Sports

BOB ELLIOTT

Remember these Blue Jays trades?

By Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun

Pitcher Dan Plesac (right) came to the Blue Jays in a nine-player swap that also saw Carlos Garcia and Orlando Merced land in Toronto. Plesac initially didn’t want to report but he reconsidered and ended up being the best part of the deal for the Jays.(TORONTO SUN/FILES)

Pitcher Dan Plesac (right) came to the Blue Jays in a nine-player swap that also saw Carlos Garcia and Orlando Merced land in Toronto. Plesac initially didn’t want to report but he reconsidered and ended up being the best part of the deal for the Jays.(TORONTO SUN/FILES)

PHOENIX - 

The biggest trade in Blue Jays history?

Sure, you are going to take Toronto acquiring future Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter from the San Diego Padres for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff at the 1990 winter meetings in Rosemont, Ill.

That’s right up there, behind the 11-player deal with the Florida Marlins in 2012 which brought Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and Josh Johnson to Toronto in a trade that transpired at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

The general managers meetings opened Monday at the same resort they were held at in 1996.

Then-Jays general manager Gord Ash said before leaving Toronto that he wanted to make a big deal.

Back then there wasn’t such a thing a press work room. Our Tandy 100s didn’t have wireless capabilities.

On the Wednesday night, with our machine hooked up to a lobby long-distance phone, we filed for Thursday’s first edition that the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Jays were in talks on a five-player deal.

For the second edition we re-filed that it was a seven-player deal, with the Jays picking up Carlos Garcia, Orlando Merced and Dan Plesac.

And for the final edition we wrote that eight players would switch uniforms as Pirates GM Cam Bonifay and Ash, along with their top scouts talked late into the night.

We awoke the next day to find that a nine-player deal had been completed.

The Jays added what they thought would be two everyday players in second baseman Garcia and right-fielder Merced, plus reliever Plesac.

The Pirates received right-handers Jose Pett, the Brazilian bonus baby, and Jose Silva, infielder Brandon Cromer, as well as three players to be named — infielder Abraham Nunez, outfielder Craig Wilson, plus lefty Mike Halperin.

Initially, Plesac didn’t want to report, but reconsidered and was the best piece of the deal on the Jays end. He made 262 appearances in five seasons during his two tours with the Jays. He had a 4.21 ERA as a set-up man and was the tallest member of the World’s Fastest Grounds Crew.

Garcia made 93 starts at second and Merced 94 in 1997. Both were gone the next season.

As for the young, incoming Bucs? They played 1,882 games in the majors led by Nunez (1,030) followed by Wilson (698) and Silva (154). Pett and Cromer peaked at triple-A and Halperin at double-A.

Even with Plesac’s hard work around the dirt cut out at third, Pittsburgh wins this one almost 18 years later.

The Blue Jays dropped to 72 wins in the final year of manager Cito Gaston 1.0, while the improved Bucs moved from 73 to 79 wins in 1997.

And in 2003

Then-Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi came to the GMs meetings at the Biltmore with one starter — Roy Halladay. He signed free-agent Pat Hentgen to a one-year deal and laid the ground work for another starter.

Three days after the meetings he acquired lefty Ted Lilly for outfielder Bobby Kielty, the on-base freak, whose OBA was less than the man he was acquired for in 2003. Shannon Stewart finished fourth in the AL MVP race with the Minnesota Twins.

Lilly made 89 starts (37-34, 4.52) for the Jays over the next three years. Hentgen made 16 (2-9, 6.95) before retiring.

All in all the Biltmore was a happening place for both Ash and Ricciardi.

Now it is Alex Anthopoulos’ turn.

Biltmore and Cy Young

Hentgen won the 1996 Cy Young award when the GM meetings were at the Biltmore and seven years later when the meetings returned Halladay won.

Hentgen, now part of president Paul Beeston’s executive posse, was 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 35 starts, leading the league in shutouts (three), complete games (10) and innings pitched (2652/3).

Halladay, a part-timer with both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Jays and a full-time dad, was 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA in leading the league in starts (36) shutouts (two) complete games (nine) and innings pitched (266).

Hentgen had 16 of 28 first-place votes to beat Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, while Halladay took 26 of 28 first-place votes.

So does that mean either R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle should be expected to win the AL Cy Young award come Wednesday?

Ah, no.

Be true to your school

John Axford of Port Dover, Ont., will be honoured by the Canisius College athletic department for his donation to the Golden Griffin baseball program on Thursday. The centre-field bullpen will be named after Axford, who pitched for Canisius in the spring of 2006 after transferring from Notre Dame.

He has pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and is now a free agent.

 


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