Pat Gillick changed the course of Blue Jays history with a massive trade in December of 1990, and the current GM has an opportunity to do something similar if he and his team so choose.
For those that aren’t aware of what I’m referring to, Gillick made an incredibly gutsy trade more than three decades ago when he sent two of his best players in Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Joe Carter and a young player by the name of Roberto Alomar. Carter was an established star, but Alomar barely had his feet wet in the big leagues, and Gillick acquired the pair by giving up a talented young duo of his own.
History tells us that the trade worked out in the Blue Jays’ favour, as they went on to win back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, and Carter and Alomar are still considered among the greatest Blue Jays of all time (although less for the latter since his playing days have come to an end and other “issues” have come to light).
Why am I bringing up one of, if not the biggest trade in franchise history? Because I feel like Ross Atkins and the front office could be on the cusp of having to make some really big decisions, and it could impact how they approach things at the trade deadline.
The first variable is the most obvious one, and that’s the fact that the Blue Jays have arguably the best catching depth in baseball. They have a talented two-way player in Danny Jansen, who has found his power stroke and really started to contribute on both sides of the ball, and who still has two more years of arbitration eligibility. If Jansen were to become available on the trade market, I imagine there would be a long line up suitors.
The same could be said if the Blue Jays decided to trade Alejandro Kirk, which almost seems unthinkable these days. Kirk’s defence has come a long way, to the point where he’s making a strong contribution with his glove, but his bat is still his calling card, especially during his recent hot streak. On any given day the Blue Jays could start either of their catchers, and with the way Kirk has been hitting, they both can fit into the lineup.
So why would they consider trading either of these players? By now I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Gabriel Moreno, who continues to tear it up in Triple-A as the organization’s top prospect, and a player universally regarded as a top 5-10 prospect in all of baseball. For now the Blue Jays are fine with their current arrangement, but eventually Moreno may force their hand, and it’s going to be almost impossible to find playing time for all three talented receivers. It won’t be an easy decision, but at some point the Blue Jays likely use either Jansen or Kirk as a major piece in a trade, and the timing of a trade like this could be crucial.
It’s not just the catching situation that has me thinking about Pat Gillick’s mega-deal, and the potential for a modern day version of the same to happen. The Blue Jays could still use another left-handed bat to fit somewhere in the middle of their lineup, and there are a few ways they could go about acquiring that type of player. They could use the catching depth I’ve mentioned, reach into their talented farm system, or maybe they would even consider trading someone from the MLB roster in the right situation.
I’m not going to start unsubstantiated rumours here, beyond the obvious with the catching situation, but I think it’s fair to point out that both Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will be free agents after the 2023 season. I don’t really think either of them are going anywhere, but in theory the Blue Jays could consider making one of them available in a blockbuster trade, assuming the right return was coming back. With a climbing payroll and the need to try and extend both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette as the likely higher priority, it’s an option that the front office could corner with their corner outfielders, even if it wouldn’t be very popular.
I’m not really going to throw out much for potential ideas here, beyond pointing out that players like Jose Ramirez and Ketel Marte are probably off the table after signing their respective extensions over the offseason. Despite the rumours a few months ago, I don’t really think that Juan Soto is going to be traded from Washington either, although one each of Hernandez/Gurriel Jr. and Jansen/Kirk wouldn’t be a terrible place to start.
In order for a true Pat Gillick type of trade it feels more like the type of thing that we wouldn’t really see coming, which makes it hard to predict. There’s no guarantee that Ross Atkins and company take this big of a swing either, and it’s less likely after they’ve won nine of their last eleven games. That said, it’s an awfully fun thing to think about, and there’s a very good chance that the Blue Jays make a significant trade before the deadline comes up at the end of July.
Something tells me that imaginations are going to be running wild, just like mine already is. Any blockbuster ideas for me, Blue Jays fans?