Worst trade in franchise history?

With today marking the 30th anniversary of the first ever Blue Jays game (April 7, 1977), original broadcasters Don Chevrier and Tom McKee made a guest appearance in the Sportsnet booth tonight, providing viewers with a chance to reminisce about that special day at Exhibition Stadium three decades ago.

Current broadcaster Jamie Campbell reminded viewers that former catcher Alan Ashby, the newest radio voice of the Jays, was a member of that original team in ’77. Though he didn’t get into that opening contest, Ashby played 124 games that year, and another 81 the following season before being traded to the Houston Astros on November 27/78. Interestingly, Chevrier noted that in a recent conversation with Pat Gillick, the inaugural Blue Jays GM admitted that — in hindsight — the Ashby deal was the worst in franchise history. Well, it’s been long enough. Let’s take a look …

Ashby

In exchange for Ashby, who batted .230 in 205 games with the Blue Jays in 1977 and ’78, Toronto received right-handed pitcher Mark Lemongello, outfielder Joe Cannon and infielder Pedro Hernandez.

In 1979 Lemongello made 18 appearances (10 starts) for the Blue Jays, who lost a franchise-record 109 games that season. Overall, he went 1-9 with a 6.29 ERA while compiling nearly as many walks (34) as strikeouts (40). The 1979 season was Lemongello’s last in the majors.

Joe Cannon, meanwhile, spent two years with the Blue Jays in a reserve role. In ’79 he batted .211 (30-for-142) in 61 games off the bench, while in ’80 he hit an anemic .080 (4-for-50) in 70 contests. The 1980 season was Cannon’s last in the majors.

Infielder Pedro Hernandez, the third member that Toronto acquired in the Ashby deal, was utilized as a pinch runner just three times in 1979, spending the rest of the season in the minors. In fact, Hernandez did not return to the big club until 1982 when he was used as a defensive replacement a handful of times. He only managed nine at-bats in his big-league career. And while he scored a run during the ’80 season, Hernandez failed to collect a hit in the majors.

As for Ashby? He went on to enjoy a solid career with the Astros that spanned 11 seasons, including three appearances in the playoffs. His best campaign, at least offensively, came in 1987 when he batted .288 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs in a career-high 125 games. In 1986 he tied a National League record by catching his third career no-hitter, which included one tossed by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

The verdict? I’d say that trade looks pretty lopsided. But, at least the Blue Jays got him back for the ’07 campaign …

Click here to listen to Alan Ashby on the Fan 590 prior to the season …

Frank Thomas belts a grand slam — his first homer as a Blue Jay — in the second inning to give the visitors a commanding 6-1 lead … Tomo Ohka struggles with command in his Blue Jay debut, allowing the D-Rays to pull within 7-5 in the fifth … Shortstop Royce Clayton, 2-for-4 on the night, laces an RBI-single for good measure in the ninth to account for the 8-5 Toronto victory … Blue Jays back to .500 (2-2) on the season …

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