Continuing our tour around the mound, today we land on players with a year or less worth of starts on the team (to skirt the “one year” moniker for a couple guys who were in Toronto for parts of two seasons).
Joe Johnson (1986-1987)
The Blue Jays traded Jim Acker for Joe Johnson at the beginning of July, 1986. Johnson was a 24 year old righty with a bit a promise, something the Jays were hoping they could turn into gold. And it worked, at least for the remainder of the 1986 season. Across 16 games and 88 innings, Johnson went 7-2 with a 3.89 ERA. The Blue Jays were looking like they had themselves a very solid starter for a few years.
Things didn’t go as well for Johnson to start the 1987 season. Johnson struggled his way through 14 starts, putting up a 5.13 ERA over 66.2 innings. His final start with the Blue Jays came on June 21, 1987, a day Sports Illustrated just happened to be doing a “One Day in Baseball” look at each team, with each writer given the free range on the topic for their team. Peter Gammons wrote about the Blue Jays, and decided to focus on the day in the life of the starting pitcher for the day, which happened to be Johnson. The day didn’t go great for Johnson, who lasted just 3 innings, was demoted after the game, and never pitched in the Majors again.
Tom Candiotti (1991)
The Blue Jays brought the 33 year old knuckleballer over from Cleveland in June of 1991, a move necessitated by a May 22nd season ending injury to Dave Stieb. The Blue Jays sent Denis Boucher, Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten to Cleveland for Candiotti and Turner Ward.
Candiotti was an immediate success, throwing his dancing knuckleball for 129.2 innings, giving the playoff bound Blue Jays a 6-7 record with a 2.98 ERA. But it wasn’t all quite that good. He was fantastic through his September 18 start, leading the AL in ERA with 3 starts to go. However, he allowed 14 runs over 11.2 innings in his last 3 starts, as he reached a career high in innings pitched. The struggles continued into the playoffs as well, where he allowed 9 runs in 7.2 innings against the Twins, taking the loss in game 1, and giving the team bad footing for the decisive game 5.
David Cone (1992, 1995)
Cone is another pitcher who fits the “less than year” category thanks to the start requirement, as his pair of stints with the Jays lasted 20 total regular season starts and one relief appearance.
For his first stint, the Jays traded for Cone on August 27, 1992, sending away future MVP winner Jeff Kent and a PTBNL who was later named as as Ryan Thompson. Kent’s success doesn’t diminish Cone’s though, as Cone went 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA down the stretch for the Jays, helping push them into the playoffs and on to their first World Series title. Cone was good in the playoffs as well, making 4 starts and allowing just 8 earned runs over 22.2 innings, a 3.22 ERA.
Cone spent the 1993 and 1994 seasons in Kansas City, putting up the best seasons of his career, including winning the Cy Young award in the strike shortened 1994 season. Once the strike was over, the Jays eagerly traded for Cone, sending Tony Medrano, Dave Sinnes and Chris Stynes the other way. Stynes was the only one to make the Majors, spending 10 years bouncing around the Majors as a utlity guy.
Cone’s 1995 season started well, as he was 9-6 with a 3.38 ERA. But the Jays themselves were doing poorly, and having an Ace in Cone was not worth it, so they sent him to the Yankees for an even more depressing return than the Jays got him for.
Frank Castillo (2000)
The Jays signed the 31 Castillo as a non-roster invitee, after he spent the entirety of the 1999 season in AAA. Castillo earned a rotation spot out of Spring Training, and despite early season struggles that saw him go 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA after his first 4 starts, he had a pretty great season. He turned it around from there, though, and became a solid member of the rotation, including his best start, 7 shutout innings of 3 hit ball against the Red Sox on June 18.
Castillo finished the season sensationally. Circled around missing a month from mid-August to mid-September, Castillo went 3-0 with an 0.98 ERA over his final 6 games, pushing his final season line to 10-5 record and a 3.59 ERA. He took that performance with him to Free Agency again, and this time pulled out a multi-year deal with the Red Sox, something that would earn him a World Series ring in 2004, although he was not a contributing member to that team.
Castillo tragically lost his life in boating accident in 2013.
Cory Lidle (2003)
The Blue Jays traded for Lidle in November 2002, hoping he could come over and be an excellent number 2 starter behind Roy Halladay. Lidle had success in Oakland, pitching behind their Big 3, where he went 21-16 with a 3.74 ERA over 380 innings over 2 seasons. The Blue Jays sent Chris Mowday and Mike Rouse the other way for one season of Lidle.
Lidle struggled out of the gate for the Jays, pitching to a 5.75 ERA over 6 April starts, although the great offense helped him to a 3-2 record. He had his best month in May (as did nearly everyone on a team that went 22-7), as Lidle went 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA, throwing his only 2 complete games of the season. Once the calendar flipped to June, it was all downhill for Lidle (and the rest of the Blue Jays), as he went 4-12 with a 6.87 ERA.
Lidle bounced around with Reds, Phillies and Yankees for the next few seasons, pitching to a 37-33 record with a 4.76 ERA. He tragically lost his life in October 2006, when the plane he owned and was flying in crashed into a New York apartment building.
David Price (2015)
In an effort to push the team into the playoff for the first time in 22 seasons, Alex Anthopoulos made a series of trade deadline maneuvers, including bringing in David Price from the Tigers. Going the other way were a trio of lefty pitchers, including top prospect Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt, and surprisingly the best of the three, Matthew Boyd.
Price was excellent for the Blue Jays down the stretch, going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA over his 11 starts, helping the Jays clinch the AL East and make it back to the playoffs. He wasn’t nearly as good in the playoffs, where he went 1-2 with a 6.17 ERA, although he did pick up his first career postseason win pitching in relief in game 4 of the ALDS against Texas, but only being given the win because the rules that govern that sort of thing are really weird.
Price left the Jays after the season, signing a massive 7 year, $217m contract with the Red Sox. He picked up a World Series ring with them in 2018, and was traded to the Dodgers along with Mookie Betts this past offseason. He has opted out of the pending 2020 season, but will be back with the Dodgers once baseball returns to normalcy.
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