Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joe McIlvaine and the first big Roberto Alomar trade

In December 1990, Toronto GM Pat Gillick and San Diego GM Joe McIlvaine made one of the all-time blockbuster trades. The Blue Jays acquired Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, while giving up Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. By 1993, Gillick's Blue Jays had won two World Series, and Gillick would eventually make the Hall of Fame in the same year as Alomar. Also in 1993, McIlvaine became GM of the Mets.

A Sporting News story on the trade makes McIlvaine look even worse. The trade was originally Carter for McGriff, which would not have been a bad trade. But Gillick asked about Alomar, and as one of Gillick's assistants remembered, McIlvaine's response was "I like to do big deals. Let's sleep on it."

Bear in mind that Alomar was only 22. And he was not a prospect - he had just made his first All-Star team. Yet McIlvaine was willing to include him in the deal, with the Blue Jays adding Tony Fernandez.

Alomar went on to make the All-Star team the next eleven years in a row. He also won ten Gold Gloves and received MVP votes in seven seasons. Fernandez, a 28-year-old three-time All-Star at the time of the trade, made one more All-Star team.

Alomar's string of All-Star appearances ended, of course, when he was traded to the Mets from the Indians before the 2002 season. At least that trade, while it didn't do the Mets any good, also didn't help Cleveland.

Part of the impetus for the 1990 trade was that Toronto was open to trading McGriff to make room for young first baseman John Olerud. And when the Blue Jays acquired Carter as well, it was part of a series of outfield moves that resulted in Blue Jays centerfielder Mookie Wilson losing his job.

After McIlvaine returned to the Mets (he was assistant GM there before going to San Diego), he traded away yet another future superstar second baseman, sending Jeff Kent to Cleveland for Carlos Baerga in the middle of the 1996 season. Cleveland also gave up on Kent, sending him to the Giants at the end of 1996. Kent made the All-Star team or received MVP votes in eight of the next nine seasons, winning NL MVP in 2000.

In fairness to McIlvaine, he also acquired Olerud for the Mets from the Blue Jays, giving up Robert Person. And McIlvaine's tenure as Mets' GM came after the series of disastrous acquisitions of the likes of Vince Coleman that would lead to "The Worst Team Money Could Buy."

But too often over the last 20 years, the Mets have had GMs who often seemed to like to do big deals whether or not they made any sense. The current offseason may be frustrating because it's so quiet, but as we've seen way too often, a bad big move is worse than no move at all.

And with the Mets' ill-fated acquisitions of Alomar, Baerga, Kaz Matsui and Luis Castillo over the last 15 years, while giving away Kent, the last thing Sandy Alderson should do is make a dramatic move to acquire a second baseman.


According to the player Alomar is most similar to statistically is Derek Jeter. The Yankees' primary starting shortstop in 1995, the year before Jeter took over the job, was that other part of the 1990 Alomar deal - Tony Fernandez.

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