The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Toronto Blue Jays current spot near the bottom of the standings has their plans firmly set on “sell” mode.
Marcus Stroman has been traded to the New York Mets, and pieces like Daniel Hudson, Justin Smoak, and Freddie Galvis could also be up for sale to the highest bidder.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the team approached this same time of year with a shopping spree on the mind, as then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos pushed the team all-in in a four day flurry of moves to guide the team to an American League East title and their first playoff appearance in over two decades.
When the current front office regime headed by team president Mark Shapiro took over, the two reportedly had a “philosophical disagreement” about the hefty haul of prospects the team had surrendered to bring in All-Star talents like David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.
With four years of hindsight to work from now, how much did the Blue Jays really give up in those deals, and what did they get from the pieces they brought in?
Here’s a recap of the 2015 deadline deals as they went down, and what has become of the players involved in the four years since.
DISCLAIMER: We’ll be using the WAR number provided by Baseball Reference to look at the results from these deals. WAR calculations for the pitchers vary a little based on which site’s formula you use, with Baseball Reference’s formula based more on runs allowed, while FanGraphs favours process based metrics like strikeouts and home runs. There will be a full list of values from both sites at the end, if you’re the ‘read the whole thing before you comment’ type.
July 28, 2015
Under the cover of night Anthopoulos made his first move of the week, snagging five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies along with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes, and a trio of pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco.
Tulo came out of the gate hot as a Blue Jay, hitting two doubles and a home run in his debut at the top of the lineup. He stabilized the infield defence (a major problem when Reyes was at short), and gave the lineup a merciless feeling that provided zero easy at-bats for opposing pitchers.
It quickly became clear, unfortunately, that the Blue Jays had acquired a diminishing asset. He hit .239/.317/.380 in 41 games down the stretch in 2015, and a paltry .205/.239/.386 in that year’s playoffs.
He bounced back the next year with 24 home runs and a .254/.318/.443 line, but had another disappointing .229/.270/.371 playoff run.
Injuries limited him to 66 games in 2017, and he didn’t play another game for the organization, eventually being bought out of the final years of his contract ahead of the 2019 season. He signed a minimum deal with the New York Yankees, but only played five games before once again succumbing to injury. As if he knew this piece was coming, the 34-year-old retired last week, putting an end to his major league career..
In total, the Blue Jays got Tulowitzki for 238 games. He posted a .250/.313/.414 line with 36 home runs, 122 RBI, and a 95 wRC+. Per Baseball Reference, he was worth 4.8 Wins Above Replacement.
Tagging along with Tulo from the Rockies was 42-year-old reliever LaTroy Hawkins.
The crafty vet made 18 appearances down the stretch out of the bullpen, posting a 2.76 ERA over 16.1 innings, good for 0.2 bWAR.
Hawkins didn’t have the same touch in the postseason, allowing seven earned runs in 1.2 innings spread across three appearances.
His time in Toronto marked the end of the road for Hawkins, who hung up the cleats for good after the 2015 ALCS.
The Blue Jays showcased Castro to start the year, as the 20-year-old righty reliever collected a handful of saves in 13 appearances with the team before the trade.
Young pitchers became a recurring theme among players the Blue Jays sent out in this flurry of activity, and Castro was as easy to dream on as any of them with the potential he’d flashed.
He lasted through the 2016 season with the Rockies, but it was not a great fit. He carried a 7.20 ERA across his 24 appearances, and was quickly shipped off to Baltimore for a player to be named later ahead of the 2017 season.
Castro had a pair of decent seasons with the Orioles, with two sub-four ERAs in 2017 and 2018. He has been roughed up in 2019 — a 5.05 ERA in 43 games — but he is still just 24 years old despite having made 182 major league appearances.
This right-hander provided -0.1 WAR for Colorado, but has provided a bit of value with 2.5 WAR over three seasons for the Orioles.
Hoffman was considered the centrepiece of the deal at the time, as he was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft just a year before the trade.
In the time since joining the Rockies he has yet to enjoy sustained success. His career ERA sits at 6.03 in four seasons, with roughly a single full season’s worth of starts to choose from.
He’s provided a full -0.4 WAR on the mound for Colorado, and next year he’ll be out of minor league options. He’s 26 years old, so the Rockies will be hoping he figures something out before the clock expires on how long he has to officially arrive at the major league level.
The first time Anthopoulos tried to go all-in and acquire a star shortstop, Reyes was the target, but things just never clicked for him in Toronto. His defence had eroded by the time he was traded to the Rockies, mostly outweighing the fact he had performed decently with his bat.
That certainly wouldn’t be the case for Reyes with the Rockies, as he turned in a .259/.291/.368 line and -0.2 WAR in 47 games. In the offseason following that cameo, Reyes was suspended by the league after being charged with domestic violence, and the Rockies designated him for assignment before ultimately releasing him.
He eventually returned to the New York Mets, providing a -0.7 WAR thanks to a .238/.305/.399 line over the final 315 games of his career.
You would be forgiven if you didn’t know about Tinoco before, during, or after this trade, but by the process of elimination he’s actually been the most valuable piece of the deal for the Rockies so far.
He made his major league debut on May 31 this year, and is carrying a 5.54 ERA in seven major league appearances. The 24-year-old has added 0.1 WAR in 13 innings, the only player the Rockies received in the deal to add positive value to the roster so far.
The Rockies may not have added a game-breaking talent in the deal for the former face of their franchise, but there’s an argument to be made the biggest plus for them in this deal was ridding themselves of Tulowitzki’s hefty contract. With Trevor Story waiting in the wings to take over at shortstop and already having made two All-Star teams, they can view this situation as addition by subtraction.
By the numbers, the Jays came out on top of this deal to the tune of nearly 3.5 wins. Even with injuries robbing them of the back half of his contract, the players they gave up still haven’t shown much reason to regret the deal.
The Tulowitzki deal got fans excited that the team was going for it, but the club still had a major need to fill in the rotation. After Tulo made his stunning debut at home, rumours started to build that the Blue Jays were in the market for the biggest arm available.
On the morning of the 30th, they did the unfathomable by bringing in five-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner David Price from the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospects Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt.
Maybe it’s been a minute since you last looked at Price’s numbers during his regular season stretch run with the Jays, but they are worth re-examining.
In 11 starts Price went 9-1 in front of the thunderous Blue Jays lineup, posting a scorching 2.30 ERA, and 1.009 WHIP over 74.1 innings. In just a handful of games he put up a startling 2.6 WAR, giving the team a legitimate ace. Those numbers famously didn’t carry over into October, as he struggled to a 6.17 ERA in 4 appearances — 3 starts and one memorable bullpen outing.
Norris quickly became a fan favourite in his rookie year with the Jays, as his offseason quirk of living in a van on the way to spring training became somewhat of a viral legend. It was tough for some fans to say goodbye to the bearded lefty, and many pegged him as a star in the making on his way to Detroit.
Things haven’t gone according to plan in the Motor City for Norris, but there have been flashes of the high-end stuff he was projected to carry with him. He was solid in 13 starts in 2016, posting a 3.38 ERA, but hasn’t quite found his way in the years since. He had an ERA above five in the two seasons following that, and has been hit-and-miss in 2019, with a 4.89 ERA in 18 starts.
All told he has gone 14-25 with the Tigers, with a 4.69 ERA, 1.438 WHIP, and 3.4 WAR over 73 games. He’s still just 26, and the Tigers are going to continue giving him time to figure it out.
Fans and experts likely saw Norris as the jewel of the deal, and Boyd as mostly a low-end throw-in. He only made two appearances for the Jays and mostly got rocked, giving up five home runs and a 14.85 ERA in 6.2 innings.
After hovering as a mostly average rotation piece for the Tigers over the last four seasons, Boyd has broken out in a big way in 2019. He has a 4.07 ERA in 21 starts, and owns in the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the American League. He’s racked up 168 strikeouts to just 26 walks. He’s contributed 6.6 WAR to the Tigers, earning him the title of the most successful player the Blue Jays gave up in any of these deals.
The 28-year-old has pitched 579 innings over 109 appearances for the Tigers, and his breakout year and three full seasons of team control could make him an attractive trade piece once again as the trade deadline approaches.
Labourt made 6 appearances for the Tigers in 2017, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, while walking more batters than he struck out.
He was signed to the White Sox minor league system in 2018, was released then signed by Tampa in December 2018, and was released in March of this year.
My son is also named Labourt.
Price’s impact in pushing the 2015 team to the division title is hard to overstate, even though the long-term numbers value the years of team control from Boyd and Norris. The Tigers actually got a decent haul for their ace left-hander, coming out ahead in the deal by 7.6 wins. It is worth mentioning, once again, that Price put up basically half of their totals in less than a dozen games.
With the two biggest fish already out of the pond, Anthopoulos set his sights on adding a few other small pieces to shore up deficiencies on the roster. He acquired lights-out reliever Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners for three pitching prospects, and outfielder Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies for another two prospect arms.
Basically, the Blue Jays traded every pitching prospect in their system over this three-day span.
At the time of the deal, Lowe was borderline untouchable for the M’s. He had a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings, striking out 47 hitters.
He wasn’t quite as dominant with the Blue Jays, turning in a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings. It was worth about 0.1 WAR, barely moving the needle in either direction.
Lowe pitched 4.1 innings in the playoffs, allowing 2 earned runs while striking out four.
He left for the Tigers in 2016, posting a 7.11 ERA to close out his major league career.
A lefty arm, Brentz was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Arquimedes Caminero in 2016.
The 24-year-old remains in the Pirates system, posting a 6.83 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis.
A 6-foot-5 left hander, Wells was a third-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014. He was 19 years old at the time of the trade. In the time since, Wells has not progressed past high-A ball.
The 23-year-old is still in the Mariners system, but he holds a 7.91 ERA at high-A Modesto.
Rasmussen made 19 appearances down the stretch in 2015 for the Mariners, putting up a 10.67 ERA and -1.1 WAR in 14.1 innings.
He was waived in the offseason, and according to baseball reference he “voluntarily retired” before the 2016 season as part of the Angels system.
The Blue Jays basically got a little bit of something for basically nothing in this deal. Lowe gave them a few handfuls of decent innings, while neither of the youngsters they surrendered have come close to knocking on the major league door.
The final piece of the deadline puzzle was to scoop up the speedy Revere, and he quickly took his spot at the top of the lineup. He put up a .319/.354/.381 line and 0.5 WAR in 56 games in the Blue Jays lineup, providing speed and contact in a batting order full of mashing power bats.
He wasn’t quite as effective in the playoffs, owning a .255/.314/.277 line and being victim of one of the most famously unfair called strikes in franchise playoff history.
Following the 2015 season he was traded for Drew Storen.
Cordero kicked around the Phillies minor league system for a year, and was then traded to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later.
He pitched in 22 games for Nats in 2018, with a 5.68 ERA. Since then he has been waived by Nats, closed the transaction loop by returning to the Blue Jays, was then waived again and claimed by Seattle, only to be waived by Seattle and snagged by the Chicago White Sox.
Tirado was a 20-year-old fireballer at the time of the deal, reaching 76 in the Baseball American top prospects list ahead of the 2014 season.
After the trade, Tirado reached Double-A briefly in 2017, posting a 6.75 ERA in 10 games. He made 27 appearances in High-A in 2018, and in 2019 made his debut with... the Toronto Maple Leafs of the local Intercounty Baseball League.
His FanGraphs page scouting report projected him as having an 80/80 fastball, which seems fairly generous in hindsight.
Revere added speed and contact at the top of the lineup down the stretch, helping round out the roster with some tools that were lacking on a mostly power station-to-station team.
Somehow, in the years since this deal happened, all three players involved found their way once again technically playing for a Toronto organization in 2019.
Total WAR in trades (per Baseball Reference)
IN: 8.2 WAR
OUT: 10.2 WAR
How you view the sum of all these deals depends on how much you enjoyed the 2015 Blue Jays playoff run.
The team didn’t capture the World Series title at the end of the rainbow, but they did bring excitement about the team back to the city for the first time in decades, selling out the building and providing the first of two straight trips to the ALCS.
The Jays certainly paid with prospect capital in bulk, but the bottom line — a couple of wins difference over four years — wouldn’t dramatically change the fate of the 2019 team. Maybe they would lose 95 games instead of 100.
Considering the fact that the bulk of the production they got from their added pieces came over the course of a single stretch run, you’d be hard pressed to find many fans longing for a do-over on any of these deals.
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