The Drew Hutchison trade has come full circle: Digging into the best trade tree in Blue Jays history
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
27 days ago
With the announcement that the Blue Jays were signing Drew Hutchison to a minor league deal, it’s once again time to look at the best trade tree in Blue Jays’ history.
Drew Hutchison was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2009 draft and was a serviceable starter for Toronto for several years. On August 1st, 2016, the Jays sent him to the Pittsburgh Pirates to kick off the insanely beneficial trade tree.
The Blue Jays receive Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramírez for Drew Hutchison:
Prior to the trade, Hutchison was rocking a 4.97 ERA and a 6.54 FIP in 12.2 innings pitched, spending most of the season in Triple-A.
To put it simply, I have no idea what the Pirates were thinking here. This will be the last time we’ll discuss Hutchison for a while.
Prior to the trade, Liriano was having a “meh” season, posting a 5.46 ERA and a 5.28 FIP in 113.2 innings pitched. He had a 22.2 K%, but an incredibly high 13.2 BB%, and didn’t look much better than Hutchison, right?
Wrong. To end the 2016 season, Liriano was crucial as he had a 2.92 ERA and a 3.98 FIP in 49.1 innings pitched with the Jays. His K% increased to 25%, while his BB% decreased drastically to 7.7%. For those 49.1 innings alone.
Interestingly, Liriano was invited to 2021 Spring Training and was a final cut, before retiring. Would’ve been cool for him to come back though.
The Blue Jays won this specific trade, but there’s more!
Prior to the trade, Reese McGuire ranked as Pittsburgh’s 5th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
Obviously, he didn’t pan out, as most prospects don’t, but he’s still a serviceable catcher. Spending time between the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox in 2022 (we’ll get to his trade), McGuire slashed .269/.307/.369 with three homers in 274 plate appearances. Overall, he had a career-high 1.6 fWAR (and is a 3.9 fWAR player), mainly due to his above-average defense.
The Pirates weren’t satisfied with trading just one Top 10 prospect in the organization, as they traded Harold Ramírez, who ranked as their 6th best prospect. Like McGuire, Ramírez is a serviceable big leaguer who posted a .300/.343/.404 slash line in 435 plate appearances. Overall, he had a 119 wRC+ for a 1.2 fWAR in 2022 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ramírez elected free agency (or wasn’t re-signed) after the 2018 season, but yeah, what a trade.
The Blue Jays receive Teoscar Hernández, and Nori Aoki for Francisco Liriano:
What, you think receiving a good fifth starter and two Top 10 prospects was the best trade in this tree? Absolutely not. In the 2017 season, the Blue Jays traded Fransico Liriano to the Houston Astros.
Liriano’s 2017 season wasn’t like the end of the 2016 season, as he had a 5.88 ERA and a 4.73 FIP in 82.2 innings pitched. He had an 11.5 BB% (an increase from 2016 with the Jays), while his K% dropped to 19.7%, nearly a career low.
So the Jays traded him to the eventual *World Series Champs, the 2017 Houston Astros*. In exchange, they received big leaguer Nori Aoki, and AAAA prospect Teoscar Hernández.
At the time, I believed that Nori Aoki was the main piece coming back (my baseball knowledge wasn’t great, to be frank). At the time, they were still a few games behind the wild card. In fact, Aoki was actually pretty solid in his brief tenure with the Jays, slashing .281/.294/.594 with three homers in just 34 plate appearances.
Clearly unsustainable, as 2017 was his last season in the big leagues, but he was an interesting addition to the trade. He was released in late August 2017 and currently plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. So that’s cool.
Obviously, Aoki isn’t why this trade was a huge win for the Jays
Hernández looked great in his September call-up in 2017, slashing .261/.305/.602 with eight homers in 95 plate appearances (which is an absurd rate). He showed his talent, but it was a slow burn for him to become who he is today.
In 2018, he slashed .239/.302/.468 with 22 homers in 1344 plate appearances. He had a pretty high 31.2 K%, and a slightly above-average 106 wRC+ that season.
The 2019 season was even worse for Hernández, as he slashed .230/.306/.472 with 26 homers in 464 plate appearances for a 103 wRC+. Moreover, his K% increased to 33%. Overall, he just wasn’t great, but after a minor league tenure, he was a different player.
After a brief demotion, Hernández was recalled on June 5th, 2019, where he finished the season slashing .248/.325/.548 with 23 homers in 323 plate appearances. While his 34.4 K% was on the high side, he had a 126 wRC+ to finish 2019.
Since that early June call-up in 2019, he has slashed .277/.332/.525 with 96 home runs in 1660 plate appearances for a 131 wRC+. What’s more, is that his K% has dropped to 28.6%, and he’s become a multiple-time all-star.
Such a good trade.
The Blue Jays receive Zack Collins for Reese McGuire:
This is pretty much a nothing-trade before the start of the 2022 season.
As I’ve established, Reese is a good backup catcher, but the Jays already had Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen on the main roster, with Gabriel Moreno on the precipice of pushing for a roster spot. So, the Jays traded a catcher with no options for a catcher with one option year remaining.
Aside from the memes, let’s look at what Collins offered before he was designated for assignment.
With the Jays, Collins slashed .194/.266/.417 with four homers in 79 plate appearances, which tied his career high. He had a 0.1 fWAR, but an incredibly high 39.2 K%.
He was basically there to replace injured catchers, which happened when Danny Jansen went down with an injury.
Ironically, this was the only trade in this tree that the Jays “lost” in my opinion, but it’s so minuscule compared to the wins that it doesn’t matter.
We’ll always have the memes.
The Blue Jays receive Erik Swanson and prospect Adam Macko for Teoscar Hernández:
The last trade in this trade tree is still an open book.
At face value, this looks like a loss for the Jays, but the value of a corner outfielder set to make $14.1 million in his final year of arbitration isn’t as high as some believe. What’s more, is that it allowed the Jays to spend the money elsewhere and rebuild their outfield to be much better defensively.
The Jays decided to trade him to the Seattle Mariners for a swing-and-miss reliever, as well as an interesting prospect with good makeup and an interesting story.
In 2022, Swanson was one of the league’s best relievers, as he posted a 1.68 ERA and a 1.85 FIP in 53.2 innings pitched. More importantly, he had a 34 K%, giving the Blue Jays the swing and miss they desperately needed in 2022. Moreover, he had a fantastic 4.9 BB%, so yeah, the Jays definitely got what they needed.
What’s more is that the prices of relievers in the 2022-23 free agency were insane, and the Jays managed to get an elite reliever who has three seasons of team control remaining.
But there’s more, let’s look at Adam Macko.
Born in Slovakia, raised in Ireland, before moving to Canada to play at Vauxhall Academy with fellow Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani.
Macko, who recently turned 22 years old, is a left-handed starter who touches 97 mph. In 2022, he had a 3.99 ERA and a 3.77 FIP in 38.1 innings pitched with Seattle’s High-A team. While he struggled with command (12 BB% in 2022), he had an incredible 35.9 K% as a starter in that brief time.
He flashes great secondary stuff, as well as his high-velocity fastball. There’s a chance that he could develop into a pretty darn good player if he can stay healthy (missed late May until the Arizona Fall League) and can harness the walks.
The trade tree that keeps giving:
With Hutchison signing a minor league deal, the trade tree sort of has come full circle, but that doesn’t mean it’s done. In a few years, perhaps Swanson or Macko are moved into other trades, which continues the tree.
That’s a potential story for another time, but as it stands, this is the best trade tree in Blue Jays’ history in my opinion.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Brennan_L_D. Of course, this isn’t my first time writing an article on this topic, but with Hutchison signing, it seems fairly topical. I am happy that they re-signed Hutchison though!
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