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Today in Blue Jays History: The Big Trade

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

It was 30 years ago today that Stand Pat Gillick made perhaps the most significant trade in Blue Jays history. Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff went to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

I’ll admit, at the time, I wasn’t a big fan of the trade. We had a team in the race for the playoffs each season for the past few years. In 1985 and 1989, we made it to the playoffs. Then, suddenly, we trade the best shortstop the team ever had (and a personal favorite of mine) and a first baseman who, I thought, had a shot to be in the Hall of Fame one day. I still think he should be in the Hall of Fame.

We got back:

  • A 23-year-old second baseman who had a .283/.339/.379 batting line (with 90 stolen bases vs. 30 time caught) and a flair for the spectacular on defense. I didn’t see a Hall of Fame player there. I should have noticed a player who came up at age 20 and more than held his own. If you see a 20-year-old who’s holding his own in the majors, bet on him. The thing I did like was that we finally had a player that, I thought, would be a great leadoff hitter. Of course, we never used him in the leadoff spot. Cito Gaston liked Devon White there. A couple of years later, we signed Paul Molitor,, and I remember the guy on TSN saying we ‘finally had a leadoff hitter,’ and I thought no, we had one who would be great. We didn’t use him in that spot. We wouldn’t hit Molitor leadoff either.
  • An outfielder, who would be 31 next season, and who seemed overrated. His best stat was the RBI. The season before (his only one with the Padres), he hit .232/.290/.391 with 24 home runs and 115 RBI. Before that, he had 6 seasons with Cleveland hitting .269/.309/.472. We would never call a player like that a star these days. In Toronto, he found a manager who loved him, which can never hurt a player.

The trade worked out. I’ll admit that I wonder if, in the alternate universe where the Jays didn’t make the trade, we would have won a couple of World Series anyway. But then, there is no way we could have had a better finish than we had in the 1993 game with Joe Carter hitting that home run.

We held on to Joe for too long. His last few years with the team weren’t y good and Alomar left as a free agent, but for a couple of years, they helped make the Jays the best team in baseball and gave us a lot of great memories.

It was one of those trades that the teams got equal value out of the players, but we won two World Series, so we won the trade.