Remember the year 1993? It was a pretty good time to be a baseball fan in Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays repeated as World Champions thanks to a walk-off homer by Joe Carter that sent the SkyDome crowd into a frenzy. But the Jays would miss the playoffs for the next 21 years until a mid-season surge during the 2015 campaign lifted them to a division title, thanks to the acquisitions of David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson. They beat the Texas Rangers in a memorable Division Series, but fell to Kansas City in the ALCS just two wins shy of the World Series. Last year, the Jays went back to the postseason by clinching a Wild Card spot. Toronto won the winner-take-all contest over the Orioles, swept the ALDS over the Rangers, then lost to the Cleveland Indians in a five-game LCS.
The 2017 Blue Jays have seemingly failed to meet expectations following back-to-back postseason appearances, spending the current year as a basement-dweller in their division. The last two years drew thousands of enthusiastic Jays fans to Rogers Centre with the hope they bring home another title, but things haven't gone their way. The Edwin Encarnacion era came to an end, signing a massive deal with the Indians. That led to the arrivals of Kendrys Morales and utility man Steve Pearce. As the Jays attempt to reach the postseason for the third year in a row, let's look back on their worst moves since winning the '93 World Series.
15 HIRING ROSS ATKINS AS GM
Let's be honest, Ross Atkins has somewhat struggled as the successor to former Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Anthopoulos made a big move to land star infielder Josh Donaldson from Oakland in 2014, then picked up Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, David Price, and Ben Revere at the 2015 trade deadline that led to the Jays' first playoff run in 22 years. That could've led to him staying in Toronto, but that was not the case following their 2015 ALCS defeat to Kansas City. He rejected a contract extension to stay as Jays GM, and current team president Mark Shapiro hired Atkins in late 2015.
Atkins helped the Jays claim a Wild Card berth in 2016 with 89 wins, but they lost in the LCS for the second year in a row. His decisions to sign Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce meant that Edwin Encarnacion's departure from the Jays became a foregone conclusion. (We'll get to that later on.) The Morales and Pearce signings were intended to make up for the loss of Encarnacion, but they haven't truly shined in Toronto this year and Justin Smoak has been their only bright spot offensively.
14 SIGNING B.J. RYAN TO A HEFTY CONTRACT
The Jays had fairly high hopes for closer B.J. Ryan, who earned 36 saves for the Baltimore Orioles in 2005. Toronto signed Ryan to a $47 million contract for five years, but he had mixed results throughout his Jays tenure. The '06 season turned out to be Ryan's only good year as a Blue Jay with 38 saves, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2007.
It led to a forgettable '08 season for Ryan. Despite converting 32 out of 36 save opportunities, his ERA increased to 2.95 and had walked 28 batters. He eventually lost the closer's job which led to his release by Toronto in July 2009. Ryan is now out of professional baseball. Since his career came to an end, he helped conduct a free baseball clinic for kids in his home state of Louisiana this past March.
13 THE ROY HALLADAY DEAL
Best known as "The Doc", Roy Halladay became a fan favourite in Toronto for frustrating opposing batters and his drive to win as a starter. In December 2009, Halladay asked then-Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos for a trade as he grew tired of missing the playoffs and wanted to play for a contender. Toronto would send their long-time ace to the Philadelphia Phillies for prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud, and Michael Taylor. Halladay pitched a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter for Philly in 2010, but could not reach the World Series and retired after the 2013 season.
The assets Toronto received in the Halladay trade are no longer with the team. Drabek lasted five seasons in Toronto and failed to pan out as a starter, thanks to a record of 8-15 in 30 career starts. The Jays dealt Taylor to Oakland for Brett Wallace and dealt d'Arnaud to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade a few years ago. Luckily for the Jays, they've drafted and developed starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez to become the future of their rotation.
12 TRADING FOR TROY GLAUS FROM ARIZONA
Troy Glaus had a decent big league career, hitting 320 career homers in 12 MLB seasons and won the Silver Slugger twice. He also led the Anaheim Angels to a World Series title in 2002 until landing in Arizona three seasons later.
In 2005, Toronto made the move to acquire Glaus from the D'Backs, giving up infielder Orlando Hudson and pitcher Miguel Batista for his second stint with the team he helped win a championship in 2001. Glaus enjoyed an outstanding 2006 campaign with 38 homers and 104 RBIs, which led to an All-Star appearance.
But the next season turned out to be a huge disappointment for him. A pair of trips to the disabled list led to a rapid decline in offense, driving in 62 runs and homering 20 times. The Jays dealt Glaus to St. Louis for Scott Rolen before the '08 season. Rolen is best remembered as the player Toronto gave up to land Edwin Encarnacion in 2009, and he emerged as an offensive terror on opposing pitchers.
11 REPLACING CARLOS DELGADO WITH COREY KOSKIE AT FIRST BASE
If any Blue Jays fan remembers former big leaguer Corey Koskie, his brief stint with Canada's only MLB team likely comes to mind. During the 2004 offseason, the Jays needed a first baseman to replace Carlos Delgado, who had a standout career in Toronto. A respectable six-year tenure in Minnesota, which included a 100-RBI season, led to the Jays offering Koskie a three-year contract worth $17.5 million. But he appeared in 97 games during the '05 season and regressed offensively. Koskie launched 11 homers, 36 RBIs, and struck out 90 times.
The Jays traded him to Milwaukee in January 2006 and were forced to pay more than half of the $11.6 million left on his contract. Koskie has since retired from the big leagues due to post-concussion issues.
10 THE FRANK THOMAS SIGNING
The Blue Jays decided to sign free agent slugger Frank Thomas to a two-year, $18 million deal before the 2007 season. He came to Toronto during the latter stages of a terrific career spent with the White Sox, but The Big Hurt's tenure as a Jay ended much earlier than expected.
Some of the highlights of his time as a Blue Jay was when he hit his 500th career home run during the '07 season. He finished it with 22 homers and 96 RBIs but fell apart in the first month of the '08 campaign. Thomas went four for his last 34, despite three homers in three games. Manager John Gibbons benched Thomas as a result and then-Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi released him in late April. Thomas made his last stop in Oakland, then walked away from baseball with 521 career homers after the 2008 season. He received a first-ballot induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, and currently works as an analyst for Fox Sports 1.
9 ACQUIRING COLBY RASMUS FROM THE CARDINALS
The Blue Jays' tenure of outfielder Colby Rasmus was mixed at best. In 2011, Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired him from St. Louis in a three-team deal that involved the White Sox. The Jays gave up starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to Chicago, while relievers Marc Rzepcyznski and Octavio Dotel went to the Cardinals.
Even though Rasmus put up decent offensive production in his four years with the Jays, he struck out pretty frequently. Opposing pitchers punched out Rasmus 149 times in 2012, which was a career-worst for him until the 2015 season. In fact, the Jays relegated him to pinch-hitting in 2014, his last year with the team, and homered three times in that situation. Rasmus left the Jays after '14 and has made stops in Houston (2015-16) and is currently on the Tampa Bay Rays' roster.
8 SHIPPING JOHN OLERUD TO THE METS
To Jays fans, former first baseman John Olerud is remembered for his contributions to the '92 and '93 Blue Jays teams that won it all. He was a consistent hitter and run producer for the franchise. During the '96 offseason, Toronto knew Olerud would walk as a free agent after the '97 campaign, so they traded him to the New York Mets for right-handed pitcher Robert Person. The Jays still had to pay $5 million of Olerud's '97 salary that was worth a total of $6.5 million. As for the deal itself, the Mets won this one-sided trade.
Olerud returned to his old self with 22 homers, 102 RBIs and batted nearly .300, which earned him a two-year extension from New York, but Person turned out to be a bust in Toronto. He posted a 5-10 record and a poor ERA of 5.61 in 1997. The Jays converted him into a reliever, but his ERA jumped to over seven. Toronto eventually traded him the next season to the Phillies for Paul Spoljaric.
7 RE-HIRING CITO GASTON AS MANAGER
In the early '90s, Cito Gaston led the Jays to a pair of titles with World Series hero Joe Carter, future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor. But during the 2008 regular season, he returned as Jays manager after they fired John Gibbons. Unfortunately, Gaston couldn't replicate the past success during his second tenure with the franchise. He went 211-201 from '08 to '10 and no playoff appearances. Gaston departed the organization he helped win the World Series twice and picked up 894 regular season wins.
Once the Cito reunion ended, John Farrell served as Jays manager for two seasons until leaving for Boston. Following the departure of Farrell in the 2012 offseason, they re-hired Gibbons for his second stint as Blue Jays skipper where he's remained since.
6 SIGNING VERNON WELLS TO A LUCRATIVE EXTENSION
Jays fans may remember former outfielder Vernon Wells, who played the majority of his 15-year career in Toronto. Wells won multiple Gold Glove awards, hit 30 home runs, and compiled around 100 RBIs that during the '06 offseason, he signed a seven-year extension worth an astounding $126 million with a yearly value of $18 million!
It turned out that Wells' contract became an anchor to the team. A disappointing 2007 campaign where Wells homered 16 times with 80 RBIs and batted .245 signaled a near-rapid decline for him. His RBI totals dropped from 2008-09, but suddenly returned to his previous form in 2010 with 88 runs knocked in and had another 30-homer season.
On January 21, 2011, Alex Anthopoulos traded Wells to the L.A. Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. The Jays finally removed his massive contract, which gave Anthopoulos more wiggle room financially to make the deals he made before the 2013 season. That's something we'll get to shortly, but Wells played three more seasons with the Angels and Yankees until he was out of baseball by 2014. Today, Wells runs his own winery called Jack with former Angels teammate Chris Iannetta.
5 TRADING AWAY AARON HILL IN 2011
This was one of the Jays' more memorable deals before their long playoff drought concluded. When Aaron Hill played for Toronto, he put up respectable numbers at the plate and routinely made double plays at second base.
But on August 23, 2011, the Jays dealt Hill and shortstop John McDonald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for infielder Kelly Johnson. At the time of the trade, both Hill and Johnson batted under .250 for their respective clubs. Johnson disappointed during his two-year tenure in Toronto. Despite having a 50-RBI season in 2012, he struck out a whopping 159 times! Aaron Hill came to the D'Backs with a 100-RBI season on his resume, but a couple trips to the disabled list in 2013 hindered his ability to drive in runs and launch homers ever since. He failed to record a 100-RBI season with the D'Backs. Arizona ultimately dealt Hill to the Brewers in January 2016, then joined the Red Sox last year and the Giants this season.
4 SWAPPING SHAUN MARCUM FOR BRETT LAWRIE
The Jays wanted to rebuild for their future, so they parted ways with starter Shaun Marcum by trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers for then-prospect and BC native Brett Lawrie.
Toronto called up Lawrie from their AAA farm team in August 2011 and showed signs of promise with 25 RBIs in 43 games. Although he drove in a career-high 48 runs for the Jays, the offensive production diminished during his last two years thanks to injuries. On the other hand, Marcum lasted only two seasons in Milwaukee and had a poor 2011 postseason. In hindsight, the Blue Jays and Brewers both lost the trade. Marcum last played a big-league game two years ago and Lawrie hasn't reached his full potential as a big leaguer who hasn't signed an MLB contract in 2017, yet he admitted to Sportsnet last month that a return to Toronto interested him.
3 THE 2012 BLOCKBUSTER DEAL WITH MIAMI
There might be some Jays fans who remember the 2012 offseason for the star-studded talent they acquired from the Miami Marlins.
Toronto and Miami were about to finalize an unprecedented 12-player deal that caused the Jays 2013 payroll to increase and the Marlins' payroll significantly decrease. The Jays acquired pitchers Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck and utility man Emilio Bonifacio from Miami. They ultimately gave up a mix of rookies, prospects, and veterans to the Marlins. This blockbuster of a move fueled the hopes of Jays fans everywhere because of the incredible group of players their front office acquired including Buehrle who threw a perfect game, a promising multi-tool player in Reyes, and a pitcher in Johnson who truly peaked in Miami.
Unfortunately, the trade provided some very mixed results for Toronto. Johnson completely fell apart in 2013 with a 2-8 record and an ERA that ballooned to 6.20. He retired this past January due to elbow problems. Bonifacio was a huge disappointment, while Reyes became an inconsistent run producer. Mark Buehrle may have lost 28 games in three seasons and wasn't the same pitcher, but he threw at least 200 innings twice and had five complete games. 2015 marked the last season for Buehrle and Reyes in Toronto. They dealt Reyes to the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki and had no intention of re-signing Buehrle who occasionally had his struggles with the Jays.
2 ACQUIRING R.A. DICKEY IN THE 2012 OFFSEASON
From one blockbuster deal by Toronto to another, as this one occurred right after the Marlins mega-deal. R.A. Dickey won the hearts of Mets fans thanks to his 20-win season and a Cy Young Award in 2012, and that enticed the Blue Jays to land the knuckleballer's services.
On December 17, 2012, the Jays traded away pitcher and then-prospect Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud from the '09 Halladay deal, the recently acquired John Buck from Miami, and prospect Wuilmer Becerra to the Mets for Dickey, catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The deal bolstered what might've been the best pitching rotation on paper with Johnson, Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero for 2013. Of course, the Jays fared miserably that year and Dickey was no exception. He posted a record of 14-13 with a 4.21 ERA and allowed a career-worst 35 homers. Dickey's struggles continued into 2014 and '15 due to an ERA that went over 3.5o. Dickey left the Blue Jays after last season to sign a one-year deal including an option for 2018 with the Atlanta Braves.
Thole didn't receive much playing time in Toronto, and Nickeas played just one game as a Blue Jay. Sportsnet's Jamie Campbell tweeted in 2015 that Nickeas went back to study at Georgia Tech, where he played college baseball.
1 FAILURE TO RE-SIGN EDWIN ENCARNACION AFTER 2016
As we said earlier, the story of Edwin Encarnacion leaving Toronto as a free agent would be dissected. It began during the 2016 offseason when Jays GM Ross Atkins offered Encarnacion an $80 million contract over four years. But their interest in the Dominican-born slugger was fairly low since they didn't want to keep a guy who provided tremendous offensive production on their roster because of the term and loads of dollars they would've committed.
They also signed Kendrys Morales to a three-year deal worth $33 million, which was significantly less term and money that they offered Encarnacion, and former Oriole Steve Pearce to a two-year contract. Those signings had shut the door on EE's return to Toronto, as he signed a three-year deal with the Cleveland Indians worth $60 million with a club option for 2020.
So far, the Edwin Encarnacion signing has worked out fairly well for the Tribe. He went deep 18 times and has 48 RBIs with a .263 average before the All-Star break, and could be on pace for another 30-homer and 100-RBI campaign. Morales nearly matched Encarnacion's home run total this year but is batting .252 so far. Pearce hasn't played left field a lot for Toronto as Ezequiel Carrera is the full-time LF, but has provided modest offense with 19 runs driven in. This shows that the Indians and Jays have gone in very different directions overall.