* The Blue Jays pulled off a nine-player deal at the Arizona Biltmore in 1996 landing what they thought were two every day players in second baseman Carlos Garcia and right fielder Orlando Merced. The best acquisition then GM Gord Ash made was acquiring RP Dan Plesac ... now an MLB Network star. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list 2016 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
PHOENIX _ Biggest trade in Blue Jays history?
Right up there, behind the 11-player with the Florida Marlins in 2012 which brought Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and Josh Johnson to Toronto was a deal which transpired at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
The general managers meetings opened Monday at the same resort they were held at in 1996.
Then, Jays GM Gord Ash said before leaving Toronto he wanted to make a big deal.
Back then there wasn’t such a thing a press work room.
Our Tandy 100s didn’t have wireless capabilities.
On the Wednesday night our machine hooked up to a lobby long distance phone with a phone jack we filed for Thursday’s first edition that the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Jays were in talks on a five-player deal.
And for final we wrote eight players would switch uniforms as Pirates GM Cam Bonifay and Ash, along with their top scouts talked late into the night.
We awoke the next day to find that a nine-player deal had been completed.
The Jays added -- what they thought -- would be two every day players in second baseman Garcia and right fielder Merced, plus reliever Plesac.
The Pirates received right-handers Jose Pett, the Brazilian bonus baby, and Jose Silva, infielder Brandon Cromer, as well as three players to be named infielder Abraham Nunez, outfielder Craig Wilson, plus lefty Mike Halperin.
Initially, Plesac didn’t want to report, but reconsidered and was the best piece of the deal on the Jays end. He made 262 appearances in five seasons during his two tours with the Jays. He had a 4.21 ERA as a set-up man and was the tallest member of the World’s Fastest Grounds Crew.
Garcia made 93 starts at second and Merced 94 in 1997. Both were gone the next season.
As for the young, incoming Bucs ... they played 1,882 games in the majors led by Nunez (1,030) followed by Wilson (698) and Silva (154). Pett and Cromer peaked at triple-A and Halperin at double-A.
Even with Plesac’s hard work around the dirt cut out at third, Pittsburgh wins this one almost 18 years later.
The Blue Jays dropped to 72 wins in the final year of manager Cito Gastion 1.0, while the improved Bucs moved from 73 to 79 wins in 1997.
And in 2003: Then Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi came to the GMs meetings at the Biltmore with one starter -- Roy Halladay. He signed free-agent Pat Hentgen to a one-year deal and laid the ground work for another starter.
Three days after the meetings he acquired lefty Ted Lilly for outfielder Bobby Kielty, the on-base freak, whose OBA was less than the man he was acquired for in 2003. Shannon Stewart finished fourth in the AL MVP race with the Minnesota Twins.
Lilly made 89 starts (37-34, 4.52) for the Jays over the next three years. Hentgen made 16 (2-9, 6.95) before retiring.
All in all the Biltmore was a happening place for both Ash and Ricciardi.
Now it is Alex Anthopoulus’ turn.
Biltmore and Cy Young: Hentgen won the 1996 Cy Young award when the GMs meetings were at the Biltmore and seven years later when the meetings returned Halladay won.
Hentgen, now part of president Paul Beeston’s executive posse, was 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 35 starts, leading the league in shutouts (three), complete games (10) and innings pitched (265 2/3).
Halladay, a part timer with both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Jays and a full-time dad, was 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA in leading the league in starts (36) shuotuts (two) complete games (nine) and innings pitched (266),
Hentgen had 16 of 28 first-place votes to beat Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, while Halladay took 26 of 28 first-place votes.
So does that mean either R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle should be expected to win the AL Cy Young award come Wednesday?
Be true to your school: John Axford of Port Dover, Ont. will be honored by the Canisius College athletic department for his donation to the Golden Griffin baseball program on Thursday. The center-field bullpen will be named after Axford, who pitched for Canisius in the spring of 2006 after transferring from Notre Dame.
He has pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and is now a free agent.