Looking back at Ross Atkins’ Trade Deadlines with the Blue Jays — 2016
By Michael Liu1 month ago
The 2023 MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching as teams look to either gear up for the upcoming postseason, or sell off their assets for future capital. Or if you’re the Rockies, sit there and do nothing as you pretend to be competitive.
But instead of looking at what could happen come August 1st, we’ll be taking a look back at the Ross Atkins – Mark Shapiro era Jays, and how their deadlines have shaped up until this season. A look at the past might give us a clue as to what this run-up to the deadline might look like for Toronto this season. Hopefully, with some better results as well.
In the first part of this series, we’ll be looking at the transactions made after the 2016 all-star break until the trade deadline, Shatkins’ first season at the helm.
July 26th: Toronto acquires LF Melvin (B.J.) Upton from San Diego for P Hansel Rodriguez
The then-named Melvin Upton Jr. was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the wake of Jose Bautista’s stint on the disabled list dating back from July 17th. He was enjoying a nice bounce-back year with the Padres, slashing .256/.304/.439 while recording 16 homers, 45 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. The idea was to move Upton into a platoon role, allowing the Jays to increase their depth both at the plate and with his versatile glove in the outfield.
It was the right idea at the time and the results weren’t awful either. In 57 games with the Jays, Upton would go on to record a line of .196/.261/.318 with four home runs and 16 RBIs. While this didn’t look all too impressive, Upton provided the depth that he was acquired to do and then some, playing a decent filler amount during Toronto’s postseason run. He was eventually released prior to the start of the 2017 season as the Jays finalized their roster.
As for who they sent back to the Padres, Hansel Rodriguez didn’t amount to much. The 26-year-old pitcher was last affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels in 2021, pitching with Rocket City in AA and posting a 7.71 ERA in just one game. Rodriguez is currently pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the American Association and looks unlikely to make it to the Show.
July 26th: Toronto acquires RP Joaquin Benoit from Seattle for RP Drew Storen
This deal swapped two veteran relievers who were struggling with their respective teams. At the time of the trade, Joaquin Benoit was posting a 5.18 ERA and a BB/9 of 5.5 in 26 games, while Storen held an ERA of 6.21 and a BB/9 of 2.7 through 38 appearances with the Jays. It was clear that both pitchers needed a change of scenery, something that was accomplished in this deal.
Benoit’s impact in Toronto was significantly better. Though Roberto Osuna remained in the closer’s role, Benoit stabilized his performances and became a key late-inning relief pitcher. In 25 appearances with the Jays, he recorded a 0.38 ERA with 3.4 BB/9, while also maintaining a very impressive 9.1 SO/9. Benoit eventually departed the Jays in free agency in the winter of 2016, inking a $7.5 million deal with the Phillies.
As for Storen, he also saw his numbers improve with the Mariners though not as significantly as Benoit. He finished with a 3.44 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 in 19 appearances in Seattle. Storen went on to pitch one more season with the Cincinnati Reds before a myriad of injuries would end his big-league career.
August 1st: Toronto acquires P Scott Feldman from Houston for P Guadalupe Chavez
At the time of the trade, Scott Feldman was relegated to the Astro’s bullpen after being a solid starter in the years prior. His struggles were documented but the pitcher was still putting up a decent stat line of 2.90 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62 innings. In exchange, the Jays sent 18-year-old Chavez to Houston, who recorded 1.69 ERA in six starts with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.
Feldman struggled hard in Toronto. In a relief role for 14 appearances, he got lit up to the tune of an 8.40 ERA, only recording 14 strikeouts in 15 innings. Feldman was in the Jay’s Wild Card and Divison Series lineups but left off for the AL Championship Series. He would leave the Jays in the offseason, signing a one-year deal with the Reds.
Chavez never lived up to the initial promise that he showed in 2016. He spent most of his time in the minor leagues before jumping to the Mexican leagues in 2019-20. Chavez is currently playing for Generales de Durango, with a 4.15 ERA in 14 appearances and 34 innings of work.
August 1st: Toronto acquires RP Mike Bolsinger from Los Angeles for RP Jesse Chavez
This one blew up in Toronto’s face. Though Jesse Chavez was sporting a disappointing 4.57 ERA in 39 relief appearances in the 2016 season, it still didn’t seem like fair value when they jettisoned him for the services of Mike Bolsinger and his 6.83 ERA.
As soon as they acquired Bolsinger, the Jays sent him down to Buffalo before recalling him. He was then sent back down for good on August 3rd. Bolsinger would not contribute at all to Toronto’s postseason in 2016, making his first appearances for the club in 2017. They didn’t go so well as Bolsinger went on to record a 6.31 ERA in 11 appearances, issuing 5.9 walks per 9 innings. He was DFA’d on August 5th, 2017, and has since not made another major league appearance.
Meanwhile, Chavez has bounced around the league as a reliable relief arm. In recent years, his best baseball has come as a member of the Atlanta Braves, winning the 2021 World Series with the club. The 39-year-old is still pitching with the Braves, a sparkling 1.55 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts per 9 in 31 appearances and 29 innings pitched in the 2023 season. Since Toronto isn’t Atlanta, chances are he wouldn’t have recorded nearly the same stats he has.
August 1st: Toronto acquires RP Francisco Liriano, RF Harold Ramirez, and C Reese McGuire from Pittsburgh for SP Drew Hutchison
This trade made no sense for the Pirates back then and still doesn’t make sense to this day. A struggling Drew Hutchison (who did have some hype around his potential still) was dealt for a trio of players, an established arm, and two very solid prospects.
Hutchison would not get better as a member of the Pirates. He struggled in his 6 appearances to close out the 2016 season, posting a 5.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11.3 innings. Things got worse in 2017 when Hutchison didn’t make the Pirates’ roster out of spring training, eventually opting for free agency in 2018 without making another appearance in Pittsburgh. Since then, he’s bounced around with a few teams, putting together a couple of decent seasons but nothing truly eye-catching. After a brief stint back with the Jays in 2023 spring training, Hutchison is currently pitching with Triple-A Lehigh Valley after signing a minor league deal with the Phillies organization.
Liriano had a sparkling finish to the 2016 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Slotted into the rotation as the 6th man, he appeared in 10 contests and posted a 2–2 record, 2.92 ERA, and 52 strikeouts in 49.3 innings of work. Liriano would go on to make a relief appearance in the 10th inning of the Wild Card game, striking out all 5 batters he faced and recording the win after Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off homer. The 2017 season wouldn’t be so kind to him as his numbers plummeted, being dealt to Houston before retiring in 2019 as a member of the Pirates.
Reese McGuire would pan out as a big-league catcher, making his debut with the Jays in 2018. He’d go on to become a solid option behind the plate, with some inconsistencies in batting holding him back. McGuire would be dealt to the White Sox in 2022 in exchange for Zack Collins, before going on to become the Red Sox’s backup catcher in the 2023 campaign.
Harold Ramirez would not make an appearance for the Blue Jays, spending two years in the minors before electing for free agency. He would sign with the Miami Marlins in 2019, putting up 11 homers, 50 RBIs, and 116 hits in 119 games, slashing .276/.312/.416 in his rookie season. Ramirez would continue to put up good batting numbers, spending the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Currently, he’s batting .282/.328/.448 with 9 homers on the year.
Overall, the 2016 deadline was a generally solid one for the Toronto Blue Jays. They got a number of useful assets for the year’s postseason run while also getting two players that would become big-league contributors. There are obviously some duds in the mix in the form of Bolsinger and Feldman but the cost was not too significant. It served the team’s needs fairly well, though with hindsight the Jays could’ve been more aggressive.
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