We’re over halfway through the Spring Training and Grapefruit League schedule, and we are continuing our look at the Top 100 Blue Jays in team history. In the first instalments thus far, I looked at players ranked 26-100 and today I’ll look at the next five on the list. This is opinion based off of career stats with the club and accomplishments.
25. Juan Guzman (1991-1998)
In 1987, the Blue Jays acquired a 21-year old Juan Guzman from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Sharperson. What the Blue Jays got in Guzman was two extremely different pitchers, he was either absolutely dominant or he was just downright awful. What was good, was the contending years he was unbelievable. In a stretch from 1991-1993, Guzman went 40-11 with a 3.28 ERA. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1991, was named to the All-Star Game in 1992 and received votes for the Cy Young in 1993.
He started eight games over the five playoff series in that time frame and posted a 5-1 win-loss record with a 2.44 ERA. During the 1993 Fall Classic, with the series tied at one, Guzman started Game 3. He pitched eight solid innings striking out seven and allowing just two runs (one earned), which allowed the Blue Jays to win the game on a Candy Maldonado single in the ninth.
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Guzman would struggle in 1994 and 1995 posting ERA’s of 5.68 and 6.32, however he turned things around in 1996 to lead the league in that category posting a 2.93 ERA. He would be moved during the 1998 Trade Deadline to the Baltimore Orioles with one year left of control left. Guzman finished his Blue Jays career with a 76-62 record and 4.07 ERA, which was inflated by those two really bad years. Guzman is among team leaders in most pitching categories including fourth in strikeouts and first in wild pitches.
24. David Wells (1987-1992, 1999-2000)
David Wells was a second round pick by the Blue Jays in the 1982 draft out of Point Loma High School in San Diego and had two stints with the club. His first go-around with the Blue Jays would be spent bouncing back and forth in the bullpen and starting rotation as he started 69 games and came in relief 168 times. Wells was used often during the 1992 World Series as he pitched in relief four times for a total of 4.1 IP, and surrendered just one hit without allowing a run. He would leave after that season in free agency, however he would be the centrepiece in a trade for the 1999 season when the club would reacquire him for Roger Clemens.
When Wells came back to Toronto he made it known he was not happy with the trade as he wanted to stay a Yankee, however, he performed very well and became the ace of the pitching staff. In 2000, Wells became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games, which has only been accomplished by two other pitchers since (Roy Halladay and J.A. Happ).
Wells would be traded after that season to the Chicago White Sox in a deal that did not turn out well for the Blue Jays. Over eight total seasons in Toronto, Wells posted an 84-55 record and 13 saves with a 4.06 ERA; he currently sits sixth in wins on the franchise list.
23. Duane Ward (1986-1995)
For five consecutive years, the Blue Jays had arguably the best tandem to close out games in all of baseball. The set-up man was Duane Ward, who was a big right-handed pitcher they had acquired in 1986 for Doyle Alexander.
Ward became a regular in 1988 and had five straight years of throwing over 100 innings out of the bullpen and led the league in appearances in 1991 (81), which was a season he finished with seven wins and 23 saves. Ward, however, was best in the 1992 World Series where he was almost un-hittable. During that series he was used four times, did not allow a run, had a WHIP of 0.60, collected a pair of wins, and struck out six batters over 3.1 innings pitched.
In 1993 Ward became the full time closer and led the league in saves with 45, was named an All-Star and received votes for both AL MVP and AL Cy Young. Unfortunately, after the 1993 season Ward suffered from bicep tendinitis and would only pitch in four more games after the age of 29. Ward currently sits second on the team in Saves, Games Pitched and Games Finished.
22. Joe Carter (1991-1997)
One memory comes to mind for every fan when you say the name Joe Carter and obviously that is his walk off home run to win the 1993 World Series. The Blue Jays acquired Carter, along with Roberto Alomar prior to the 1991 season in the most famous trade in team history. In his seven seasons in Toronto, Carter eclipsed 100 RBI in all but one of them, while averaging 29 home runs as well as posting a slash line of .257/.308/.473.
Carter was an All-Star five times and Silver Slugger Award winner twice, while receiving votes for AL MVP on three occasions. There is not really a season that stands out as his best as he just consistently did the same thing, which was being a run producer. During his five playoff series between 1991-1993, Carter would go 30 for 119 (.252) with 11 extra base hits and 20 RBI in 29 games. As stated Carter hit the walk off home run in 1993, but he also recorded the last out at first base to win the 1992 World Series.
After the 1997 season Carter made it known he wanted to come back to Toronto, however, Gord Ash was ready to move on and Carter would leave in free agency. Carter currently sits fifth on the team in All-Time Home runs.
21. Shannon Stewart (1995-2003)
If I were to select the most underrated Blue Jay in team history it would be Shannon Stewart. He was a first round pick in the 1992 MLB draft out of high school and first made an appearance as a 21 year old in 1995. He became a regular in 1998 and impressed by swiping 51 stolen bases while collecting 44 extra base hits. Stewart posted four consecutive seasons with a batting average over .300 and he would collect double digit home runs in each of his full time seasons.
Stewart’s best season was in 2000 when he hit 43 doubles, 21 home runs and 69 RBI with 20 stolen bases and a slash line of .319/.363/.518. Stewart was traded shortly before the 2003 trade deadline for Bobby Kielty. He finished his 10 year Blue Jays career with a batting average of .298, which puts him fourth in club history, and he also sits sixth in doubles (222) and fifth in stolen bases (166).
In the next segment we will look at some power hitters and a Cy Young winner.