TORONTO – Thirty years ago this week, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick and San Diego Padres general manager Joe McIlvaine designed what was, at the time, described as “one of the biggest trades in the history of meetings ”in the Los Angeles Times.
Considering the impact, three decades later, it still rings true.
With Rosemont, Illinois, a cold, wintery Chicago suburb as a backdrop, it’s Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez dispatched to San Diego, and Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter heading to Toronto.
“I’ll tell you what, this one was so big that when we first brought up the names we both laughed,” McIlvaine told The Times. “It was like it was too big. Nobody does that kind of thing.
“When Pat sent the idea back to us, there was complete disbelief,” added Blue Jays scout Gordon Lakey. “These players have been an integral part of our team; we did not think of exchanging them. But the longer you think about it, the more sense it makes.
Trade pushed the Jays over the bump, changing the narrative around a franchise that had come close and propelling them from good to big.
Thirty years later, in the midst of a pandemic, the Blue Jays are once again a team that could be open to making a splash at winter reunions.
One of the few teams in baseball to publicly commit to having money to spend, the Jays have been hooked up to almost every top name in the market.
Some, like George Springer, make all their sense, while some, like Marcell Ozuna, are agents who work overtime to try to connect their clients to the most active teams on the market.
With that in mind, here are the three biggest storylines for the Blue Jays heading into this week’s virtual winter meetings.
Is a successful exchange possible?
Since the transformational exchange that Gillick succeeded in taking place exactly 30 years ago, we’ll start with this one.
The answer to that question is a resounding yes, simply because of the location of the Blue Jays farming system and the redundancy within it.
Still touted as one of baseball’s top five pipelines by most analysts despite having spat out plenty of MLB players over the past two seasons, the Jays could easily swing top 100 prospects like Jordan Groshans and Alejandro Kirk or Well-known low-level names like wide receiver Gabriel Moreno. and infielders Orelvis Martinez and Miguel Hiraldo.
While the Jays would likely like to part with some of their excess position in any potential deal, there are also throws to draw teams in, with names like Simeon Woods Richardson, 2019 first round Alek Manoah and Adam Kloffenstein. dotting the top of the system. .
The untouchables don’t exist, but the only likely prospects this winter are Nate Pearson – yes, he’s still technically a prospect and will be eligible for rookie of the year in 2021 – and fifth overall pick in 2020, Austin Martin.
There would be many contractual layers to any of these deals, but the three business goals to watch from a Blue Jays perspective are short. Francisco Lindorand third basemen Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado.
Will the Jays create a sensation in free agency?
We know they’re hoping to do it, with Springer and all-round fielder DJ LeMahieu seen as the best targets.
At the right price, they would both be fantastic and immediately give the Blue Jays a shot at having one of baseball’s best offenses, considering they were already eighth in runs scored with 4.9 per game in 2020.
Quietly, the two would also improve defense, which is a priority.
Atkins and President / CEO Mark Shapiro are committed to spending, so it would be a bummer if they couldn’t put some of Rogers’ money to work this winter.
But there are tough questions the Jays will need to answer, and there are pandemic implications that can make the playing field more difficult.
The Jays have said publicly that agents haven’t made much of their nomadic ways in 2020 or that playing in Toronto is still completely on hold for 2021.
It didn’t stop Robbie Ray to re-sign, and the 29-year-old said it wasn’t even a consideration.
Will Springer and the others feel the same?
Are the Jays currently good enough to be a playoff team again?
Before we can really answer that question, MLB needs to agree on a post-season structure for 2021.
We’ve just seen the first group of 16 teams this year, and the Jays took the opportunity to make their first playoff appearance since 2016 as a 32-28 team.
In a normal year, they looked outside.
A report a few months ago asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to favor a 14-team format for 2021, with the best team from each circuit being entitled to a bye.
The Jays are certainly in the mix regardless of the format, especially if they can make the flashy, high-end additions they’ve alluded to, but the rotation will need to improve before February for them to be taken seriously. .
Most of the big names they’ve been connected to, whether it’s free will or commerce, are positional players.
It makes sense to target Springer and Lindor in different ways as potential final pieces of the player’s position puzzle in the long run, but for 2021 alone, it’s currently Hyun-Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, Tanner Roark and Pearson constituting the rotation.
You could reach 0.500 with this group in a 162-game season. May be.
The amount of resources put into the rotation this winter – especially if they are able to attract, say, Springer – could be a big balancing act.