Rewind to a little over one year ago; the Toronto Blue Jays just completed arguably the most exciting trade deadline week in franchise history by acquiring David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, Ben Revere and Mark Lowe.
After wrapping up a whirlwind 72 hours, the Blue Jays began August 1st by designating Danny Valencia for assignment. He was a platoon player at best, but a useful one nonetheless. Valencia posted 0.7 WAR in 58 games and 173 plate appearances in the first half of 2015.
So why on earth would the Blue Jays cast aside Danny Valencia when they were in the midst of pennant race?
If Susan Slusser’s exclusive in the San Francisco Chronicle is any indication, we may finally have a glimpse into the Blue Jays’ motivation for shipping out Danny Valencia.
According to sources, Danny Valencia and Billy Butler were involved in an “altercation”, which left Butler injured. It’s an absolute PR nightmare for the Oakland A’s, but one which the Blue Jays were wise to avoid by hanging onto Valencia.
At the time, it seemed like Danny Valencia was simply squeezed out due to roster restrictions, but there were reports that Valencia wasn’t exactly beloved in the Blue Jays clubhouse. A look back at this report from Steve Simmons in the Toronto Sun:
“What’s inside a clubhouse and outside a clubhouse so often differs. From the outside, it was easy to indicate the Blue Jays would miss Danny Valencia, the bat lost on waivers to Oakland.
From inside the clubhouse, the opinion is clearly the opposite. Valencia wasn’t exactly Mr. Congeniality with Jays players or clubhouse workers.”
Aside from this one report, I don’t recall any other rumblings about Danny Valencia being a malcontent during his tenure with the Blue Jays. But there were rumblings (via Kansas City Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan) that Valencia may not have been well-regarded in the Kansas City Royals’ clubhouse either.
Valencia was not highly regarded in the clubhouse https://t.co/5tqUEhCICF
— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) August 22, 2016
If you’ll recall, the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office worked painstakingly during the 2014 offseason to change the clubhouse culture by bringing in revered leaders with a bevvy of playoff experience in Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, and shipping out any supposed “bad apples”.
[ Related: The Blue Jays Sidestepped the Anthony Gose Theatrics ]
Obviously, the Blue Jays had their reasons for designating Danny Valencia for assignment, and surely they were justified in giving up on a controllable asset like Danny Valencia. After the recent events in Oakland between Danny Valencia and Billy Butler, those reasons may have become much clearer.
The Blue Jays weren’t the only team to jettison Danny Valencia during a half-decent season. The Kansas City Royals traded Valencia in the midst of a pennant race in 2014, and that didn’t seem to hinder their ability to make it all the way to the World Series.
Valencia’s altercation in Oakland doesn’t necessarily condemn as a “clubhouse cancer”, but here’s what I’m saying; often in these instances, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Perhaps the Blue Jays were simply looking for the opportune time to jettison Danny Valencia. Apparently that time came on August 1st, 2015. Valencia’s latest antics with the A’s simply reaffirmed the Blue Jays’ decision to designate Valencia for assignment last season.
Update August 23rd: Jeff Blair spoke briefly about the Danny Valencia situation on Baseball Central and echoed the very same sentiment reported earlier.
“(Valencia) is not a good dude. There’s a reason the Jays punted his ass out of town. It was one of the happiest days of John Gibbons’ managerial career, because Danny Valencia got the hell out of town.”