On this day in 1996, Toronto Blue Jays trade John Olerud to New York Mets
By Cam Lewis2 months ago
On December 20, 1996, the Toronto Blue Jays made what’s now considered one of the worst trades in team history.
They traded first baseman John Olerud, a key contributor to the team’s back-to-back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993, to the New York Mets for right-handed pitcher Robert Person, who struggled to a 6.18 ERA with the Blue Jays over three seasons with the team. Meanwhile, Olerud was a productive hitter in the big leagues for nearly another decade after the trade.
The Blue Jays selected Olerud, a 6-foot-5 lefty, in the third round of the 1989 draft out of Washington State University. He originally planned to return to college for his senior season but ultimately chose to sign with the Blue Jays because they allowed him to skip playing in the minor leagues.
Olerud made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in September of 1989 when rosters expanded and he picked up a hit in his first at-bat. Over the next couple of seasons, he platooned at first base with Pat Tabler and Ed Sprague and put up a .260 batting average and .793 OPS.
He became the team’s primary first baseman in 1992 and helped the Blue Jays win their first World Series that fall. The following year in 1993, Olerud broke out with a performance that saw him lead the American League with a .363 batting average, 1.072 OPS, and 54 doubles. He again helped the Blue Jays win the World Series in the fall and finished third in AL MVP voting.
After those World Series years, the Blue Jays seemed to age quickly and the team went into a decline. General manager Pat Gillick left after the 1994 season and his replacement, Gord Ash, had to decide which stars from the glory days to keep and which ones to let go. Among the ones to go was Olerud, who lost his spot at first base when Joe Carter needed to move away from playing in the outfield each day and top prospect Carlos Delgado was coming along.
Olerud saw his power numbers decline after that huge year but he was still an on-base machine between 1994 to 1996, as he posted a .391 on-base percentage over 1,503 plate appearances. Still, that wasn’t enough to sway the Blue Jays into moving Carter, who had earned all-time endearment after hitting a walk-off home run to win the World Series a few years earlier.
Over the next three seasons, Olerud found his groove playing with the Mets and slugged 63 home runs, drove in 291 runs, and produced a .926 OPS. He signed with the Seattle Mariners ahead of the 2000 seasons and won three Gold Gloves and made one All-Star appearance over four years playing for his hometown club.
Toronto Star Newspaper Clipping From December 21, 1996
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