Blue Jays and August Trades: A Historical Perspective

18 Jun 1997: David Cone of the New York Yankees during the Yankees 3-2 win over the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
18 Jun 1997: David Cone of the New York Yankees during the Yankees 3-2 win over the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport /

With Major League Baseball announcing changes to their trade deadline system, effectively abolishing the August 31 waiver trade deadline, teams will now have to adjust the way they approach late season trades. But what about the Blue Jays?

Perhaps one of the nerdiest events in baseball, the August 31 waiver trade deadline is always an exciting time for hardcore fans, writers, and executives.

It is at this point that playoff hopefuls fine-tune their solid rosters to prepare for a playoff run and middling teams sell of their short term assets to try and fortify their depth ahead of the next season.

Though the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has all the blockbusters that make us question the very nature of the game, the August 31 trade deadline (and, in a sense, the entire month of August) presents a more strategic and microcosmic roster-based landscape.

Recently, this deadline has meant quite a bit to several major league teams. While some might only make a move or two, others are very active. In fact, this past season, 24 trades were made at some point during the month of August, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

But what about the Blue Jays? How active have they been at the “second” trade deadline? In (sorrowful) celebration of the abolishment of the August 31 waiver trade deadline, here are a couple of notable late August trades that the Blue Jays have made over the course of their history:

Curtis Granderson to the Milwaukee Brewers (Aug. 31, 2018)

Though he only spent one season with the Blue Jays, veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson made his presence known north of the border and was clearly missed when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers just before the deadline.

In return, the Blue Jays received 22-year-old outfielder Demi Orimoloye, who, despite not having appeared in a minor league game with the organization yet, has impressed Blue Jays officials. He will likely start the 2019 season with Low-A Lansing.

Though somewhat minor in magnitude for the Blue Jays, this trade is perhaps the most typical sort of trade that would happen in August. The Brewers, playing to a record of 76-60 at that point, wanted some outfield depth while the Blue Jays, already firmly locked into a fourth-place finish, were looking to get something of value for Granderson’s expiring and reasonable contract.

Josh Donaldson to the Cleveland Indians (Aug. 31, 2018)

Even though the Blue Jays almost had to make this deal, fans were still disappointed by the fact that 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson was sent to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for right-handed pitcher Julian Merryweather.

While Merryweather could still make an impact on the major league team at some point down the road, Donaldson, who’d anchored a core of Blue Jays that led the team to back-to-back ALCS appearances, was in the view of many, worth far more than that.

In a sense, this trade also epitomizes another type of August trades. Donaldson was injured for most of the year and had a strained relationship with the Blue Jays front office. In an unexpected deal, both teams got what they were looking for.

Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the Arizona Diamondbacks (Aug. 23, 2011)

In August 2011, Aaron Hill, who’d played over 850 games in a Blue Jays uniform, and John McDonald, who suited up in 549 contests, were dealt to Arizona for infielder Kelly Johnson, who would end up spending the next two seasons in Toronto, slashing .233/.323/.375 in 175 games.

Hill, an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2009, and McDonald, a fan favourite who constantly amazed his teammates with acrobatic double plays, were prolific in an otherwise forgettable era in Blue Jays baseball.

Though not a deadline deal, per se, this trade was of significance to both sides, especially at that point in time. Hill would go on to have some of his best seasons with Arizona, while McDonald would only appear in 216 games over the next three seasons.

Robinzon Díaz to the Pittsburgh Pirates (Aug. 25, 2008)

The name Robinzon Díaz might not ring a bell for most Blue Jays fans, but the man he was traded for, Jose Bautista, certainly does.

In what seemed like a minor August trade, the Blue Jays sent Díaz, a fringe catcher who’d been unable to crack the major league roster, to the Pirates in exchange for Bautista, who, at the time, had worn four different uniforms over the previous four seasons.

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Bautista, now 38, ranks second in Blue Jays history in home runs, walks, runs and third in runs batted in, intentional walks, total bases, and extra base hits.

Jeff Kent to the New York Mets (Aug. 27, 1992)

In one of the franchise’s most stunningly lopsided deals, the Blue Jays swapped Jeff Kent, a career 55.4 WAR player, for outfielder Ryan Thompson and pitcher David Cone in the summer of ‘92.

While Cone would contribute to the team’s World Series victory that year, pitching to an ERA of 2.55 in seven regular season starts after the trade, Kent would go on to slash a combined .279/.327/.453 and smash 67 home runs over the next four seasons with the Mets.

Thompson, 24 at the time of the trade, appeared in 416 major league games over the next nine years, spending time with Florida, Houston, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.

Darryl Landrum to the Cleveland Indians (Aug. 9, 1987)

Once again, Darryl Landrum, the name leaving the Blue Jays, might not seem so familiar to Blue Jays fans in this context, seeing as he never made it to the major leagues. However, the player they got back, legendary knuckleballer Phil Niekro, surely is a name to remember.

In an interesting turn of events, Niekro, pitching in what was his 23rd major league season (at the age of 48(!)) only appeared in three games for the Blue Jays, allowing 11 earned runs over 12 innings, walking seven and surrendering four home runs. He was released 21 days after he was acquired.

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Still, this trade remains significant not because of what Niekro was, but rather who he was. In a spectacular 24-year major league career, he pitched to an ERA of 3.35, striking out over 2900 and winning five Gold Glove Awards, earning five All-Star selections, and an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.