Back in 1989/1990, the Blue Jays went ahead and traded Jesse Barfield, and lost both Lloyd Moseby and George Bell to free agency. Within a span of 19-months, the three players that made-up the greatest outfield in franchise history were gone.
Much like it is today, Toronto’s outfield back in 1990 was in serious transition. The Blue Jays possessed a good number of promising young outfielders in those days. None of whom however you’d be 100% confident to say they’d excel in the big leagues.
In the early 90’s, the list of talented young Toronto outfielders included Junior Felix, Glenallen Hill, Mark Whiten, Rob Ducey, and Derek Bell. The big difference between today’s team and the one of 30 years ago is that back then, they weren’t rebuilding. In fact they were a perennial contender. And when you’re a contending ball club like they were, you don’t take chances on unproven young talent as often as you do when rebuilding.
Instead of waiting around to see which of those young outfielders would pan out, Pat Gillick used that tremendous depth to his advantage and traded them away as a means of upgrading Toronto’s outfield and pitching. If there was ever a month that changed the history of the Blue Jays more than any other, it was December of 1990. On December 2, Toronto traded their best young outfielder, Junior Felix, and in return received one of the greatest defensive outfielders that’s ever played…Devon White. Then, just three days after acquiring White, Gillick pulled-off arguably the most important trade in team history when he sent Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego for Joe Carter and a 22-year old Roberto Alomar.
Just like that, Gillick transformed the Blue Jays, while at the same time upgrading an outfield in serious need of help.
When it comes to outfielders, Ross Atkins is faced with a very similar situation to what Gillick was dealing with almost three decades ago. Should Atkins play it safe and simply hold onto the likes of Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, Dwight Smith Jr., Jonathan Davis, and Dalton Pompey. Or, should he do as Gillick likely would have done and risk moving some of these players in an effort to acquire a can’t miss outfielder that Toronto can rely on for years to come?