a trade partner, and they eventually designated him for assignment. Remember folks, for as much as Tulowitzki’s contract could be a tough pill (especially if he can’t stay on the field), the Rockies paid Reyes roughly 39 million to go play for the New York Mets. If he had still been in Toronto this season, the team would have owed him 22 million, with a 4 million dollar buyout for 2018.

Knowing all of that, do the 2015 deadline trades still sting as much as you thought? If you want to lament the loss of Noah Syndergaard, or if the name Josh Johnson makes your eye twitch, then I totally get it. However, as far as the deadline deals of 2015 are concerned, they were worth it at the time for what they brought to the franchise, the city, and even all of Canada.

Next: Can the key Blue Jays stay healthy in 2018?

And when you follow up with the players they had to sacrifice, it feels even better.