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Ferguson: What if Randy Johnson had been traded to Jays?

Scott Ferguson
6/16/2014 12:58:54 PM
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We're probably a few weeks away still before teams really get serious about moving pitchers, possibly the likes of Jeff Samardzija, David Price, James Shields and Jason Hamel. In fact the way the Royals are playing and Shields is pitching, you can probably scratch him off the list completely. The Royals have won seven in a row and have climbed to within a game and a half of the Central-leading Tigers heading into a key four-game set at Comerica Park in Detroit on Monday night. Shields is their staff ace at 8-3 and is on a personal 5-0 run.

One more quality arm might be all it takes to make the Blue Jays the team to beat in the American League. Thinking about that brought back memories of the greatest pitcher the Blue Jays almost acquired at the July 31st non-waiver deadline, but didn't.

Pat Gillick was looking for that something extra in 1993 to put the Blue Jays over the top for a second straight World Series title. He was talking to Oakland about Rickey Henderson, and also Seattle about towering lefty Randy Johnson who was just beginning to come into his own at age 29. Gillick preferred the Johnson deal that would have sent right-handers Steve Karsay and Mike Timlin to the Mariners. Trouble was Seattle GM Woody Woodward was out golfing and in the era before cell phones, Gillick couldn't get a hold of him. In the meantime, A's GM Sandy Alderson called back and accepted the Henderson deal for Karsay and a player to be named later (outfielder Jose Herrera). But even then, there was a minor hitch. Rickey wanted to be compensated for giving up his right of refusal on a trade. While that was being negotiated, Woodward called Gillick back and wanted to do the Johnson deal. Gillick had already given his word to Alderson and turned down the Johnson deal. As the clock ticked down, the Jays finally got the Rickey Henderson deal completed.

In the short term, all of this paid off for the Blue Jays as they won their second straight championship. Rickey wasn't a huge contributor, but he was always a threat for the other team to worry about at the plate and on the bases. Henderson, though, was in a contract year and left as a free agent in the off-season.

Would the Jays have been better off with Randy Johnson? Hard to say. There is no question Johnson's career really took off from that point. Through the '93 season, Johnson's record was 75-69 and he had been an All-Star twice and a runner-up for the Cy Young Award. After that he went 228-97 was an All-Star eight more times and won the Cy Young five times. Yet for all of that, he only won the World Series once, with Arizona in 2001.

The Blue Jays in 1997 went out and signed Roger Clemens as a free agent after he opted to leave Boston. Clemens won back-to-back Cy Young's with the Blue Jays yet they didn't make it to the post-season and attendance didn't get the boost most expected, even on the days Clemens was pitching.

You wonder as well if the Jays had already landed Johnson, would they even have bothered to pursue Clemens in '97? If they did, the Jays could have had the same double barreled threat Arizona did when they had Johnson and Curt Schilling and defeated the Yankees in 2001. It makes for a great talking point, but at the end of the day, the Blue Jays still have that second straight World Series crown from 1993. Everything else is supposition.


Tiger of the Future?

When Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias went down for the season with stress fractures in his legs, Detroit was left with a huge hole to fill at short. Danny Worth, Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine were all found wanting. But the Tigers may finally have their answer in rookie Eugenio Suarez, a 23-year-old out of Venezuela. Granted he's only had 24 at-bats, but Suarez is hitting .375 with three homers. This past Saturday against the Twins, he had a homer, a double and a triple. The last Tigers rookie to pull that off was catcher Bill Freehan back on May 7, 1963 versus the Yankees. A couple of Hall of Famers, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams managed to pull off that feat in their rookie seasons as well.

If the Tigers still choose to go the veteran route at short, the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins could be available after all. After breaking Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's franchise hit record on Saturday, Rollins added another one Sunday bringing his career total to 2,236. He said afterwards he would consider waving his no trade rights if the Phillies' brass decided it was time to "blow it up" and rebuild.


Swing and a Miss

White Sox slugger Adam Dunn is in "hot" pursuit of a rather dubious record. He has moved into fourth place on the all-time strikeouts list with 2,295. He is only 11 back of Sammy Sosa for third and 302 back of strikeout king Reggie Jackson. Interesting that three of the top 10 are in Cooperstown, including Jackson, Willie Stargell and Mike Schmidt.


Rough Ride

Whether the Jays are fast-tracking Aaron Sanchez for a trip to the Majors or are showcasing him for a trade to get a veteran arm, his first start for Triple-A Buffalo was a little bit rocky Saturday at Toledo. The first-round draft pick from 2010 was knocked out in the 5th inning after giving up four earned runs, six hits and four walks. The Mudhens also stole four bases. Though a tad wild, Sanchez did hit a peak of 97 miles per hour on the radar gun.




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