These days, the Blue Jays front office has built a reputation for their shrewd moves. They’ve mastered the formula of extracting high ceiling players from other teams and maximizing their potential with the Blue Jays.
Alex Anthopoulos AKA “the Silent Assassin” has been instrumental in acquiring players like Brandon Morrow, Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson and Sergio Santos just to name a few.
But there was a time not that long ago when the Blue Jays as being the fleecees not the fleecers. For this week’s Flashback Friday, we look back on one of the worst trades in Blue Jays franchise history, the one involving none other than Mike Sirotka.
Mike Sirotka was not a household name at the time of the trade in January of 2001 but by the time the dust had settled on the deal, Sirotka’s name was one that Blue Jays fans would not soon forget.
Gord Ash was the General Manager of the Blue Jays at the time, and he dealt with the then rookie General Manager of the Chicago White Sox, Kenny Williams. The two would craft a six-player trade that would send David Wells and Matt Dewitt to Chicago in exchange for pitches Mike Sirotka, Kevin Beirne, Mike Williams and outfielder Brian Simmons.
David Wells and Mike Sirotka were unquestionably the cornerstones of the trade, as the White Sox were getting a 20-game winner, and the Blue Jays thought they were receiving a promising young starter whose best days were ahead of him. They thought wrong.
Sirotka showed up to Blue Jays Spring Training camp in 2001, but it was revealed that he was suffering from a shoulder injury. He was eventually shut down by the Blue Jays and he would actually never throw a pitch in the Major Leagues ever again.
Just to add insult to injury, not only would Mike Sirotka never appear for the Blue Jays, but the team was also on the hook for the remaining $6.6 million dollars on his contract.
The trade was surrounded in a great deal of controversy because the Blue Jays thought the White Sox sent them damaged goods. Sirotka apparently passed the initial physical, but a second test by Dr. James Andrews showed a possible torn labrum.
That should’ve been a red flag right there as a visit to Dr. James Andrews is essentially a kiss of death for any pitcher. The Blue Jays claim that the White Sox didn’t disclose all the proper information, but Kenny Williams assured them that he did let Toronto know about Sirotka’s shoulder injury.
After Gord Ash and the Blue Jays discovered the severity of Sirotka’s injury, they went to the commisioner to try to appeal the trade, but the claim was denied. Here is what Bud Selig had to say about the issue:
“After careful consideration of all the information before me, I uphold the transaction and deny the Toronto club’s claim for relief.
Although there is a dispute about whether certain facts about Sirotka’s condition were disclosed before the clubs agreed to the trade, the Toronto club talked directly to Sirotka about his health on the day of the trade and believed it had the opportunity to make the trade conditional. The Blue Jays never elected to do so.”
Selig’s advice to the Blue Jays was essentially “buyer beware” and he did not overturn the trade or force the White Sox to compensate them for Sirotka.
Considering what happened with this trade, somebody in the Blue Jays front office really dropped the ball on the whole Mike Sirotka trade. The fact that they knew about his shoulder troubles and went ahead with the trade anyway is just mind-boggling.
Either the front office was so confident in Mike Sirotka’s abilities that they were willing to take that risk on him, or David Wells demanded a trade and the Blue Jays needed to deal Wells for whatever they could get in return.
Either way, this trade was a big blunder of the Gord Ash era, and could very well have been the beginning of the end of his time as the Blue Jays General Manager. He was ultimately fired from his post later that season.
It was a costly lesson learned, but one that hopefully still resonates with the front office to this day. It’s imperative that General Managers do their homework on prospective trade targets, especially when it comes to injury history.
One wonders what Mike Sirotka’s career with the Blue Jays could have been like, but at least there’s one person out there in the Sirotka fan club.
Images courtesy of Bluebird Banter and @mybabyisaverage