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Today in Blue Jays History: Brandon Morrow Trade

Toronto Blue Jays v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Nine years ago today, the Blue Jays trade Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez to the Mariners for Brandon Morrow. Hugo posted this:

Ken Rosenthal reported last night that the Jays traded sometimes-brilliant, occasionally-frustrating pitcher Brandon League to the Seattle Mariners for sometimes-brilliant, occasionally-frustrating pitcher Brandon Morrow. The Jays also included a “prospect” in the deal but we don’t know who that is - although according to MLB Trade Rumors, it should be someone pretty good to make it a fair deal.

Chavez seemed like an ok prospect, at the time, but he didn’t pan out. He never made it to the majors. A couple of years ago he was playing for an independent league team and he played Venezuelan Winter League until last year.

Brandon League was a favorite of mine and Hugo liked him too:

Leaguer, if this is it, it’s been fun having you on the Jays. You often amazed, occasionally frustrated with your crazy sinker and constantly morphing mechanics. Your tattoos gave hope to Asian-Americans everywhere that they could be thought of as cool. Good luck and enjoy the West Coast!

But anytime you can trade a reliever for a should do it. League turned into a pretty decent closer, for the M’s, putting up 52 saves and a 3.26 ERA in 2.5 seasons, before he was traded to the Dodgers for a couple of minor leaguers. League was very good in LA, for the second half of the 2012 season and managed to get a $22.5 million 3-year contract (with a vesting option for a 4th year). His 2013 season didn’t go so well, he lost his closer job and put up a 5.30 ERA, becoming the mop up man by the end of the season. He was better in 2014, putting up a 2.57 ERA in 63 innings. He was injured in 2015 and released in July. The Royals signed him in January of 2017 but released him early in spring.

Morrow needed a fair bit of help from former pitching coach Bruce Walton which he told us about back in 2012:

Brandon, it’s my second year with Brandon. His first year we went through some walk issues, base on balls, command issues. We pretty much ironed it out. We got to the point where now we left a lot of balls in the middle of the plate. So we went from one extreme to the other extreme and we gave up a lot of home runs last year. He’s a fly ball pitcher at times, he doesn’t get a whole lot of ground balls, so when the ball sits in the middle of the plate belt high and they get a piece of it, it goes. So now it is just staying down in the zone consistently. I think for Brandon to be consistent, his pitches have to be down consistent. We have to plan the effort level to pitch at consistently. Consistency is what we have to work on in every aspect. Keeping the ball down, keeping our emotions in check. Keeping our work effort at a certain level, consistently. All those will come. This is the year for that to come. There’s steps to becoming a major league starting pitcher. The first step was that we needed to throw strikes. We accomplished that. It took us a year and a half. Our next step is to manage the game a little bit better and manage our emotions a little bit better and manage our season a little bit better and become more consistent. That’s where we are at.

In 2012 it looked like he was putting it all together, he had a 2.96 ERA, but injuries limited him to 21 starts.

2013 and 2014 were injury filled, he only pitched 87 innings over the two seasons.

His best moment was that 17 strikeout, 1 hitter he threw

That 1-hitter, with 17 strikeouts, on August 8th, 2010 by itself made the trade worthwhile to me. It may have been the best start in Blue Jays history. 8.2 innings of no-hit ball and then a bouncer off Evan Longoria’s bat that was just out of reach of Aaron Hill at second base. Hill made a great effort, and I remember hoping the official scorer would call it an error, but it really wasn’t. You can see for yourself:

At the time I thought we’d see him get that no-hitter one day, but it never happened. Since leaving the Jays Brandon spent two injury filled seasons with the Padres. Then had a good year with the Dodgers, 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings out of the pen, and he pitched in all 7 games of the World Series that year. Last year he pitched for the Cubs, 1.47 in 30.2 innings, before another injury and elbow surgery that might keep him out for the start of the 2019 season.