Russell Martin with the Blue Jays.

Russell Martin (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Back when I was a kid, I always wondered why the best Canadian ball players didn’t play for the Blue Jays.  Now that I’m a little (ok a lot) older, I understand that sort of thing is easier said than done.  But back in the 80’s and 90’s, Toronto simply wasn’t making as much of an effort as they have been lately to acquire Canadians.

Of the 24 Canadians who have played for the Blue Jays over the years, here’s our list of the Top 5 based on what those players contributed to this ball club.  This list isn’t ordered based on the best Canadians the Blue Jays ever had, but more so the Top 5 Canadians who made the biggest contributions to this franchise.

5) Michael Saunders

How could a player with the nickname ‘Captain Canada’ not be included on this list.  Saunders cracked the Top 5 on account of one decent season, his 2016 campaign.  In actuality, it was more like one solid half season where he hit for a .298 AVG, had 16 HR, 42 RBI, and made his first and only all-star appearance.

4) Matt Stairs

Stairs might just be one of the most underrated players to ever come from Canada.  Standing only 5-9, he possessed one of the most powerful and lightning quick swings you’d ever see.  Stairs would go on to play 19 seasons in the big leagues and continue playing until the ripe old age of 43.  It was that longevity that led to him eventually playing for the Blue Jays at the age of 39 and 40.  Even at such an advanced playing age while with the Blue Jays, in two seasons in Toronto, Stairs would hit 32 HR, 108 RBI, while having a respectable .270 AVG and .356 OBP.

3) Brett Lawrie

As much as it pains me to include Lawrie on any list of top Blue Jays, he most certainly deserves to be here.  What disappoints me about Lawrie’s time in Toronto is that he had the potential to be so much more and could easily have been the number one player on this list if he simply had a better attitude and commitment to the game.  Toronto went out of their way in late 2010 to acquire a then 20-year old Lawrie from Milwaukee, and parted with a quality starting pitcher in Shaun Marcum in order to do so.  Despite his shortcomings in the character department, during four seasons with the Blue Jays Lawrie hit for a .265 AVG, accumulating 345 hits and a solid 12.1 WAR.

2) Russell Martin

Simply put, Martin is one of the greatest Canadians to ever play Major League Baseball.  He was instrumental in helping Toronto put an end to their 21-year post-season drought, and has done wonders getting the most out of the Blue Jays mixture of young and veteran pitchers.  Martin is also one of those Canadian players you always wished could have been with the Blue Jays during his younger years.  Despite not becoming a Blue Jay until the age of 31, Martin was still an all-star with Toronto in 2015, and even though he hasn’t hit for the same kind of AVG he did during his prime years with the Dodgers, he’s still managed a respectable .335 OBP over his three seasons with the Blue Jays.

1) Paul Quantrill

Quantrill was the type of player that had a very quiet approach on the field.  When you think of that prototypical polite Canadian, that was Quantrill.  He was also one of the best relief pitchers to ever play for the Blue Jays.  In six seasons in Toronto, Quantrill pitched in a remarkable 386 games (good for 6th best in franchise history).  He also attended one all-star game with Toronto in 2001, and had seasons where he pitched in 82, 80, and 77 games as a Blue Jay.  To say that Quantrill was a workhorse for the Blue Jays wouldn’t be giving him enough praise because in those lean years for Toronto, he was one of the few bright spots and did so much to carry the bullpen.

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