In 1990, then GM Pat Gillick made a blockbuster deal that brought in Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. For fun, what might a modern day equivalent look like?
Since there is almost nothing to talk about around the Toronto Blue Jays lately, I figured I’d take a look back at one of the biggest trades in club history, and imagine what it might be like if a deal of that magnitude happened today. This is a purely hypothetical exercise and has no merit whatsoever, so let’s try not to take this too seriously.
Looking back at the massive trade from 1990, the Blue Jays acquired an eventual Hall of Fame second baseman, and a middle of the order power threat who helped define the Blue Jays’ offence for the biggest seasons in franchise history. They definitely sent back some serious assets as well though, so the move was hotly debated at the time, and with good reason.
Fortunately it ultimately worked out very well for the Blue Jays, and it looked like this:
The Blue Jays get:
OF- Joe Carter
2B- Roberto Alomar
The Padres get:
SS- Tony Fernandez
1B- Fred McGriff
Looking at what the Blue Jays sent to San Diego, it was a hefty price to pay. Tony Fernandez was coming off of four consecutive seasons where he was awarded the Glove Glove at shortstop and also received MVP votes, while being named to the All-Star team three times in that span. As a two-way threat at 28 years old, it was a risk giving him up at the time.
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McGriff was no slouch either, as he had averaged 35 home runs over the three previous seasons, and also received MVP votes in each year at that time. He was just 26 years old, and looked like he would be a cornerstone of the Blue Jays’ offence for years to come before the deal.
Of course the Blue Jays got back Alomar and Carter, who were tremendous keys to the two consecutive World Series championships, and ultimately made giving up the hefty package worthwhile. Alomar was a bit of a risk at the time as he was just 22, but he obviously worked out beautifully in Toronto, as did Carter the elder statesman of the group at 30 years old in 1990.
So now that the history is out of the way, how about the hypothetical situation. If the Blue Jays were to look at a trade of this magnitude by today’s standards, who would they be trading, and which team might they link up with? Again, this is just for fun and is almost certainly not going to happen. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Cleveland Indians get:
3B- Josh Donaldson
1B- Justin Smoak
Toronto Blue Jays get:
IF- Jose Ramirez
1B/DH- Edwin Encarnacion
The comparison isn’t perfect by any means, but I thought it was a reasonable return package for the Blue Jays, and in terms of what they’re sending back. Toronto doesn’t have a Fernandez level middle infielder on the roster at the moment, unless Devon Travis suddenly finds the ability to stay healthy and proves to be a .300 hitter, which seems unlikely. That’s why I’ve included Donaldson here, who admittedly is a better player than Fernandez or McGriff (wait, maybe?), but only has the one year of control. We’ll throw the salary considerations out of the window at the moment.
Smoak is older than McGriff was at the time, but is a similar type of power hitting first baseman who contributes on the defensive side of the diamond as well. He is also very reasonably priced for the next two seasons, and even though the perception of power hitters has changed from almost 30 years ago, he’s got a lot of value.
The Blue Jays would acquire a familiar face in Encarnacion, who would take the place of Joe Carter in this comparison. Carter played in right field and occasionally at first base, so he brought more to the table on the defensive side, and was younger. Still, they bring the same type of thump to the middle of the lineup.
They would also get Ramirez, who was 24 compared to 22 years old like Alomar was at the time of the trade, but he’s the real centrepiece of this deal for the Blue Jays. Ramirez played third base, second base, and shortstop, hitting .318/.374/.583 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and 6.9 WAR. It was his fifth season in the league, but he really took a step forward and solidified himself as one of the valuable players in the American League. He finished 3rd in MVP voting, and also earned Silver Slugger and All-Star honours for the first time.
As I have said throughout the article, this is purely hypothetical and I’m almost 100% certain that Cleveland wouldn’t deal Ramirez for nearly anyone, but what if something like this went down? I’m pretty confident that it would turn out to be a win for the Blue Jays, but a lot would depend on whether Ramirez and Smoak can sustain the performance they broke out with in 2017.
The more I look at this trade the more ridiculous it seems, but you’ve gotta think there were people thinking the same about the 1990 blockbuster. It was about as big as trades get when you’re talking 2-2 and all players are All-Star calibre players. You’ve gotta admire the guts it took Pat Gillick to have to pull the trigger back then, and thankfully it worked out exactly as they would have hoped. Who knows, maybe if my ridiculous idea took place the same thing would happen.
I really hope we get some actual news soon. Also, if you have a different 2-2 trade idea that you think is closer to the trade that actually went down, feel free to leave it in the comments section.