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Today in Blue Jays History: Brandon Morrow Trade

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees

Fourteen years ago today

The Blue Jays traded 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 okay prospect then, but he didn’t pan out. He never made it to the majors. A couple of years ago, he played for an independent league team and played in the Venezuelan Winter League until last year.

Brandon League was a favourite 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 considered cool. Good luck, and enjoy the West Coast!

Anytime you can trade a reliever for a should do it. League turned into a decent closer, putting up 52 saves and a 3.26 ERA in 2.5 seasons for the M’s. They traded him to the Dodgers for a couple of minor leaguers. League was good in LA for the second half of the 2012 season. He got 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 2017 but released him early in the 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. In 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. As a result, morrow only pitched 87 innings over the two seasons.

His big moment was the 1-hitter, with 17 strikeouts, on August 8th, 2010. That, 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 wasn’t.

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 he had a good year with the Dodgers, 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings out of the pen, and pitched in all seven games of the World Series that year. In 2018, he pitched for the Cubs, 1.47 in 30.2 innings, before another injury. That was the end of his career.

Six Years Ago

Edwin Encarnacion signed with Cleveland. He got $65 million for three years, with an option for a fourth. Things didn’t work out the way anyone thought they would.

The Jays offered 4-years and $80 million early on, but we all thought Encarnacion would get bigger offers. MLB Trade Rumors figured he would get 4 years and $92 million, but the market for sluggers went soft.

The Jays quickly pivoted (way too soon, as it turned out) to Kendrys Morales, who got three years and $33 million.

Over the four years, Edwin hit .241/.344/.489 with 114 home runs in 447 games. Kendrys, in the three seasons, hit .241/.317/.414 with 51 home runs in 333 games. We dumped Morales on the A’s before the third season. Cleveland traded Encarnacion to the Mariners.

Four Years Ago

The Jays signed Hyun Jin Ryu. Four years and $80 million.

Year one went well. 2.69 ERA in 12 starts. And he was a lot of fun to watch. Year two was less fun, 14-10, 4.37 ERA in 31 starts. It was not a bad season, but it was different from what we had hoped to see.

Year three? It started poorly and ended with him getting Tommy John surgery, and it cost him most of 2023.

Ryu started 60 games for the Jays and had a 24-15 record, with a 3.97 ERA.