Top 10 Toronto Blue Jays Pitching Ranks (min. 500 IP):
When people sit back and reflect on the greatest players to ever don a Blue Jays uniform, chances are Paul Quantrill isn't included. Most fans likely remember him as the guy who was drastically overused by Joe Torre during his brief stint in New York. However, his performance as a Blue Jay was terrific. Year in, year out, he was one of the most reliable relief pitchers in baseball, as his inclusion in the top-10 rankings listed above will attest.
Quantrill was never considered a can't-miss prospect. He was drafted in the 6th round (161st overall) in the 1989 amateur draft by the Boston Red Sox, and despite being drafted out of college, he toiled in the minors for almost four seasons. Originally, he was brought up as a starting pitcher, but he never really succeeded in that role. He was, however, very successful as a relief pitcher with the Red Sox, but they nevertheless traded him to the Phillies.
To be blunt, Quantrill's career as a Phillie was awful. His ERA in his one and a half seasons with the club hovered around 5.00, and he was fighting to stay in the majors. However, his career, and his chances of one day becoming a multi-millionaire, would be saved in Toronto.
On December 6th, 1995, in one of GM Gord Ash's best moves, Paul Quantrill was acquired for the dynamic duo of Howard Battle and Ricardo Jordan. Neither Battle nor Jordan amounted to much in the majors, and they combined to appear in only 31 games with the Phillies.
Rather than learning from Philadelphia's mistake, Toronto thrust Quantrill into their rotation upon acquiring him. The results weren't pretty; he posted a career-high 5.43 ERA and a ghastly 1.66 WHIP during his first season as a Blue Jay. Somehow, Toronto retained confidence in the right-hander and allowed him to return in 1997. The rest is history. In his next five seasons, he went on to post ERA+ totals of 238, 180, 148, 110, and 156. He was one of the best setup men in the game during that span, even leading the league in holds during the 1998 and 2001 seasons.
Quantrill by no means had overpowering stuff. His success hinged on a heavy sinker he threw in the high 80s. It had a lot of late movement and induced many a groundball. Nowadays, most late-inning relief pitchers rely on overpowering velocity to pile up strikeouts. Quantrill also threw a slider and a changeup, but neither was nearly as effective or reliable as his sinker.
Unfortunately, Quantrill never had the opportunity to play in a playoff game as a member of the Blue Jays. Although, during his six seasons with the Jays, they were remarkably consistent, as their record fluctuated between 77-85 and 85-77.
After the arrival of current GM J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays were in self-professed rebuilding mode, and Quantrill was one of the first casualties. On December 13th, 2001, Quantrill and Cesar Izturis were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Luke Prokopec and minor leaguer Chad Ricketts. This was no doubt one of, if not the, worst trades Ricciardi has ever made. Prokopec and Ricketts went on to amass zero win shares as members of the Blue Jays, while Quantrill and Izturis garnered 65 as members of the Dodgers. Rumour has it that Eric Gagne could have been acquired instead of Prokopec. To be fair, Gagne hadn't accomplished much up till that point, but it hurts to think about what could have been.
In the end, Quantrill made this list because he was a very consistent, durable pitcher who spent six of his prime seasons with the Blue Jays. However, his durability often led to being overused by his managers, as he led the league in games pitched every season from 2001-2004. As a result, his sinker has lost some of its velocity and late movement, and his career is about to reach its end. It was always a pleasure to watch him pitch in person, and hopefully lists such as this one will make sure he's remembered fondly as one of the best relief pitchers in Blue Jays history.