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The biggest trade in Blue Jays history began with a simple
objective: Find a second baseman. In attempting to replace
departed free agent Robbie Alomar last season, Toronto tried
Tomas Perez, Domingo Cedeno, Tilson Brito, Felipe Crespo and
Miguel Cairo at second. Anyway you look at it, none of them
provided a strong regular middle infield partner for 23-year-old
shortstop Alex Gonzalez. "I thought we did a disservice to
Alex," general manager Gord Ash says.

So Ash, who had tried unsuccessfully to work a trade with the
Pirates last August for pitcher Denny Neagle, revived
discussions with Pittsburgh in November, this time with second
baseman Carlos Garcia as his target. Several other clubs joined
the pursuit of Garcia, but six days and dozens of permutations
later Toronto's quest culminated in a nine-player deal. The Blue
Jays also received outfielder Orlando Merced and pitcher Dan
Plesac in return for six prospects.

The Tigers were the only American League team to hit worse than
Toronto last year. And only they and the Angels lost more games
than the Blue Jays. While the addition of Roger Clemens bolsters
the rotation, Toronto is counting on three career National
Leaguers--Garcia, Merced and catcher Benito Santiago, whom the
Jays signed as a free agent--to upgrade its offense and return
it to contender status.

After the trade with Pittsburgh, Ash obtained a telephone number
for Garcia, expecting to find him in his native Venezuela.
Instead, the phone rang at Garcia's house in suburban Buffalo,
where he had settled after meeting his wife there when he was a
minor leaguer. He's one of the few players whose off-season
training regimen includes shoveling the driveway. "My first
winter in Buffalo I saw snow for the first time, and it was like
I was in the movies," says Garcia.

Garcia was lifting weights, not a shovel, in his basement when
Ash called. "I was a little shocked," he says. "In my heart I
wanted to stay with Pittsburgh. Everything I own I got because
of that organization. But if I was going to be traded, it was
great to go someplace close to home."

Two veteran scouts say Toronto got the third-best second baseman
in the majors, behind only Alomar and the Twins' Chuck
Knoblauch. Garcia is a lifetime .278 hitter who has the arm
strength and range of a shortstop. Indeed he advanced through
the Pirates' system as a shortstop.

After the 1992 season, in anticipation that Pittsburgh would
trade incumbent second baseman Jose Lind, Garcia worked out at
second in Venezuela for four hours a day. He was an All-Star by
his second year at the position. He started just 66 games at
second last season because of a hamstring injury and because the
Pirates also used him at shortstop and third. Knowing he was set
at second with Toronto, Garcia worked overtime this spring with
Gonzalez. He welcomed the extra work, especially because
relatively mild weather had made his conditioning program in
upstate New York this winter a light one. "I think I only had to
shovel twice," he says.




CF Otis Nixon
Leads the major leagues with 356 steals in the 1990s

2B Carlos Garcia
Good bat control but lacks patience at plate

RF Orlando Merced
Similar production to that of the traded John Olerud

1B Joe Carter
Poor play in the outfield forces switch to the infield

3B Ed Sprague
Last season hit .269 before All-Star break, .223 after

DH Carlos Delgado
Yet to prove he can hit lefties: .152, two homers in '96

C Benito Santiago
Career highs in home runs (30) and walks (49) last year

LF Shawn Green
May share playing time with Jacob Brumfield

SS Alex Gonzalez
Solid glove but needs to reduce strikeouts (127)

Ace Pat Hentgen
121 major league starts without missing a turn

Closer Mike Timlin
31 saves in '96, his first year in this role


Last season righthanders Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen ranked
one-two in the American League in ERA. Since 1969 only one other
pair of teammates has done that--Ron Guidry and Tommy John of
the '79 Yankees. Thirty-three teams have had their league's two
ERA leaders, but only three of those clubs had a losing record:
the '33 Indians (Monte Pearson and Mel Harder), the '64 Dodgers
(Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale) and the '96 Blue Jays.