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Today in Blue Jays History: Finish acquiring 42 years of control to dominate 2019 trade deadline

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so that title might be a tad sarcastic. But one year ago I was not a happy camper as the dust settled on the 2019 trade deadline, and I was far from alone.

It was not all done at once, but in a series of transactions over four days. After a wild 10-9 win over the Rays on Saturday, July 27th, scoring six runs in the last two innings to force extras where they walked off in 12, I showed up to Rogers Centre Sunday only to be informed by Tom (both of us guests of barraqudie) that Eric Sogard wasn’t in the lineup and had been traded to Tampa.

After another wild game in which Aaron Sanchez was excellent early only for the Rays to turn the tables and score six unanswered to pull out a 10-9 win of their own, we were digesting the weird news that Shelley Duncan has been reassigned when the big lightning bolt hit that Marcus Stroman had been traded (poor Kate, who was left along to bear the weight of all these developments). Though it wasn’t shocking that he was being moved, it was surprising to see it was the Mets and 72 hours before the deadline. The move was not particularly well received.

As that furor subsided, a day before the deadline the Jays moved David Phelps for Thomas Hatch, with the former having a 2020 team option (which was declined), and the latter available mostly because he was Rule 5 eligible after the season and the Cubs faced a roster crunch. It was much less heralded, but this might end up the steal of the deadline given that Phelps’s velocity wasn’t back and how Hatch has looked since with increased his change-up usage and mixing in a cutter.

That brings us to the actual deadline day a year ago, and as the Jays finished off a briskly played matinee sweep of Kansas City, it broke that Daniel Hudson was traded to the Nationals for RHP Kyle Johnston. Hudson of course went on to play an integral role for the Nats down the stretch, including closing out Game 7 of the World Series. Johnston had some major control issues with Dunedin, and wasn’t overly impressive the one time I was able to watch him.

And then, the one that pushed me over the edge. Whatever one thought of the returns, the moves to this point were strategically coherent, moving three veterans on expiring contracts and cashing in a frontline starter having a great year who was eligible for free agency after 2020.

So when it broke right at the 4:00 EDT deadline that Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini were going to Houston, the expectation was the Jays should be getting significant value back. Sure, both Sanchez and Biagini hadn’t reprised their 2016 forms and were quite up-and-down, but there was no need to move either of them. There was time and opportunity to build or rebuild value, so it only made sense to move them for something compelling in return.

That is to say, something more than another corner outfielder to find playing time for in a crowded mix with a questionable track record and profile. Who was out-of-options after the years to boot. And a kicker, to add insult to injury, we gave the Astros a sleeper prospect in Cal Stevenson to boot for the privilege.

It was baffling to the point of infuriating then, and even with Sanchez out for 2020 due to injury, Biagini’s struggles and the Astros sending along Stevenson to Tampa Bay (so he’ll probably spend most of the latter half of this decade killing the Jays until the Rays move him for a haul), it remains so.

What made it even more incoherent is that while we were fuming about it, Ross Atkins was crowing in a conference call with reporters. In his inimitably tone deaf manner, he congratulated the moves as having “turned 14 years of control into 42 years of control”. Except if their goal was to accumulate years of control, this actually reduced years of control! To summarize:

  • July 28 — Eric Sogard traded for two prospects to be names later (+12 years of control beyond beyond 2020)
  • July 28th — Marcus Stroman traded for Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson (+11 years of control)
  • July 30th — David Phelps traded for Thomas Hatch (+5/6 years of control)
  • July 31st — Daniel Hudson traded for Kyle Johnston (+6 years of control)
  • July 31st — Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and Cal Stevenson traded for Derek Fisher (-5 years of control)

As Semase Street would teach: one of these things is not like the others.

And then of course, in his first start with Houston, Sanchez threw six no-hit innings with Biagini participating in the combined no-no. And Fisher took a routine fly ball to the face. Karma at its finest:

Looking back a year later, not a lot has changed. The return for Stroman was almost certainly underappreciated at the time, and so likely looks better today. If nothing else, the pandemic means trading him was likely at the top of his value. As noted, the Hatch trade looks very promising, and while the PTBNLs in the Sogard deal are now known (RHPs Edisson Gonzalez and Curtis Taylor), the jury will remain out for a long time.

Until and unless Fisher breaks out, that last move remains just as bewildering today however.