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Your Random D-Back: Trade Partner Toronto Blue Jays

What does history say of trades with the Canadians?

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

When the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays agreed on a trade involving Daulton Varsho, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno right before Christmas 2022, it was the 13th time in baseball history that a trade involved both teams.

What were those other trades and how do they balance out? And what memories do you have?

First trade, in 1999, Dan Plesac for Tony Batista.

Dan Plesac, uncle of current MLB-player Zach Plesac, was already in his 14th season in the MLB when he got traded mid-season to Arizona. At that moment the lefty, of whom there is an interesting biography available on sabr, was having the worst season of his career but the Diamondbacks were in dire need of a left-handed option out of the bullpen. Giving up Tony Batista might have seen somewhat of an overpay, as the young Dominican had just forced Jay Bell over to 2nd base and took the shortstop position as his. The Diamondbacks even sent reliever John Frascatore with him.

The transactions worked out well, for both teams, and could be seen as a win-win like situation just as the Varsho trade. 37-year old Plesac returned to his former self and became a trustworthy left-handed reliever, helping the Diamondbacks to a division title and post-season appearance. After a solid 2000 season as well, the pitcher returned to Toronto and would eventually retire in 2003 at 41 years of age. Batista also enjoyed a good 1999 and 2000 season, the latter even earning him an All-Star nod. After that it went downhill though and he retired in 2008. Frascatore, meanwhile, was living on the edge as a pitcher and banked on just one good season for the Cardinals in 1997. He had joined the Diamondbacks in 1999 and was soon moved to Toronto. He stayed there for two more seasons before wrapping up his career in a sole season in Taiwan.

Third trade, in 2005, Hillenbrand has to go.

Some sub-par defence and a below-average arm forced the Diamondbacks to move Shea Hillenbrand over from 3B to 1B, but his bat was fine enough in a pre-Goldschmidt era that earned him a spot in the top 25 all time players in 2006 on the AZSnakePit. Hillenbrand had joined the Diamondbacks after the Snakes dealt Kim to Boston and was soon forced out of Phoenix as well when the financial numbers apparently didn’t favour him. He immediately went on to have an All-Star season in Toronto in 2006, but after the 2007 season was already out of the MLB. The Diamondbacks got Adam Peterson in return. Who you say? Ok, I guess that makes him a Random D-Back candidate.

Fourth trade, in 2005, Batista and Hudson for Glaus.

Some heavy-weight was moved around when the Diamondbacks looked to improve their squad for the 2006 season and find a better destination for Troy Glaus’ salary and fielding abilities. Glaus had hit for quite some power, but didn’t play up to the 4 yr and $40+ MM that he was signed to with a whopping 24 errors in 145 games. Toronto had the possibility to slot him in at DH so he was moved over to the Blue Jays together with minor leaguer Sergio Santos. As others before him, Glaus had an All-Star season in 2006 in Toronto and hit well until his retirement after the 2010 season. Santos had a major league career from 2010 to 2015.

Miguel Batista on the other hand was a well-known name since he was a mainstay in the Diamondbacks’ rotation from 2001 to 2003. He stayed for just one season and after 2006 pitched for 5 different teams until retirement at 41 years of age in 2012. Orlando Hudson was one of the better second basemen in the league, proven by his two golden gloves and an All-Star nod during his 3 seasons in the desert. He was still a useful position player the years after until 2012, his final season in the MLB.

Sixth trade, in 2011, Aaron Hill arrives in the desert.

It might be one of the worst contracts in franchise history, but “it seemed to make sense at the time” as Jim McLennan wrote. Aaron Hill had come over in August 2011 in what was his worst season in his career at that moment, after coming off a bad showing as well the year before. The same can be sad about Kelly Johnson who went the opposite way. Johnson was pretty much a mediocre bat for the rest of his career until retiring after the 2016 season, but Hill was absolutely dominant in Arizona ... until he signed his extension and, well, Jim wrote all about that. John McDonald was a toss-in who had joined Arizona together with Hill and he didn’t provide much value, but did play for 5 different teams in the MLB in 2013, which might be a record.

Ninth trade, in 2020, Diamondbacks dump Robbie Ray.

“Ray’s time with Arizona was a frustrating mix of brilliance and incompetence. There were times when he was nearly unhittable, but he could go from that to being unable to find the strikezone in the blink of an eye.” Thus wrote Jim McLennan and I don’t think many of us disagreed. I was a firm believer in Robbie Ray but even I had become disgruntled by his inability to pitch deep into games and see him getting punished. We even gave money to the Blue Jays to take Ray. He still struggled after his trade to Toronto, although not as much as in the desert, but after resigning with Toronto after the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he went on to win a Cy Young and a 9 figure dollar contract. Ouch. We, on the other hand, got to enjoy a bit of Travis Bergen who was soon dealt back to Toronto.

Other trades...pick your favourite here:

Lesson learned?

Well, history shows that quite some players that went to Toronto enjoyed an All-Star season the following season in Canada. We shouldn’t be surprised if the same happens with Daulton Varsho. On the other hand, except for a trade here and there, the returns have been fine when both teams were actually looking to really balance out a trade. That, combined with the prospect status of Gabriel Moreno, gives hope that the Diamondbacks will get what they have been looking for as well.