The Toronto Blue Jays are the only MLB team that plays outside of the United States, meaning the pressure is always mounting for the franchise to win. The Blue Jays were not very successful throughout the '70s and much of the '80s, but everything changed when they added key pieces to win the World Series in 1992 and 1993. A series of great trades and free agent signings brought the Commissioner's Trophy north of the border for the first time ever.
But the Jays then struggled from 1994 to 2014, failing to reach the playoffs as the AL East foes, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees combined to win eight World Series championships during that time frame. But then the Jays made another great series of moves to reach the ALCS in 2015 and 2016, bringing baseball prominence back to Canada.
So what are eight of the best moves that brought success to Toronto and seven of the worst that held them back for years? Read on to find out more.
15 Best: Trading For David Price
The Toronto Blue Jays were struggling to play .500 ball heading into August during the 2015 season. They had far-and-away the league's best offence, but the rotation was awful outside of Mark Buehrle -- with Marcus Stroman recovering from a torn ACL. The Jays looked destined for 22-straight years with no playoffs.
But general manager Alex Anthopolous FINALLY pulled the trigger on a big move, acquiring David Price while sending a package of prospects the other way. Price went 9-1 with the Jays, fanning 87 batters while posting a 2.30 ERA. Toronto got red hot and won the AL East, before losing to the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS.
Without Price, Toronto would have missed the playoffs and likely started a rebuild, but the sense of urgency in Canada and all the excitement has since forced the front office to go all-in. Though Price would end up signing with the Boston Red Sox after the season, Toronto owes a lot to him in bringing back postseason ball to Canada.
14 Worst: Trading Ben Revere For Drew Storen
Picking up Price late in the season wasn't Anthopolous' only move, as he acquired speedy left-handed hitter Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies. Revere played remarkable defence and batted .319 in 226 plate appearances. He provided Toronto with a much-needed left-handed bat who could steal bases and rarely struck out.
General manager Ross Atkins chose to trade Revere to the Washington Nationals for reliable reliever, Drew Storen. He wound up posting a 1-3 record with a 6.21 ERA -- allowing 23 earned runs in just 33.1 innings pitched. Toronto was forced to get rid of him quickly and shipped him to the Seattle Mariners for Joaquin Benoit.
Toronto's offence surely missed Revere. They had no reliable lefties, no consistent base-stealing threat and the whole team struck out way too much. They ended up getting a huge flop in Storen while trading away a key piece of their 2015 success.
13 Best: Signing Jack Morris
Jack Morris will best be remembered as the man who pitched a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, as his Minnesota Twins beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 to capture the Fall Classic. The Blue Jays liked what they saw from Morris in Minnesota and signed him following his legendary performance.
He became a huge bargain for the Jays, going 21-6 with 132 strikeouts while posting a 4.04 ERA. The Blue Jays would win their first-ever World Series, defeating Atlanta in six games. Morris stayed with the Jays in 1993, going just 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA. Nonetheless, his valuable postseason experience was enough in helping the Jays successfully defend their title over the Philadelphia Phillies, beating them in six games to win its second world championship.
12 Worst: Trading Mike Napoli
Anthopolous somehow got the Angels to pick up Vernon Wells' disastrous contract while getting hard-hitting catcher/designated hitter Mike Napoli in return. Right after the Jays acquired the reliable Napoli, he was flipped for reliever Frank Francisco.
Napoli hit 30 home runs, 75 RBI and batted .320 with a 5.3 wins-above-replacement. Meanwhile, Francisco went 1-4 as the Jays starter while blowing four saves, making his 3.55 ERA seem far from spectacular. Napoli became a constant 20 home-run hitter and the Jays didn't have a reliable option at catcher until Russell Martin signed with them in the 2014 offseason.
Napoli became one of the key pieces of the Rangers who won the 2011 ALCS. He would then spend three seasons with the Boston Red Sox, winning the 2013 World Series with them. The Jays probably should have just kept the power hitter while they had him.
11 Best: Adding Paul Molitor
Despite winning the 1992 World Series, the Blue Jays weren't satisfied enough with their team, and added perennial Milwaukee Brewers star Paul Molitor to their loaded lineup. Molitor had hit above .300 in five of the previous six seasons. He was coming off a .320 season that saw Molitor post a 4.5 WAR.
Molitor became one of the top players in the Blue Jays quest to repeat as champions. He slugged 22 home runs, 11 RBI while batting .332 and posting an incredible 5.5 WAR. He batted .447 in the postseason with three home runs and 13 RBI while striking out just three times 47 at bats. Molitor's incredible bat and defence helped the Jays win their second-consecutive World Series.
Molitor would also spend the following two seasons with the Blue Jays, hitting .341 in the 1994 season. Undoubtedly one of the best pickups in franchise history.
10 Worst: Not Signing Kris Bryant
Kris Bryant was the key piece of the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series championship, helping them win their first World Series in 108 years. Bryant was the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and won the 2016 NL MVP, batting .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI while posting an incredible 7.7 WAR.
But what if I told you he should have been Toronto Blue Jays property? They drafted him in the 18th round during the 2010 MLB Draft. However, Bryant didn't sign with the team and chose to play college baseball in San Diego. The Cubs then took Bryant with the second-overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.
There was no reason or excuse to let Bryant slip away. He's just 25 years of age and is primed to be the top player in the National League for years to come, but Toronto let him slip away.
9 Best: Signing Dave Winfield
The Baseball Hall of Famer was a 12-time All-Star and won seven Gold Gloves, along with six Silver Slugger Awards. During the 1991 offseason, the Blue Jays added the 40-year-old star in hopes that he would provide enough experience to a younger Jays team in winning the World Series.
Dave Winfield was up for the challenge, batting .290 while clubbing 26 home runs and 108 RBI while posting a 3.8 WAR -- his best since 1988. Winfield batted .239 in the postseason with six RBI and seven walks, as the Blue Jays won their first World Series championship. Winfield would then join the Minnesota Twins the following season. But he didn't let the city of Toronto forget him, as Winfield was a key part of the Jays World Series championship team in his one year there.
8 Worst: Signing A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett was a reliable bottom-of-the-line starter for the Florida Marlins, but the Blue Jays chose to overpay for his services at the 2005 Winter Meetings. Burnett signed with Toronto on a five-year deal worth $55 million. Though he certainly wasn't terrible, the budget-conscious Jays could have used that money elsewhere.
In 2006, Burnett went 10-8 with 118 strikeouts and a 3.98 ERA. He followed it up with another 10-8 record, striking out 176 batters and posting a 3.75 ERA. In 2008, Burnett went 18-10 with 231 strikeouts and a 4.07 ERA.
Besides that incredible 2008 season, Burnett wasn't worth the money Toronto gave him. He opted out after the third season of his contract and signed with the New York Yankees, where he saw his career go way down hill.
7 Best: Trading For Josh Donaldson
Following another non-playoff season in 2014, Alex Anthopolous was forced to make some big moves. The world was surprised to learn that he traded for Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, though the return the other way was a hefty one.
Anthopolous had to surrender fan favourite Brett Lawrie plus promising prospects Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto. But all Donaldson did in 2015 was hit .297 along with 41 home runs and 123 RBI while posting an 8.8 WAR. J-Don also won the American League MVP as he helped the Jays reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
He followed up his MVP season with a .284 batting average, 37 home runs and 99 RBI while posting a 7.7 WAR. Donaldson has become the Jays' franchise hitter, and Anthopolous didn't have to surrender any superstar players for it. This became one of the greatest trades in franchise history.
6 Worst: Signing B.J. Ryan
As was the case with A.J. Burnett, the Blue Jays broke the bank on B.J. Ryan despite he not being a great star. A team that rarely spent the big money decided to overpay these two good but not great arms.
Coming off of a 36-save season with the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto signed Ryan to a five-year deal worth $47 million. Ryan's first year in Toronto was great, as he racked up a career-best 38 saves while striking out 86 batters and posting a 1.37 ERA. But things went downhill pretty quickly from there.
Injuries limited Ryan to five starts in 2007, he then posted a 2.95 ERA the following season while blowing four saves. In 2009, Ryan posted a woeful 6.53 ERA and allowed 17 walks against 13 strikeouts. Ryan didn't play another MLB game after that, leaving the Jays with a sour taste in their mouths for handing out such a terrible contract.
5 Best: Trading For Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnacion was a solid hitter for the Cincinnati Reds, but was inconsistent all-around. When the Blue Jays acquired him, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart in exchange for Scott Rolen, not many expected it to be such a franchise-changer for the Jays. After a couple so-so seasons in Toronto, Encarnacion broke out in 2012.
He crushed 42 home runs and 110 RBI, batting .280 on the season. He followed it up in 2013 with 36 home runs and 104 RBI, then hit 34 and 98, respectively the following season. Toronto finally had a legitimate slugger to complement Jose Bautista, and he became an icon in the city rather quickly.
Encarnacion would total 65 homers and 138 RBI over the next two seasons, an his walk-off home run in the 2016 wild card game against the Baltimore Orioles remains one of the greatest moments in franchise history. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in the offseason, but not before becoming a key piece of a team that reached the ALCS in 2015 and 2016.
4 Worst: The Roy Halladay Trade
Roy Halladay is hands-down the greatest pitcher in Toronto Blue Jays history, playing with them from 1998 to 2009. He reached seven All-Star games with the team and took home the 2003 AL Cy Young. He posted a pair of 20-win seasons and posted an ERA below 3.00 in four different campaigns.
But Halladay wanted a chance to win a World Series, and the Jays didn't have much reason to pay a 32-year-old top dollar when they were years away from contending. Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 for prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor.
Taylor never started a game for the Blue Jays. Drabek spent five seasons with the Jays but never played more than 18 games in a season, compiling an 8-15 record. They placed him on waivers in 2015, where he was claimed by the Chicago White Sox.
d'Arnaud was one of their top prospects, until they traded him to the New York Mets. The Jays had a great chance to pick up a trio of future superstars in dealing Halladay, but messed this up big time.
3 Best: Trading For Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista struggled to find a full-time roster spot and was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Robinzon Diaz, who has never locked down a starting job in the majors. Bautista hit just 13 homers and batted .235 in 2009, but his best was yet to come.
He led the majors in home runs during the 2010 season with 54, and finished first in dingers again in 2011 with 43. Bautista has since become one of the top sluggers in franchise history, hitting at least 30 home runs in four different seasons with Toronto.
The well-respected leader will forever be remembered for his three-run home run and bat flip in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS. Bautista helped the Blue Jays become a contender again, and he's easily one of the most beloved players ever.
And all Anthopolous had to do was surrender a minor leaguer.
2 Worst: Trading For R.A. Dickey
Shortly after the Blue Jays made a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins that brought over Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, Anthopolous decided to take things a step further. He traded for knuckleballer and 2012 NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets.
The trade made little sense on paper, as Dickey was a one-year wonder and 38 years of age. Nonetheless, Anthopolous traded away Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, their two best remaining prospects. Dickey was incredibly frustrating in Toronto, going 49-52 with his ERA going well above 4.00 in 2013 and 2016.
Dickey was also terrible in the 2015 postseason, going 0-1 with a terrible 7.11 ERA. Meanwhile, how did d'Arnaud and 'Thor' turn out? Well, the former hasn't been healthy nor consistent yet, but has plenty of time at age 28 to blossom into a reliable catcher.
Meanwhile, Syndergaard is just 24 years of age and went 14-9 in 2016 with 218 strikeouts, a 1.15 WHIP and 2.60 ERA. Did we mention he's 24 years of age? He's basically going to win lots of Cy Youngs, while Dickey did very little right for the Jays and signed with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason.
This trade may hurt them for years.
1 Best: Trading For Joe Carter And Roberto Alomar
The Blue Jays needed some stars to become World Series contenders, and the San Diego Padres were willing to hand over 1990 All-Star Roberto Alomar plus Joe Carter in exchange for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff.
Alomar is arguably the greatest player in Blue Jays history, winning five gold gloves and reaching five All-Star Games. Oh, and he won the 1992 and 1993 World Series with them, batting .310 and .326, respectively in those seasons. Alomar also won the 1992 ALCS MVP. Oh, what a player he was for this franchise.
And don't forget Joe Carter! He hit 34 home runs and 119 RBI in 1992, helping the Blue Jays win the World Series. He also hit the World Series-clinching home run against the Phillies in Game 6, giving Toronto arguably its greatest sports moment ever.
All it took was one trade for the Jays to land a pair of superstars that became arguably the two most important pieces in winning the 1992 and 1993 World Series.
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