22 Years Ago Today:
The Blue Jays traded a 28-year-old John Olerud to the Mets for a 27-year-old Robert Person.
I’m not sure if it is the worst trade in team history, but I’m sure it is my least favorite trade in team history. It was just bad.
We won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Then 1994, 95 and 96 didn’t go as well. Much like the Blue Jays story from the last few years, the Jays won with an older lineup and that lineup seemed to age quickly after the second World Series year. Maybe seeing the way things were heading, our GM Pat Gillick left the team after the 1994 season, to take the over the Orioles.
Gord Ash got the job with the Jays. It wasn’t good spot. There was only one way the team could go and that wasn’t up.
And Ash had a very popular, very strong willed, very opinionated manager. None of those are bad traits for a manager. But, when you are a new GM, it is easy to be steamrolled by a strong manager.
So....the Jays had a line drive hitter, who played excellent defensive, at first base, who was just coming into his prime years, in John Olerud. But we also had an aging outfielder, Joe Carter, who really couldn’t handle playing the outfield everyday anymore, but he could play first (not as well defensively as Olrude, but he could handle the spot). Add in that he was a 2 time World Series hero. And we had a young potential superstar, Carlos Delgado, who had been mostly a DH, but who could play first. We had three guys for two spots.
Now, the smart thing for a team which should have been rebuilding would have been to keep the younger two, and see if they could trade the older player.
But Cito loved Carter. It was understandable. Carter helped him get 2 World Series wins. So he pushed to trade Olerud to made room for Carter to play everyday. Cito was never a huge fan of John’s.
A strong GM might have stood up to his manager and said ‘No, Carter’s time is done, we need to rebuild around the younger guys.’
Or a good GM could have gotten a good return for a player like Olerud.
Ash traded for Robert Person.
Person, at 27, had pitched 101.2 innings for the Mets. He had a 4.07 ERA in 30 games, 14 starts. He had 86 strikeouts and 37 walks in those 101.2 innings. There wasn’t much in his minor league history that suggested he was going to become a star.
Person was a Jay for 2 seasons plus a month. He had a 8-13 record and a 6.18 ERA in that time, pitching in 61 games, 22 starts, 177.2 innings. He allowed 179 hits, 97 walks, 142 strikeouts and, most notably 29 home runs.
On May 5, 1999 we shipped him to the Phillies for Paul Spoljaric (his second stint with the Jays would last one season, 4.65 ERA in 62 innings, mostly pitching out of the pen).
Person? Well, he turned around his career with the Phillies. He had a 38-24 record and 4.23 ERA in 4 seasons, 108 games, 99 starts. He would win 15 games in the 2001 season.
Carter would play 1 more season with the Jays. hitting .234/.284/.399 with 21 home runs (and a pretty amazing 102 RBI, considering those numbers). He’d leave as a free agent after the season, signing with the Orioles and was traded to the Giants mid-season and then retired.
Olerud? He would play 3 seasons with the Mets, hitting .315/.425/.501 with 63 homers. After that he played 5 years for the Mariners hitting .285/.388/.439 with 72 homers. He finished a 17 year career with a .295/.398/.465 line, 2239 hits and 255 home runs. Not quite a Hall of Fame career (though if Harold Baines can make the Hall.....), but a pretty decent one.