Padres fans wonder: Is this the Fred McGriff trade all over again?

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There are a couple of trades that probably spring to mind for most Padres fans this morning:

  • Summer 1993: Fred McGriff — making an outrageous $4 million a year– was sent to the Braves in exchange for Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore and Donnie Elliott.  It was one of the most notorious fire sales in baseball history and absolutely none of the players the Padres got in return did a thing to help them;
  • Winter 2006: The Padres send Billy Killian, Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka to the Rangers for Terrmel Sledge, Chris Young and … Adrian Gonzalez.

One trade was disastrous, the other a windfall. One represents the outrageous risk of sending a superstar away in a trade for prospects. The other represents the potential goldmine that a deal for prospects can be.

Obviously, in structure, this is the McGriff trade, inasmuch as the Padres are giving up the superstar. And, as most people who follow such things will tell you, if you’re giving up the best player in the deal, you probably lost the deal.

But that shouldn’t cause Padres fans to despair, because (a) that 2006 deal put the Padres way ahead to begin with; and (b) the folks making this trade are a much smarter bunch of folks than those who sent Fred McGriff to Atlanta.

The Padres gave up virtually nothing for Adrian Gonzalez, and paid him less than $10 million for five years of elite production. Indeed, there likely was not a better dollar-per-dollar value in all of baseball during that time. No, that won’t make them feel better if all of the prospects coming from the Red Sox tank, but you can’t tell the story of Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego without acknowledging it.

Likewise, if you have to give up your star for prospects, having Jed Hoyer doing it in a trade with the Red Sox is the best possible situation.  When people talk about risk with prospects, they’re really talking about two things: (1) the risk that comes from the prospect being an unknown quantity; and (2) the risk that the prospect won’t ultimately turn into a productive major leaguer.  With Hoyer’s history of working in Red Sox player development, a big component of the risk is gone.

And let’s be clear about something: keeping Adrian Gonzalez was not a realistic option for the Padres.  He is on record as saying that he would not be giving the Padres a hometown discount.  He was a mortal lock to leave after the 2011 season for a nine-figure deal.  Unlike some stars in that position — say, Prince Fielder — Gonzalez’s low salary gave him legitimate trade value.  If even one of the prospects coming back in this deal turns into something good, the Padres are ahead of where they would have been had they let him walk.  And really, it’s not like any team out there was offering a better deal for Gonzalez.  The Padres have done about as good as they could have done.

Is this deflating for Padres fans? Absolutely.  You never want to lose your superstar, especially one with the sort of connection to the community that Gonzalez has.  But it was necessary.  As the very deal that brought him to San Diego showed, it could end up being beneficial.  Given the competence, knowledge and experience of Jed Hoyer, the risks of this being a Fred McGriff deal part deux are as low as they could possibly be.  It’s the best that could be made of a bad situation.

And it might turn out to be fantastic.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.