Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers traded either a player to be named later or cash to the Toronto Blue Jays for the services of catcher Yorvit Torrealba. At the time of the trade, the Brewers suddenly found themselves third in the wildcard race, 2.5 games back from the newly implemented second wildcard slot.
Casual baseball fans may have been confused why that trade even happened--after all, wasn't it past the trade deadline? Well, the answer is "yes." Major League Baseball is probably the only league with two trade deadlines. The first, on July 31, is the end date for "regular" trades, after this date, all traded players must first be placed on waivers, exposing them to claims from other teams in the league. The second trade deadline is August 30, because no player who joins a team after this date is eligible to appear on the postseason roster.
Because players who are traded in September are barred from playing in the playoffs, September trades are rare in baseball.But they do happen--mostly in cases where teams feel they need a boost into the playoffs. Looking through the record books, the Toronto Blue Jays have completed only seven September trades in their 35-year history, and I have chosen to highlight in detail the two most significant ones.
September 22, 1987: The Los Angeles Dodgers traded P Juan Guzman to the Toronto Blue Jays for 2B Mike Sharperson.
This trade was rather strange. The Toronto Blue Jays, who were in first place and 0.5 games up on the hated Detroit Tigers, traded infielder Mike Sharperson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 20-year old high-A leaguer Juan Guzman. Sharperson had started the 1987 season with the Blue Jays, mostly in a starting role until he was optioned on May 23. Since the AAA season ended in early September, he was probably sitting at home when he found out that he was traded to, and was called up by, the Dodgers. At the time of the trade, the Dodgers were sitting in 4th place and eliminated from the playoffs. I call it strange because this prospect-for-prospect trade was one that could have been made that offseason. But I guess the Dodgers' offer was one that Gillick couldn't have refused, especially after Guzman received heaps of praise from superscout Epy Guerrero. The Blue Jays would end up finishing 2 games back from Detroit, missing the playoffs despite a 96-66 record.
Sharperson was the Jays' 1st round pick (11th overall) in the June 1981 amateur draft. He spent quite some time in the minors before making his debut in 1987. He shuffled between the Majors and the minors with the Dodgers after the trade until he got a permanent job in 1990. Sharperson was selected to the 1992 All-Star Game, where both he and Guzman made their only appearance. He was released by the Dodgers in 1994 and toiled around as a minor league free agent before playing a short stint with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. He signed with the San Diego Padres in 1996 and played well enough for the Las Vegas Stars to earn a recall on May 26. Tragically, as he was driving to San Diego, seatbelt unbuckled, he was involved in a single-car crash and was ejected through the sunroof. He was just 34 years old.
Guzman is probably familiar to most Jays fans as the jheri curl-wearing pitching phenom who exploded onto the Major League scene with two straight sub-3 ERA, 8+ K/9 seasons in 1991 and 1992 and a decent line despite a higher ERA and WHIP in 1993. He had a couple of horrible years in 1994 and 1995 (5.68, 6.32 ERA respectively) before bouncing back with a pretty decent 1996 after changing his number from the familiar 66 to 57. He was traded to the Orioles during the 1997 season and then pitched for the Reds and Devil Rays before retiring from the minors in 2001.
September 16, 1990: The Cleveland Indians traded P Bud Black to the Toronto Blue Jays for P Mauro Gozzo and players to be named later (P Steve Cummings and P Alex Sanchez).
This was arguably the only September trade that was made by the Blue Jays in order to better their chance to get into the postseason. Toronto was in second place, just a game back from the hated Boston Red Sox for the AL East title with 15 games to go, when they decided to bolster their rotation. They traded three young pitchers, 1st rounder (17th overall, 1987) Alex Sanchez, 2nd rounder (1986) Steve Cummings, and Mauro Gozzo to the 5th place Cleveland Indians for veteran Bud Black. Black, at that point, had an 11-5 record against Toronto and was scheduled to pitch against the Jays a few days later.
The Jays had enough rest days to only need two 5th starters after the September 16, so Black was placed first in the bullpen, making one relief appearance, before making those two starts. He was really acquired so that the Jays didn't have to face him and for some insurance in case Jimmy Key, who was nursing a tender hamstring at the time, did not get better. Here is a quote from then-general manager Pat Gillick from the September 18, 1990 edition of the Toronto Star:
"While there's no guarantees--he might get his brains beat out--we think Bud Black gives us a better opportunity."
Sounds like a vote of confidence to me!
His first start as a Blue Jay was pretty horrible, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits in 5.2 innings against the Brewers. During his tenure, the Blue Jays worked their way up to first place, 1.5 games up but then ended up the season 2 games back after going 2-6 in their last 8 games, including 2 against the Red Sox. Black won in his last start though, throwing an 8-inning 3-hitter against the Orioles, and it staved off elimination until the last day of the season. He is now the manager of the San Diego Padres. He was born in the U.S. but he was the son of two Canadians.
Mauro "Goose" Gozzo only ended up pitching 4 games over two seasons with the Indians, and finished his career with 48 appearances (mostly with the New York Mets). Although he did not have a very long Major League tenure, as a private coach he tutored Matt Cain and Drew Pomeranz during their formative years.
Steve Cummings made 11 appearances with the Jays before the trade and zero Major League appearances afterwards. He spent half a year in the Indians system before being traded to the Tigers' system. Alex Sanchez made 4 appearances in the Major Leagues, all with the Jays in 1989. He was traded back to the Blue Jays just over a month later for Willie Blair, and shifted around the minors between several organizations until he left affiliated baseball in 1995, never again putting on a big league uniform.
September 21, 2012: The Toronto Blue Jays traded C Yorvit Torrealba to the Milwaukee Brewers for player to be named later or cash.
The history blogs are still yet to be written for this trade, but it does not look like one of much significance for the Brewers. At the time of writing, Yorvit Torrealba had only appeared in 3 games and has collected no hits and just one walk in 4 plate appearances, and Milwaukee had fallen to 4.5 games behind the last wildcard slot.
September 14, 1977: The Seattle Mariners obtained OF John Hale from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash.
The first trade between the two expansion teams and cellar (or near-cellar) dwellers. Hale ended up playing two seasons with the Mariners.
September 12, 1978: The San Diego Padres traded P Mark Wiley to the Toronto Blue Jays for OF Andy Dyes.
Wiley made all of two appearances (2.2 innings) with the Blue Jays, and those were his last two games in the Majors. Dyes never made it in the Majors, playing 6 years in affiliated minor leagues. Dyes actually played in 3 countries in his pro ball career: Canada (Lethbridge and Quebec City), United States (Syracuse, San Jose, Hawaii), and four years in the Mexican League.
September 1, 1986: The Toronto Blue Jays obtained P Mickey Mahler from the Texas Rangers for cash.
Mahler was a veteran journeyman, finishing his Major League career with 2 appearances (25 days apart) with the Blue Jays. He seemed to be quite the character, according to his Wikipedia page.
September 3, 1999: The Toronto Blue Jays traded 2B Juan Melo to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later (2B Jaime Goudie).
Melo would make it to the Majors as a September callup for the San Francisco Giants in 2000, after being released by the Reds in December 1999. Melo would play just 11 games and hit .077/.077/.077 in 13 at bats. He continued to play baseball until 2010 when he retired from the Golden League. Goudie never made it to the Majors but was the starting second baseman for the Jays' class A affiliate Hagerstown Suns in 2000, but he hit just .243/.315/.347. He left affiliated baseball in 2001, after splitting the season between advanced-A and double A.
Sources: The always wonderful Baseball-Reference.com (including the Bullpen), the resourceful 2012 Blue Jays Official Guide, the sometimes trustworthy Wikipedia, the frustrating but useful Pages of the Past (Toronto Star Archives), and The Greatest 21 Days, a great blog I stumbled upon.