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Sunday, August 30, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Gillick: `Stand Pat' No Longer -- Toronto GM Makes Classic Stretch Deal

Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Not that long ago, the general manager of the Blue Jays was known, none too affectionately, as `Stand Pat' Gillick. He seemed unwilling or unable to pull the trigger on major deals.

That, of course, was before he traded American League All-Stars Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the Padres for National League All-Stars Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

But that still wasn't enough to get the star-crossed Blue Jays to the World Series, so Thursday Pat Gillick was at it again. In a stunner, he acquired potential free-agent right-hander David Cone from the Mets for infielder Jeff Kent and a player to be named later.

This is a classic down-the-stretch trade.

In the short run, the Blue Jays made a brilliant move. Unable to shake the persistent Orioles and Brewers, they traded for a pitcher many people think had the best stuff in the National League. Not only have they strengthened themselves, Baltimore and Milwaukee have to be demoralized.

They also did it before Sept. 1, so Cone will be eligible for postseason play. And, with Cone, a team that has had more near-misses than Gene Mauch has to be favored to provide the first international World Series. So, even if Toronto is only renting Cone until November, it's worth the risk.

At first glance, this deal is a disaster for the Mets. Their only strong suit going into this season was starting pitching. Now Cone is gone, Dwight Gooden has looked alarmingly human coming off shoulder surgery and Bret Saberhagen has been hurt off and on.

But there are some benefits for New York. Shortstop Dick Schofield also can become a free agent, so the Mets now have some insurance at that position. They have freed some money from a payroll that was the highest in baseball. Cone makes $4.25 million this year, it would have cost more than that to keep him, and the Mets apparently had decided they wouldn't be able to, anyway.

The key in the long run will be what the Mets do with the money they're saving and who the player to be named later is. If they spend wisely and get another hot prospect, such as outfielder Derek Bell, they'll at least be better off than with the compensatory draft choices they would have gotten if they kept Cone until the end of the season and then lost him.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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