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Constructing Greatness: How Pat Gillick Built the Blue Jays Champions

For 12 years, Phillies phans have regarded the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays as the immovable object at the end of the road in a magical season. In the tormented group mind of Philadelphians, Mitch-Williams-to-Joe-Carter stands as a sort of secular passion play, a defining moment that was both devastating in its own right and illustrative of a larger truth about our sports fandom: to wit, that it's doomed.

But with Pat Gillick, the architect of that club and the 1992 championship team that preceded it, now working for the Phils, it's time to look at the '93 Blue Jays from a very different perspective: the handiwork of a master baseball craftsman. Here, the Good Phight breaks down the 1993 Toronto roster and recaps the key moves Gillick made to build both World Series winners. Of the 18 biggest contributors to the '93 team, nine had been drafted and developed by the Blue Jays (including two who had been traded away and then reacquired); six had come over in trades; and three were free agent additions. The team-building philosophy that emerges here should be a comforting one for Phils phans: Gillick developed from within, traded from strength, and brought in free agents to fill holes.

First let's look at the 1993 Toronto roster:

c Pat Borders: drafted by Toronto, 1982 (6th round)
1b Jon Olerud: drafted by Toronto, 1989 (1st round)
2b Roberto Alomar: acquired in trade, 1990
ss Tony Fernandez: signed by Toronto as amateur free agent, 1979; traded, 1990; reacquired 1993
3b Ed Sprague: drafted by Toronto, 1988 (1st round)
of Joe Carter: acquired in trade, 1990
of Devon White: acquired in trade, 1991
of Rickey Henderson: acquired in trade, 1993
dh Paul Molitor: signed as free agent, 1993

sp Juan Guzman: signed as amateur free agent, 1985
sp Pat Hentgen: drafted by Toronto, 1986 (5th round)
sp Todd Stottlemyre: drafted by Toronto, 1985 (1st round)
sp Dave Stewart: signed as free agent, 1993
sp Jack Morris: signed as free agent, 1992
cl Duane Ward: acquired in trade, 1986
rp Mark Eichhorn: drafted by Toronto, 1979 (2nd round); reacquired in trade, 1992
rp Mike Timlin: drafted by Toronto, 1987 (5th round)
rp Al Leiter: acquired in trade, 1989

The Blue Jays champions weren't a deep team; like many AL pennant winners, they essentially had no position bench. Toronto's reserves, none of whom are listed here, included Alfredo Griffin, a 35 year-old infielder who was on deck when Carter hit his shot; Rob Butler, a native Canadian outfielder who showed up on the Phillies four years later; and Randy Knorr, a 24 year-old backup catcher who set his modest career high with 20 RBI that year. The latter two were home-grown reserves, as were two youngsters who appeared for a cup of coffee in the last week of the season: Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green.

But what that Toronto team lacked in depth, they more than made up for in quality. Five Blue Jays slugged 15 or more home runs; four drove in 93 or more; three hit .326 or better. On the pitching side, Toronto's top three starters combined for 44 wins and 614 innings pitched, and closer Duane Ward saved 45 games with a 2.13 ERA. (Perhaps relevant to the Phils' situation at the moment, Ward took over for Tom Henke after the veteran closer left Toronto following the 1992 Series win.) Seven Blue Jays represented the team at the all-star game that summer--an impressive spread of talent that showed how many different stars could carry the team when needed.

Here are the moves Pat Gillick made between 1985 and 1993 to build the two Toronto champions, with brief analysis. Also included are drafts and signings of notable players who emerged after Gillick's departure:

  • January 24, 1985: Chose Tom Henke from the Texas Rangers as a free agent compensation pick.

Henke was Toronto's closer for almost a decade after his acquisition, saving 217 games for the club including 34 in 1992, the Blue Jays' first championship season.  

  • June 3, 1985: Drafted Todd Stottlemyre in the 1st round (3rd pick) of the 1985 amateur draft (Secondary Phase).

Philadelphians still might remember him best for the war of words he engaged in with then-Mayor Ed Rendell before the '93 series, but Toronto fans fondly recall the young hurler who won 51 games for the Jays between 1990 and 1993.

  • June 2, 1986: Drafted Pat Hentgen in the 5th round of the 1986 amateur draft.

Toronto never signed John Briscoe, their first-round pick that year, but more than made up for it with the Hentgen selection. He didn't join the rotation until 1993, but put up a 19-9 record that year and beat the Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series.  In all, Hentgen won 115 games for the Blue Jays over eight seasons.

  • July 6, 1986 : Traded Doyle Alexander to the Atlanta Braves for Duane Ward

The Braves later flipped Alexander for John Smoltz, but Ward provided six years of solidly above-average relief for Toronto, culminating in his 45-save 1993 season. In the five preceding seasons, Ward logged over 550 innings while striking out better than a batter per inning.

  • June 2, 1987: Drafted Mike Timlin in the 5th round of the 1987 amateur draft.

After taking situational relief duties for his first five big-league seasons, including 1992 and 1993, Timlin became Toronto's closer in 1996.

  • September 22, 1987: Traded Mike Sharperson to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Juan Guzman.

Guzman was still almost four years from his major-league debut when Gillick picked him up in a trade for journeyman Mike Sharperson toward the end of the 1987 season. But he became a Toronto rotation mainstay in 1991, going a combined 30-8 in the Blue Jays' two championship seasons.

  • October 9, 1988: Signed Carlos Delgado as an amateur free agent.

The slugging first baseman didn't make his major-league debut until the end of the 1993 season, and didn't crack the Toronto lineup to stay until 1996. But the 336 home runs he hit for the club can be chalked up to Gillick, who signed the then-16 year-old in late 1988.

  • April 30, 1989: Traded Jesse Barfield to the New York Yankees. Received Al Leiter.

This deal went down just 16 days after Yankees manager Dallas Green had blown out Leiter's arm with a gruesome 163-pitch start in cold weather; Leiter didn't really make it back to full-time action until 1993, when he was a mostly-reliable lefty reliever and spot starter for the champion Blue Jays.

  • June 5, 1989: Drafted John Olerud in the 3rd round of the 1989 amateur draft.
    Drafted Jeff Kent in the 20th round of the 1989 amateur draft.

Olerud was a contributor to the Blue Jays' first WS win in 1992, batting .284 with 16 homers and an .825 OPS; a year later, he set career highs in all three triple crown categories (.363, 24 HR, 107 RBI), put up a 1.072 OPS, and finished third in league MVP voting.

Kent was long gone from the Blue Jays by then, but Gillick used him to acquire David Cone in mid-season 1992--a move that paid off when Cone helped pitch Toronto to the title with five wins down the stretch (including playoffs).

  • December 2, 1990: Traded a player to be named later, Junior Felix, and Luis Sojo to the California Angels. Received Devon White, Willie Fraser, and Marcus Moore. The Toronto Blue Jays sent Ken Rivers (minors) (December 4, 1990) to the California Angels to complete the trade.

Mostly overlooked with stars like Olerud, Alomar, Winfield, Carter and Molitor around, "Devo" was a major contributor to both Jays champions with his great speed, surprising power, and tremendous defense. He won five straight Gold Gloves for Toronto (1991-95) and placed in the league top ten in runs, doubles, triples and steals in 1993. Sojo, meanwhile, returned to Toronto as a reserve for the '93 club.

  • December 5, 1990: Traded Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres. Received Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

Here's the big one, the single most important trade in the construction of Toronto's world champions. Alomar was the clear best player in the deal, and Gillick got him just as his career was about to take a marked upswing (.287/.340/.381 as a 22 year old for the Padres in 1990; .295/.354/.436 for the Blue Jays the next year, and it got better from there).

McGriff actually outplayed Carter by a considerable margin over the following ten years or so, but with Olerud already on the fast track, Gillick needed a slugging corner outfielder a lot worse than a first baseman. Fernandez shuffled through the next two and a half years for the Padres and Mets, then came back to Toronto and re-emerged as a contributor midway through 1993.

  • June 3, 1991: Drafted Shawn Green in the 1st round (16th pick) of the 1991 amateur draft.

Like Delgado, Green didn't really emerge until after Gillick's departure. But he gave the Toronto teams of the mid/late 1990s one of their few bona fide stars, producing at low cost through the end of the decade before moving on to the Dodgers.

  • December 18, 1991: Signed Jack Morris as a free agent.

Fresh off his legendary performance in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series, Morris led the league and tied his career high with 21 wins for Toronto in 1992 and finished fifth in Cy Young voting that year. He wasn't as much of an asset in 1993, going 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA before finishing the year on the disabled list and missing the playoffs.

  • December 19, 1991: Signed Dave Winfield as a free agent.

The longtime Padres, Yankees and Angels slugger was on the downside of his career at age 40, but on a one-year contract for $2.3 million , he led the 1992 Jays in OPS, doubles, and runs created. He also slugged two home runs in the ALCS against Oakland, helping Toronto reach its first World Series. Winfield was fifth in the running for AL MVP honors.

  • June 1, 1992: Drafted Shannon Stewart in the 1st round (19th pick) of the 1992 amateur draft.

Along with Green and Delgado, Stewart was the third of Gillick's bequeathals to his Toronto successors. He gave the team five solid seasons of low-cost production between 1998 and 2002.

  • July 30, 1992 : Traded Rob Ducey and Greg Myers to the California Angels for Mark Eichhorn.

A reliever the Blue Jays had drafted and developed, Eichhorn returned to Toronto just in time for the two championship seasons. Myers, a third-round Toronto draft pick in 1984, would bounce around for a decade before returning to the Jays and putting up a career year in 2003.

  • August 27, 1992: Traded a player to be named later and Jeff Kent to the New York Mets. Received David Cone. The Toronto Blue Jays sent Ryan Thompson (September 1, 1992) to the New York Mets to complete the trade.

One of several Gillick moves that belie the "Stand Pat" moniker, this trade--made after the non-waiver deadline--both helped the Jays to their eventual four-game margin of victory over Milwaukee in the AL East, and sent the message to the clubhouse that after so many near-misses over the last half-dozen years, management was committed to putting the team over the top.

  • December 7, 1992: Signed Paul Molitor as a free agent.

With Winfield gone to his hometown Twins, Gillick signed the eventual 1993 World Series MVP away from the division rival Brewers for three years and about $12 million. In his first season with the Jays, the 36 year-old Molitor led the AL with 211 hits, ranked second in the league in runs (121) and batting average (.332, behind only Olerud), reached base 291 times, drove in 111 runs, and finished second to Frank Thomas in AL MVP voting.

  • December 8, 1992: Signed Dave Stewart as a free agent.

A day after adding Molitor, Gillick nabbed one of the best free-agent pitchers on the market in "Smoke" Stewart. Though on the downside of his career by then, Stewart went 12-8 during the '93 season, then won both his starts in the ALCS against Chicago to claim Series MVP honors.

  • June 3, 1993: Drafted Chris Carpenter in the 1st round (15th pick) of the 1993 amateur draft.

Beset by injuries for his first few major league seasons, Carpenter didn't reach stardom until after signing with St. Louis in 2004, but did win 42 games for Toronto between 1998 and 2001.  

  • June 11, 1993: Traded Darrin Jackson to the New York Mets. Received Tony Fernandez.
  • July 31, 1993: Traded a player to be named later and Steve Karsay to the Oakland Athletics. Received Rickey Henderson. The Toronto Blue Jays sent Jose Herrera (August 6, 1993) to the Oakland Athletics to complete the trade.

The other two big moves on Gillick's in-season resume, these trades finished out Cito Gaston's lineup, giving him the shortstop and leadoff man he'd lacked through the first half. Fernandez batted .306 for the Jays down the stretch; Henderson hit just .215, but reached base at a .356 clip and stole 22 bases in 44 games for Toronto--and, of course, drew the inevitable leadoff walk in the 9th inning of World Series Game Six.