It would have been the trade of the franchise - if it ever happened.
Randy Johnson is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s a 10-time All Star, five-time Cy Young award winner (including four in a row) and owner of a 3.29 career ERA over 22 years with 4135.1 innings pitched. He spent time with the Expos, Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Giants. And almost the Blue Jays.
It’s July 31st, 1993. The Blue Jays, in the heat of a race to reach the postseason, need something extra to have a chance at winning their second consecutive World Series championship. Blue Jay general manager Pat Gillick is speaking to the Athletics about Ricky Henderson and Mariners about Randy Johnson, both of whom were already established stars.
While Gillick was working to advance both trades, he attempted to contact the Mariner’s GM Woody Woodward, but failed to do so, as Woodward was golfing at the time. At 7:30 PM, with the trade deadline looming at midnight, Gillick reached a tentative deal with the Athletics and GM Sandy Alderson to acquire Rickey Henderson in exchange for Steve Karsay, a top prospect, and a player to be named later.
However, Henderson had a no-trade clause, and wasn’t about to waive it without a reward. While Alderson negotiated with Henderson and his agent over the clause, Woodward, the Mariner’s GM, phoned Gillick back and agreed to a deal for Johnson involving the same prospect Steve Karsay and Mike Timlin.
Despite the prospect of a deal for the Big Machine, Gillick had given his word to Alderson that he would have until 11:40 PM to negotiate with Henderson over a compensation for waiving his no-trade clause. Staying true to his word was a key principle and value to Gillick, who feared that, should he break trust with Alderson, his reputation during future discussions may be tarnished.
While Gillick, at 11:40, was about to phone Woodward accepting the deal for Johnson, a relay of calls told him that Henderson had waived his no-trade clause in exchange for $500,000. The deal was on, and the rest is history.
Either way, the Blue Jays ended up with a Hall of Fame player. Still, the prospect of acquiring one of the best pitchers of all time and having him on the roster until 1998 is certainly more tempting than the one year rental of Ricky Henderson.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Toronto won the World Series. What can we complain about?
Information courtesy of “Gameday: The Blue Jays at SkyDome” by Martin and Sean O’Malley, “Zeisberger: Elliot Showed Me the Ropes,” “Gillick, Alomar Belong in Hall Together,” and “Ferguson: What if Randy Johnson Had Been Traded to Jays?”.