The Blue Jays’ front office made a couple of small trades last summer that ended up making a big impact on their 2019 season.
When I think back to the July 31st trade deadline, I remember being frustrated with the Blue Jays’ front office for a number of reasons.
At the time I wasn’t very happy with the return that they received for Marcus Stroman from the Mets, or the trio of Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and Cal Stevenson from the Astros. But what upset me even more at the time was that they missed out on the opportunity to trade a few more guys. Of course, they are only able to play with what the market gives them, but I was surprised that Ross Atkins and company couldn’t find any return for Justin Smoak, or even Freddy Galvis, who was eventually let go on the waiver wire to the Cincinnati Reds.
I realize that neither player would have brought back much of a return, but it’s because of a couple of smaller trades from 2018 that I couldn’t get over the idea of a missed opportunity.
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The first was trading Aaron Loup to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Jacob Waguespack. At the time Waguespack was seen as a long shot to ever pitch in the big leagues, and he quickly proved that wrong in 2019. I don’t know that anyone should expect him to become an All-Star or anything, but he proved that he could likely handle a back of the rotation job in 2020, and he’ll likely be counted on for some innings regardless of what happens over the winter. He finished the big league season with a 5-5 record, a 4.18 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP, earning 1.0 bWAR in 13 starts, and 16 total appearances.
As for Loup, he had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.596 WHIP over 35.2 innings at the time of the deal, and really hadn’t been that great of a pitcher since his first two or three seasons from 2012-14. Still, the Blue Jays managed to get something in return for a guy that was going to be lost in the rebuild anyway, and they ended up getting some value.
The second trade was sending Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros last winter, and that brought back Trent Thornton. This should be seen as a major win for Atkins and the front office, and if the right-hander can continue the type of performance he had down the stretch, he could be even more valuable to the Blue Jays next season. As it was, he was by far their most dependable starter of the course of the full year, throwing 154.1 innings with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.406 WHIP, and striking out 149. He ended up with 1.8 bWAR, and pitched to a 2.19 ERA over 24.2 innings in September during that hot stretch to close out the season. The rookie understandably had some bumps in the road during his first season, but it looks like he’s figuring things out and will bring a lot more value to the Blue Jays than Diaz could have.
With solid trades like that in mind, hopefully the Blue Jays will continue to be able to turn redundant players or expiring contracts into useful pieces to the puzzle going forward. Maybe there literally was nothing on the table for the front office to consider for players like Smoak or Galvis in July, but you’d hate to think that either was let go for nothing when the recent history of rolling the prospect dice has worked out pretty well. It’s not always going to work out that way, but you can’t win if you’re not playing.
There was also that one time the Blue Jays traded Robinzon Diaz to the Pirates in a move that barely made the news, and that one worked out okay. Sometimes the smaller trades can make pretty significant impacts.