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Today in Blue Jays history: A bad trade and Clemens signing

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

24 Years Ago

The Blue Jays signed Roger Clemens.

Roger had played 13 seasons for the Red Sox. Had a 192-111 record and a 3.06 ERA in 382 starts. He had won 3 Cy Young awards and had finished 2nd and 3rd and 6th in the voting other times.

But, he wasn’t quite as terrific in his last couple of seasons with Boston, putting up a 3.83 ERA and a 20-18 record in 57 starts. Yeah, still very good, but kind of a step down in performance. When he hit free agency, the Red Sox didn’t want to give him the money he expected. He talked to the Yankees, but wasn’t happy with their offers.

In came the Blue Jays, offering 3 years and $24.75 million (which doesn’t sound like that much money anymore.

With the Jays he returned to the Clemens of old. In 2 seasons he went 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA in 67 starts and 298.2 innings. He won his 4th and 5th Cy Young awards. It was the best back-to-back seasons by a pitcher in Jays history. His bWAR, for the 2 seasons was a pretty incredible 20.1.

Let’s just ignore that there were some PEDs that helped him regain his old form.

And he made a rather cute commercial (co-staring a rather young looking Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez):

Roger was great....the rest of the team wasn’t. We’d finish last in 1997 and a fair more respectable 3rd in 1998.

Clemens would go on to win 2 more Cy Youngs, pick up a couple of World Series rings and generally go on to be a complete and utter jackass.

He’s on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 7th time. Despite all his Cy Youngs and his 354 career wins, the BBWAA have told him to Clemens off so far.

22 Years Ago

Back on December 13, 1998, the Jays traded Woody Williams (and Carlos Almarzar and Peter Tucci) to the Padres for Joey Hamilton. It wasn’t one of our better trades.

The guys we gave up:

  • Peter Tucci never made it to the majors, though he had pretty good number in the minors. In 1998, playing in A-ball at Dunedin and Double-A Knoxville, he hit .318/.376/.602 with 32 home runs, 112 RBI in 130 games. He was a corner outfielder.
  • Carlos Almanzar was a right handed reliever. For the Padres he pitched in 28 game 1999, posting a 7.47 ERA, but was far better in 2000, a 4.39 ERA, in 62 games, 69 innings, 25 walks, 56 strikeouts, but 12 home runs allowed. After that season he was traded to the Yankees for David Lee, another reliever, who pitched one season with the Padres, 3.70 ERA in 41 games. Almanzar would go one to play for the Yankees, Reds and Rangers. He played in 8 seasons, pitched in 210 games and had a 4.82 ERA.
  • Woody Williams went on to have a pretty good career. He pitched for the Padres for the next 2.5 seasons, going 30-28 in 79 starts with a 4.35 ERA. In August of 2001 he was traded to the Cardinals for Ray Lankford. He would go on to play 15 season in the majors, with a 132-116 record with a 4.19 ERA in 424 games, 330 starts.

In return we got Joey Hamilton. Joey didn’t do all that much for us. He was pretty awful. In 1999 he pitched in 22 games, 18 starts, going 7-8 with a 6.52 ERA. I’m not sure how you can get 7 wins with an ERA 6 and a half. The next season the Jays started him in Triple-A , and he missed some time with injuries, finally getting 6 starts at the end of the season, posting a 3.55 ERA. In 2001 Joey started the season in our rotation, and made 22 starts, with a 5.89, before we finally released him in early August.

Why did it take so long before we released him? Gord Ash signed him to a 3 year, $16.5 million contract, a fair bit of money for a 14-17 record, 5.83 ERA and 0 WAR.

Gord traded for him and signed him to the big contract on the recommendation of Dave Stewart, who we hired as assistant GM, after his playing days were over. Stewart had played with Joey and saw something in his eyes or some stupid thing like that, and figured he would be a star.

This one would rank near the top on the list of top bad trades in Blue Jay history, though, at the time of the trade, it didn’t look that bad. Joey had averaged over 200 innings a season the 4 seasons, with the Padres, before the trade and had a 55-44 record with a 3.83 ERA with them.

On the other hand, the season before the trade, Joey led the NL in walks, and he never did strikeout many. Ash should have been able to see that a pitcher that had a 1.39 strikeout to walk ratio didn’t suggest someone that would do well in the AL East.