In many ways, the July 31st trade deadline is a lot like Black Friday. For those waning hours leading up until the deadline, it can be pure and utter madness for both buyers and sellers.
Just like would-be bargain hunters attempting to get their hands on deals, General Managers are desperately looking to bolster their rosters for a playoff run. At the same time, teams out of contention are trying to restock their farm system with prospects.
During the early 1990’s, the Toronto Blue Jays often took the stance as buyers at the trade deadline. And while they made several impressive moves to solidify their roster, there was one blockbuster which had the potential to shift the entire course of the team.
But the most interesting thing about this particular trade is … it never came to fruition.
For this week’s Flashback Friday, we take a look back at a deadline deal between the Blue Jays and California Angels that almost transpired at the 1992 trade deadline.
At that point in the season, Pat Gillick was looking to improve upon the Blue Jays starting rotation which consisted of Jack Morris, Jimmy Key, Todd Stottlemyre, Juan Guzman and David Wells.
This article from the LA Times unearthed a potential blockbuster trade between the Blue Jays and Angels at the 1992 trade deadline; they were willing to clear the cupboard of some of their best young players to land coveted left-handed starter, Jim Abbott.
The Blue Jays again appear to be interested in acquiring Angel left-hander Jim Abbott, for whom they offered five players in a mid-season deal that was rejected by Angel Senior Vice President Whitey Herzog.
Toronto General Manager Pat Gillick, who during the season offered Greg Myers, Rob Ducey, Todd Stottlemyre, Pat Hentgen and Derek Bell to the Angels, said Tuesday he hasn’t spoken to Herzog recently.
Asked if he’s still interested in Abbott, Gillick smiled and winked but said nothing.
Jim Abbott was a great pitcher on a poor California Angels team, and the Angels barely did anything to help his cause as they averaged a mere 2.5 runs in support of Abbott during the 1992 season.
The Blue Jays front office must’ve felt that Abbott was worth a king’s ransom, as they were willing to offer five players on their 25-man roster to get him; three position players (Bell, Ducey and Myers) and two pitchers (Hentgen and Stottlemyre).
As far as I can tell, Abbott wasn’t a rental as he was under contract through 1994. Although the Blue Jays would’ve given up the farm to get Jim Abbott, at least they would’ve had him under control for two additional seasons beyond 1992.
The interesting thing is a portion of this trade did take place. Greg Myers and Rob Ducey were shipped to the Angels ahead of the 1992 trade deadline, but it was for former Blue Jay, Mark Eichhorn.
Derek Bell departed soon thereafter as he was traded to the San Diego Padres during Spring Training of the 1993 season in exchange for Darrin Jackson. Todd Stottlemyre eventually walked away from the Blue Jays as a free agent at the end of the 1994 season.
In 1992, the Blue Jays mostly used Pat Hentgen exclusively in relief, but he went on to pitch seven more seasons with the Blue Jays. He most famously captured the team’s first Cy Young Award in 1996 and made four All-Star Game appearances.
Pat Gillick may not have landed Jim Abbott at the 1992 trade deadline, but his noteworthy trade from that summer was the acquisition of David Cone for Jeff Kent in late August.
Aside from the blockbuster trades that materialize leading up to MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline, sometimes the most fascinating story lines are about the trades that fall apart at the last second. This one by the Blue Jays and Angels was definitely one of them.
[Related: Randy Johnson Almost Traded to the Blue Jays]