Prior to Tuesday night’s loss, the Blue Jays made a trade, sending the recently-DFAed Juan Graterol to the Angels for a player to be named later or cash. There’s so little hope to hold on to with the Jays these days I’ll just believe that the PTBNL is going to be Mike Trout unless I learn otherwise.
For many Blue Jays fans, Graterol is most remembered for [UHHH I CAN’T THINK OF ANY, TOM, PUT SOMETHING HERE]. He ended last season with the Angels and spent the offseason riding the waiver wire landing with the Reds, Diamondbacks, back with the Angels, then finally the Blue Jays, who held him through spring training and a few games with Buffalo.
April trades are somewhat of a rare species in baseball, as executives haven’t had a chance to fully evaluate their teams yet (although a 2-11 start helps make that a bit easier). The Blue Jays have made 10 other April trades in their history that I’ve found, with only two being somewhat significant. Let’s take a look at all of them anyway.
1. April 28, 1978: IF Tim Nordbrook dealt to the Brewers for IF Tim Johnson.
In their first April trade, the Jays acquired the Vietnam War Hero [TOM, FACT CHECK THIS] and future manager in Kansas City as they were leaving town and as the Brewers were arriving. This straight-up backup-middle-infielder-named-Tim-for-backup-middle-infielder-named-Tim trade happened because Milwaukee’s manager George Bamberger knew Nordbrook from the Orioles and Toronto’s manger Roy Hartsfield knew Johnson from the Dodgers. Really! I can just imagine the two managers, cigars in mouth, crossing paths at Kauffman Stadium talking to each other about how much they missed the other guy’s Tim then running back to the hotel to find their GMs to ask for the trade.
Johnson: -0.3 WAR in Toronto (2 seasons). Nordbrook: -0.1 WAR in Milwaukee (2 seasons).
2. April 6, 1981: Player to be named later dealt to the Mets for RHP Mark Bomback. RHP Charlie Puleo named April 14.
In the last week of spring training, the Jays acquired Bomback, who the Mets placed on waivers despite being a 10-game winner in 1980.
Bomback: 0.8 WAR in Toronto (2 seasons). Puleo: -0.2 WAR in New York (2 seasons), later included in trade to the Reds for Tom Seaver.
3. April 2, 1982: 3B Aurelio Rodriguez dealt to the White Sox for OF/C Wayne Nordhagen.
After spending spring training with the Jays, Rodriguez, who expected to be the Jays’ starting third baseman, was pulled out of a game in spring and was told he was traded to Chicago to become the White Sox’s backup. Rodriguez’s departure opened third base for the soon-to-be famed Rance Mulliniks and Garth Iorg platoon.
Nordhagen: -1.2 WAR in Toronto (1 season). Rodriguez: 0.6 WAR in Chicago (2 seasons).
4. April 1, 1985: IF Jose Escobar, OF Ken Kinnard, and RHP Dave Shipanoff dealt to the Phillies for 1B Len Matuszek.
The Dunedin resident Matuszek had his spring commute cut by a few minutes after the trade to the Blue Jays.
Matuszek: -0.7 WAR in Toronto (1 season), was traded later that year for Al Oliver. Shipanoff: 0.5 WAR in Philadelphia (1 season). Escobar reached the majors in 1991 with Cleveland for 10 games, Kinnard never made the major leagues, and both eventually returned to the Blue Jays organization.
5. April 30, 1989: OF Jesse Barfield dealt to the Yankees for LHP Al Leiter.
After a string of three stellar seasons in 1985-1987, Barfield declined in 1988 and struggled coming out of the gate in 1989 and was put in a platoon situation about a week before the trade. Despite being just 29 at the time, and still largely beloved by the fan base, general manager Pat Gillick decided to swap him for the prized left arm of the young Leiter as Barfield was blocking Junior Felix. After arriving in Toronto, Leiter experienced a string of elbow, shoulder, and blister issues and pitched fewer big league innings between 1989 and 1992 than Dustin McGowan did between 2009 and 2012. He would put in three full seasons with the Jays, including a great 1995 campaign, before he left in free agency to the disdain of Toronto fans. The Blue Jays recently reached out to him in their search for a solution to Aaron Sanchez’s blister issues.
Leiter: 8.4 WAR in Toronto (7 seasons). Barfield: 9.9 WAR in New York (4 seasons).
6. April 6, 1995: IF Tony Medrano, RHP David Sinnes, and IF Chris Stynes dealt to the Royals for RHP David Cone.
The Royals moved the 1994 Cy Young winner to the Blue Jays in a salary dump a few days after the official conclusion of the players' strike for three low-ceiling prospects. The Blue Jays struggled in 1994 and wanted to get back into contention in 1995, so became interested in re-acquiring Cone having lost Todd Stottlemyre and Dave Stewart in the offseason. Cone performed well but the team wasn't going anywhere, so he was flipped at the deadline for much-hyped pitching prospect Marty Janzen, as well as minor leaguers Mike Gordon and Jason Jarvis. Chris Stynes had the best career of the six prospects involved in the two Cone trades of 1995.
Cone: 4.4 WAR in Toronto (1 season). Stynes: -0.6 WAR in Kansas City (2 seasons) and was later traded for Hector Carrasco and Scott Service. Medrano and Sinnes never played in the major leagues.
7. April 15, 2010: OF Fred Lewis was acquired from the Giants for cash.
“SuperFLewis” was and is one of the best nicknames ever for a Jays player. He was not well liked around these parts.
Lewis: 0.2 WAR in Toronto (1 season).
8. April 18, 2011: LHP David Purcey was dealt to the Athletics for RHP Danny Farquhar.
“Lord” Farquhar—also a fantastic nickname—was a Blue Jays draftee but was sent to the A’s in November 2010 along with Trystan Magnuson for Rajai Davis. The Jays and A’s had a change of heart come April 2011 and made swap that involved the big-footed Purcey. Farquhar would return to the A’s in a waiver claim in 2012.
Farquhar: -0.1 WAR in Toronto (1 season). Purcey: 0.3 WAR in Oakland (1 season), traded a month later for Scott Sizemore.
9. April 1, 2013: 1B Lars Anderson was dealt to the White Sox for cash.
Anderson (and the man below) are two answers to what’s maybe the most difficult Blue Jays Sporcle quiz ever, which asked players to name the 21 waiver claims Alex Anthopoulos made between the end of the 2012 season and mid-May 2013.
Anderson never played a single game in the Blue Jays system, nor did he ever return to the major leagues. He is now playing with fellow former Red Sox Manny Ramirez for the Kochi Fighting Dogs of a Japanese independent league.
10. April 22, 2013: OF Casper Wells was dealt to the Athletics for cash.
Casper Wells was a phantom (ghost?) Blue Jay, never playing a game for them but definitely having appeared on the bench at one point between being acquired from the Mariners on the 10th and this trade.
Wells: -0.1 WAR (1 season), was traded on April 29 to the White Sox for cash. Later that season the Phillies picked him up on trade assignment waivers. Fun fact! When the Orioles traded failed prospect Jake Arrieta in July, they called up Alex Burnett, who the Jays DFAed when they claimed Wells.
References: 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Official Guide, Baseball-Reference.com, Toronto Star archives, Globe and Mail archives, New York Times archives.