Trades, Free Agents, and Rule 5 Selections in Franchise History

Toronto Blue Jays: Number of Trades, Free Agent Signings, and Rule 5 Selections Per Calendar Year, 1976-2011. (Graph created by Minor Leaguer)

Alex Anthopolous recently re-stated that, while he is exploring all possible free agents, he would "exhaust [all possible trades] first before delving into free agency." It appears that Anthopolous' mantra is to focus on trades rather than free agency to improve the Blue Jays. As a prelude to the upcoming Winter Meetings, I decided to throw together this graph of the number of free agent signings and trades made every year by the five general managers in franchise history. Since the Rule 5 Draft is coming up, I decided to throw those on as well.

Please note that the free agent signings listed only include players signed from another club's 40-man roster, and do not include the Jays re-signing its own free agents, minor league free agents, or international free agents.

Although the 2011 calendar year is not over, it appears that we may have already seen more Blue Jays trades this year (13, including the recent Mills-Mathis trade) than ever before in franchise history! I don't think anyone else has noticed or mentioned this fact yet, which makes me wonder if it is true. The Toronto Blue Jays Official Guide 2011, which I used as one of my main references, include transactions where a player is acquired for cash as a trade. However, that seems to have only started in 1994. Does that mean that no player was sold or purchased before Rob Butler was sold to the Phillies? Does anyone know?

More after the jump.

Some random interesting points:

  • The longest "drought" between free agent signings was 2251 days (6 years, 1 month, 30 days). Luis Gomez (the club's first free agent acquisition) signed on November 11, 1977, and Dennis Lamp signed on January 10, 1984. Of course, free agency was quite different back then: between 1976 and the 1981 strike MLB used a Re-Entry Draft system, and after the strike through 1985 a Compensation Draft system was in place. (Read the latter article on how the Jays acquired Tom Henke)
  • The longest "drought" between trades was 608 days. Oswald Peraza and Jose Mesa was sent to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Flanagan on August 31, 1987, and "Stand" Pat Gillick did not make another trade until April 30, 1989, when Jesse Barfield was sent to the Yankees for Al Leiter.
  • Lonell Roberts was the only Blue Jay to be truly traded for himself. Roberts was sent to the Texas Rangers on November 20, 1996 for a player to be named later (PTBNL), only to be named as the PTBNL on March 17, 1997. This was counted as a single trade for the 1996 count.
  • People often state that John McDonald was "traded for himself", but technically that is untrue. McDonald was traded to Detroit on July 22, 2005 for cash, and the Tigers sent him back to the Jays on November 10, 2005 for cash. These were counted as two trades for the 2005 count.
  • On July 26, 2000, the Jays acquired Rob Ducey from the Phillies for a PTBNL (John Sneed), but sent him back to Philadelphia on August 6 of that year for Mickey Morandini.
  • Pat Gillick's last trade with the Jays sent Domingo Martinez to the White Sox for Mike Huff on March 29, 1994. (great trivia question!)
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