Today marks the silver anniversary of the landmark trade between the Padres and Blue Jays that rocked the baseball world and still goes down as one of the most audacious exchanges in the history of the game. It was a classic challenge trade, a two-for-two swap in which all four players were either recent All-Stars or about to be. Each club sent their premiere power hitter along with a Gold Glove infielder, with no cash, prospects, or players to be named later included. Unlike the salary dumps and efforts to get returns for pending free agents that seem to comprise most trades, this one was made strictly for on-the-field reasons. San Diego sent slugging outfield butcher Joe Carter and budding star second baseman Roberto Alomar to Toronto, receiving 1989 American League home run champion Fred McGriff and slick-fielding shortstop Tony Fernandez in exchange.
In retrospect, the winners were our friends to the north, but it wasn't so cut-and-dry at the time. McGriff, who had been deemed expendable by Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick due to the emergence of the sweet-swinging John Olerud, topped 100 RBI for the first time in 1991 while putting up his fourth consecutive 30-homer season. He had his fifth in a row in 1992, when he led the National League and was named to his first All-Star squad. Fernandez, who supplanted longtime mainstay Garry Templeton at shortstop, had a respectable season in 1991, although he fell a dozen triples short of the American League-leading 17 he accrued in the final season of his first of four stints with the Blue Jays. His 1992 season was nearly identical, but he joined McGriff at the All-Star Game - his fourth, and first since 1989 - which was held at their home park, Jack Murphy Stadium.
Joe Carter, who hit below his usual standard in his lone season with the Padres, rebounded nicely in his first season with a bird on his hat. He surpassed 30 home runs, as he had with Cleveland in 1987 and '89, and made the first of his five All-Star squads. He stayed in Toronto for seven seasons, hitting 203 homers and winning two rings - the second of which was clinched by his historic walk-off home run against Phillies closer Mitch Williams - before spending his final season wearing black and orange for both the Orioles and Giants. Alomar, who was only 22 years old at the time of the trade, and already had one All-Star appearance under his belt, spent five seasons with the Blue Jays, and was named to the All-Star team each of those years, and indeed every single year through 2001. He also won the Rawlings Gold Glove award every season he was there, and hit above .300 each of those years save for his first, when he fell just .005 shy. In that time, Alomar also ranked among the league's top-ten in doubles twice and triples four times. Though he went on to play nine more seasons after leaving Toronto as a free agent following the 1995 season, it is their cap he is depicted wearing on his plaque in Cooperstown.
Many believe that McGriff should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as well, although the majority of voters have begged to differ thus far. Either way, San Diego only benefited from two and a half seasons of his borderline-immortalized career, as he was sent packing to Atlanta in exchange for a big bag of nothing in the fire sale of 1993. Fernandez was already gone by that point, having been traded to the Mets for pitcher Wally Whitehurst, minor league catcher Raul Casanova, and running back D.J. Dozier after the 1992 season. He returned to Toronto via trade in June of the next season, then bounced around a bit, making his way back to the Blue Jays in 1998 and '99, then yet again in 2001.
The trade was one for the ages, the likes of which we're unlikely to see again in our lifetimes. While one side came out on top, neither club was fleeced, and all of the players panned out. But if anything of the sort does go down in the near future, one would have to imagine that the wildly unpredictable A.J. Preller would have a hand in it.