While waiting with anxious anticipation to see if the Blue Jays pull off any deals between now and the August 31 waiver deal deadline, I decided to look back and see just how many swaps they have pulled off during the "Dog Days" month and how fruitful the deals have been.
So far, a week into the fifth month of their 38th season, I can tell you the Blue Jays have only made 25 deals during August. There are 11 franchises of the other 29 who have never pulled off a trade in August including the Tigers, Cubs, Marlins, Astros, Angels, Twins, Giants, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Montreal/ Washington.
Some of deals were straight cash transactions, such as when the Jays sold Pedro Hernandez to the Yankees years ago, the only August deal between the two teams. Most were inconsequential shuffling of body swaps, but there were some keepers.
On August 31, 1987, the Blue Jays picked up lefty Mike Flanagan from Baltimore for a pair of relievers, Jose Mesa and Oswaldo Peraza. Flanagan gave the Blue Jays a big boost down the stretch in their race with the Tigers for first place and although the Jays came up short, Flanagan was an invaluable leader and pitched one of the greatest games I've ever seen on the second-last day of the season at old Tiger Stadium against Jack Morris. Both men lasted into extra innings. Neither figured in the decision in a game the Tigers ultimately won.
Earlier, that same month in 1987, on August 9 to be exact, the Jays picked up knuckleballer and future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro from Cleveland for Darryl Landrum and Don Gordon. Unfortunately for the Jays, "Knucksie" had little or nothing left and after a handful of starts, they released him, likely increasing the urgency for the Jays to acquire Flanagan.
Beyond the Flanagan deal, the Blue Jays have made three trades that stand out above the rest. Two figured in their first World Series victory in 1992, and one brought them one of the greatest power hitters in franchise history.
On August 9, 1991, the Blue Jays made their one and only August deal with Milwaukee, sending youngsters William Suero and Bob Wishnevski to the Brewers for veteran outfielder Candy Maldonado. The "Candy Man" was in left field in Atlanta in 1992 the night the Blue Jays clinched their first World Series title and he was a great presence in the clubhouse.
But even bigger than that deal was the one Pat Gillick pulled off on August 27, 1992, just four days before the post-season rosters had to be set. The Blue Jays sent future star and now-Hall of Famer candidate Jeff Kent along with outfielder Ryan Thompson to the Mets for right-hander David Cone. It was the kind of trade that Oakland just pulled off to get lefty Jon Lester from Boston, and Detroit made in landing David Price from Tampa Bay.
Though he turned out to be a rental after Cone signed with Kansas City as a free agent in the off-season, he nevertheless was the man who pushed the Jays over the top. Veteran reliever Dan Plesac, then with the Brewers, told me that once that trade was made Milwaukee players knew the race in the A.L. East was over.
What appeared to be a run of the mill deal on August 21, 2008 turned out to be the best of J.P. Ricciardi's tenure as Blue Jays GM and one of the greatest swaps in franchise history. The Blue Jays sent catcher Robinson Diaz to Pittsburgh for a journeyman outfielder by the name of Jose Bautista.
Incidentally, the team the Blue Jays have dealt with the most frequently in August is Texas. Three of those 25 trades have been with the Rangers. No blockbusters, but they did ship Maldonado to the Rangers in a conditional deal on August 31, 1995. They also picked up veteran DH Cliff Johnson from Texas on August 28, 1985 to help the stretch run on the way to their first division title. To land "Heathcliff" they gave up three youngsters in Greg Ferlenda, Matt Williams and Jeff Mays.
Going over the 25 trades, it's difficult to name even one that the Jays got burned on, and if you throw in the Johnson swap, there are four deals that any GM would hang his hat on.
Not just saying this because I picked them to be a Wild Card team this year, but as tightly as Kansas City, the Blue Jays, the Yankees and Mariners are bunched, the Royals have to be considered the favourites right now for that second Wild Card slot. Right now they are a half-game up on the other three clubs.
But consider this. Of the Royals' remaining 49 games, 27 are at home at pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium. On top of that, 32 of those remaining 49 are against teams with records below .500. They have solid starting pitching, a great bullpen and as John Gibbons conceded the other night, alongside Baltimore are probably the best defensive outfit in the American League. If that's not enough, the Royals are off to a 5-1 start this month. The four-game set at home this weekend will be an acid test for Ned Yost's crew though. K.C. could certainly use another bat before the deadline, but even without it, they still look like the strongest team with the most favourable schedule.