TORONTO -- Roy Halladay’s immeasurable impact on the Blue Jays will stretch far into the future. Each time a young pitcher guts out a workout they’d rather skip or labors through a bullpen session trying to recreate their incredible cutter, Halladay’s influence stays alive in Toronto.
When Halladay was dealt from the Blue Jays prior to the 2010 season, it set off a chain of moves that linked the Hall of Famer to Toronto's active roster until '19. Baseball is the great transactional game, and in these trade trees, we see how major moves can impact a franchise over decades.
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Halladay’s trade tree is not the story of two stars connecting, though. There is no gap bridged between franchise icons, but instead, we see a steady pulse of new hope that, over and over again, has left Blue Jays fans wondering what could have been.
June 1, 1995: Blue Jays take Halladay in the first round of the Draft, No. 17 overall
Halladay debuted in 1998, and in the next year as a 22-year-old, he showed great promise in his first full season. It briefly fell apart in 2000, however, as Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA over 67 2/3 innings. For a moment, the future Hall of Famer was the worst pitcher in Major League Baseball, and it wasn’t particularly close.
An overhaul of Halladay’s mechanics in the Minor Leagues worked wonders, though. A few years later, Halladay won the American League Cy Young Award and was consistently one of baseball’s most reliable aces through the 2000s.
Entering his 30s, Halladay wanted to win. With one year remaining on his contract, the Blue Jays dealt Doc to the Phillies. It was a major deal that, given the value of its return, was expected to land Toronto its next stars.
Dec. 16, 2009: Blue Jays trade Halladay to Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor
Trading the face of the franchise was met with the expected backlash, but on the surface, Toronto’s haul looked impressive.
In Drabek, the Blue Jays had one of the game’s top young arms whose father, Doug Drabek, had pitched 13 years in the Majors, a move that would fit right in with the 2020 Blue Jays. In d’Arnaud, the club had one of the game's top young catchers. In Taylor, it had one of the game’s top young outfielders. Surely, at least one would reach their potential with Toronto.
At the time, Baseball America ranked all three prospects in their pre-2010 Top 100, with Drabek No. 25, Taylor No. 29 and d’Arnaud No. 81.
Dec. 16, 2009: Blue Jays flip Taylor to the A’s for Brett Wallace
In a corresponding move, the Blue Jays sent Taylor to Oakland for Wallace, who was immediately dubbed the club’s first baseman of the future. Wallace was ranked as Baseball America’s No. 27 prospect entering 2010, meaning Toronto still left the Halladay deal with three Top 100 players.
There’s a reason Blue Jays fans are hesitant to issue the “… of the future” tag these days, though. So many catchers, aces or shortstops of the future haven't panned out. Or, in Wallace’s case, have been traded.
July 29, 2010: Blue Jays trade Wallace to Astros for Anthony Gose
Gose, who had just been acquired by the Astros from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal, was flipped to the Blue Jays for Wallace, quickly ending any succession plan at first base. Toronto had Adam Lind as another long-term option at first base behind Lyle Overbay, and, well, the club simply loved Gose.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos saw some of Carl Crawford in Gose. He’d been a second-round Draft pick in 2008 by the Phillies, but had already wowed in the Minor Leagues with 76 stolen bases for Class A Lakewood in '09.
Gose’s rare abilities immediately made him a jewel of the system who many considered to be -- you guessed it -- the center fielder of the future.
Nov. 13, 2014: Blue Jays trade Gose to the Tigers for Devon Travis
Gose’s athleticism alone wasn’t enough in the big leagues. Over three seasons, he hit .234 with a .633 OPS, and even at just 23 years old, it was difficult to envision Gose establishing himself as an impact starter.
Then, another jolt of hope. Gose was dealt to the Tigers for Travis, who was subsequently ranked by MLB Pipeline as Toronto’s No. 8 prospect. When Travis debuted at 24 years old and hit .304 with an .859 OPS over 62 games in 2015 -- just as the Blue Jays were returning to their playoff glory -- it was easy to pencil him in as the second baseman of the future.
Nov. 7, 2019: Travis elects free agency
Travis’ body never allowed him to show his fullest abilities much beyond 2015, as knee and shoulder issues continued to follow him. It was a heartbreaking end for the player in Toronto, but perhaps fitting that Halladay’s trade tree ends with one of the most beloved Blue Jays -- both inside and outside of the clubhouse -- in recent memory.
Beyond Travis ...
This tree, of course, has some branches that shoot out to the sides. Most notably, one that begins with d’Arnaud.
d’Arnaud was packaged into the Blue Jays’ trade with the Mets on Dec. 17, 2012, which sent him -- along with Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and Wuilmer Becerra -- to New York in exchange for R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole. It was a win-now move for a reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who along with their megadeal with the Marlins, was supposed to put the Blue Jays over the top. Instead, they finished 74-88, last in the AL East.
It’s on this branch, extending to another organization, that we finally find the second star in this trade tree.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.