The Best and Worst Trade of the Decade for the Toronto Blue Jays

Over the last decade the Toronto Blue Jays have had one of the most fluid and ever-changing rosters in baseball. The franchise has seen superstar players come and go at a regular pace but with no World Series titles to show for it. Some of the game’s biggest stars such as David Price, Josh Donaldson, and Noah Syndergaard were in the Blue Jays organization at some point over the last decade, but they’ve moved on to different teams.

The 2015 season will forever be regarded as the “one that got away” in Toronto. The team was led by dominating regular season performances from David Price, Edwin Encarnacion, and eventual American League Most Valuable Player, Josh Donaldson. Alas, that powerhouse Blue Jays squad was unable to surpass the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series and were unceremoniously knocked out of the postseason. Those same Royals went on to win the World Series that year, and many Blue Jays fans still look at that World Series victory and think “it should have been us”.

Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Toronto Blue Jays have made since 2010.

The Best Trade the Toronto Blue Jays Have Made Since 2010: Toronto acquires Josh Donaldson From the Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, and Sean Nolin (November 29, 2014)

The Blue Jays shocked the baseball world when Alex Anthopoulos, their general manager at the time, swung the deal for Josh Donaldson with the Oakland Athletics. Donaldson was viewed as being virtually untouchable at the time due to his inexpensive contract and impressive 2013 and 2014 campaigns that saw him land in the top 10 in AL MVP voting.

The two key pieces that went to Oakland in this deal were Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto. Lawrie, a Canadian native, showed flashes of promise during his time in Toronto, but his inability to stay healthy, as well as his propensity to lose his temper, quickly derailed his career. Meanwhile, Barreto has shown a lot of potential during his time in the minor leagues, but that has yet to translate at the major-league level.

Giving up those four players for Donaldson would prove to be fruitful for the 2o15 Toronto Blue Jays. Donaldson smashed 41 home runs to go along with 123 runs batted in that season, which eventually led to him winning the AL MVP. He was the primary catalyst for the Blue Jays that season, leading them to the ALCS.

That Blue Jays team left a lot on the table, chief among them being a chance at a World Series Championship, but the Donaldson acquisition was a major bright spot that year. He would remain with the Blue Jays through August of 2018 when he was eventually traded to the Cleveland Indians. Although his stint in Toronto was brief, Donaldson brought a winning attitude — with results to back it up — to a franchise that badly needed it after a 22-year playoff drought.

The Worst Trade the Toronto Blue Jays Have Made Since 2010: Toronto acquires R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas, and Josh Thole From the New York Mets for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra, and John Buck (December 17, 2012)

Repeat after me: one season is not an adequate sample size. Alex Anthopoulos could’ve used that advice back in 2012 before he decided to trade two of his best prospects for 38-year-old R.A. Dickey.

Dickey was a journeyman knuckleballer who did not find traction in his career until 2010 when he worked his way into the New York Mets starting rotation. In 2012 Dickey shocked the baseball world by winning the National League Cy Young Award, becoming the first knuckleballer in MLB history to win the award.

Dickey’s record-making 2012 season didn’t follow him to Toronto, unfortunately. Dickey would end up finishing with a 49-52 record and a 4.05 ERA in his four years with the Blue Jays, with the lowest of lows coming in Game 4 of the 2015 ALCS. Dickey never made it out of the second inning, giving up five runs, two of which by way of the long ball, after facing just 12 batters. The Blue Jays lost that game by a whopping 14-2 score and gave the Royals a commanding 3-1 series lead, which they eventually won after defeating Toronto in Game 6.

The only thing more painful than Dickey’s postseason performance was seeing the aftermath of this trade in the emergence of the man they now call “Thor,” Noah Syndergaard. He made his debut with the Mets in 2015 at the age of 22, going 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 24 starts while racking up 166 strikeouts in 150 innings pitched. The talent was apparent right away, and Syndergaard’s 2016 season was even better than his rookie season, as he won 14 games and finished with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts.

In fairness, both Syndergaard and d’Arnaud have struggled to stay healthy throughout their careers since leaving Toronto. Syndergaard recently underwent Tommy John surgery, which means he will be out of action for at least one year but could possibly return late in the 2021 season — assuming that baseball is actually being played at that point.

d’Arnaud is actually trending in the opposite direction to Syndergaard. Now finally healthy, d’Arnaud found success in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting 16 home runs through 92 games. He signed a two-year contract with the Atlanta Braves this past offseason and figures to be the team’s primary catcher once baseball resumes.

Despite Syndergaard’s setback, he’s still just 27 years old and will be 28 when he eventually returns to the mound. Assuming all goes well, Syndergaard can still return to form and once again establish himself as one of the most dominant right-handed pitchers in baseball. Sadly for Blue Jays fans, he will be doing that with Mets pinstripes on his jersey, not the Canadian maple leaf.

Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.

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