Hands up if you remember the last trade made by the Blue Jays. I admit, I actually had to look it up. It was back on December 14th when the Jays sent reliever Brad Lincoln to the Phillies for 33-year-old catcher Eric Kratz and 24-year-old lefty reliever Rob Rasmussen. It has been a quiet winter hasn't it?
Of course we were spoiled in the off-season a year ago, when Alex Anthopoulos pulled off that monster 12 player deal with the Miami Marlins and then followed up with that seven player swap with the Mets that landed R.A Dickey. Off-seasons like that come along every 10 years or so, if that.
Over the weekend I was curious to see, which team had been the Blue Jays most common trade partner. I can tell you it wasn't the Yankees, though they have made 23 deals with the Pinstripes.
It wasn't Cleveland either, though the Jays have made 23 swaps with the Tribe.
No, the team the Blue Jays have made the most deals with over their 37-year history according the BaseballReference.com is the Oakland A's; thirty to be exact. Going over them one-by-one, I could see only one that the Jays outright lost. That one went down on Dec. 8, 1984. The Blue Jays dealt left fielder Dave Collins and shortstop Alfredo Griffin to Oakland for Bill Caudill -- the guy who was supposed to be the closer who would push them over the top. Of course that didn't happen, and by June of 1985 Tom Henke became the ninth inning guy and the Jays did in fact go on to win their 1st division title. Eventually Griffin found his way back to Toronto and as a utility infielder became part of the World Series teams in ‘92 and ‘93.
The Jays very first trade with the A's came on February 24th of 1977, when their original roster was still being formulated. The Jays dealt infielder Mike Weathers to the A's for veteran outfielder/first baseman Ron Fairly, who had played with the Expos in their early years as well. Fairly provided a sense of veteran leadership and class in the Jays clubhouse that 1st year.
On July 31, 1993 at the non-waiver trade deadline, Pat Gillick was trying to put together a deal for lefty Randy Johnson to help make a run at a second straight World Series title. When he couldn't get the arm he wanted, Gillick turned around and dealt lefty Steve Karsay and a player to be named later (outfielder Jose Herrrara) to the A's for all-time stolen base king Rickey Henderson. Though he turned out to be a rental, Rickey helped ensure a World Series win over the Phillies come October.
J.P. Ricciardi pulled off a deal with the A's on December 7, 2001 that helped both teams. He sent closer Billy Koch to the West coast for third baseman Eric Hinske and right hander Justin Miller. Hinske became American League rookie of the year in 2002.
The Jays made two more deals with Oakland that they clearly won. On November 18, 2003 they picked up lefty Ted Lilly for outfielder Bobby Kielty, and then on November 18, 2007 -- exactly years later -- they acquired SS/2B Marco Scutaro from the A's for a couple of prospects who never made it in Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey. The Jays mistake was not keeping Scutaro around longer as he went on to help the Giants win a couple of World Series titles.
If you were wondering, the team the Blue Jays have made the fewest deals with is Tampa Bay. Since the Devil Rays/Rays came into the American League, the two teams have only gotten together on three deals and none of them were really memorable. The last was over nine years ago on December 12, 2004 when the Jays sent catcher Kevin Cash to the Rays for right-hander Chad Gaudin.
On December 14, 2003, the Jays pulled off a three-way swap with the Rays and Colorado; the Blue Jays getting reliever Justin Speier from the Rockies and sending lefty Mark Hendrickson and Sandy Nin to Tampa Bay, while Colorado received lefty starter Joe Kennedy from the Rays.
The only other deal between the Jays and Rays was supposed to improve the Jays pitching depth for a playoff push in 2000. The Jays sent 2B Brent Abernathy to the Rays for lefty reliever Mark Guthrie and right-hander Steve Trachsel. The deal didn't really work out for the Jays as Guthrie went (0-2) with a 4.79 ERA and in 11 starts, the slow-working Trachsel went (2-5) with a 5.29 ERA. Both were gone at the end of the season after the Jays missed the playoffs under Jim Fregosi. To Trachsel's credit, he did revive his career over the next six years with the Mets winning 66 games, including 16 in 2003 and 15 in 2006.
The Tampa Bay Rays since 2008 have made four playoff appearances and have been to one World Series (2008). On their roster today, they have only four players who were with that team in 2008: Reliever Grant Balfour, who was just re-acquired as a free agent, lefty David Price , star third baseman Evan Longoria and super utilityman Ben Zobrist.
The Blue Jays over that same span have only three players who were with them in 2008: Dustin McGowan, who hardly pitched at all do to injuries, Jose Bautista who's been injury plagued the last two seasons, and Adam Lind, coming off a solid season who nevertheless, over the years has been plagued by inconsistency. Technically Casey Janssen has been with the team that long as well, but he missed the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum.
A team's core players tell you a lot about the team. It's not hard to see why the Rays have been contenders the last six seasons and the Blue Jays have not.