It could be argued that the Indians dynasty of the 1990s actually began Dec. 6, 1989.
Carter was the Tribe’s marquee slugger for the 1980s, hitting 151 dingers for the Tribe from 1984-1989. But he was a free agent after the 1990 season, and new Indians general manager Hank Peters decided that if he couldn’t re-sign Carter, he would trade him. Carter had turned down a five-year, $9.6 million deal after the 1988 season.
Carter had already been the keystone of a mutually beneficial trade for the Indians, coming over in the deal that sent Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubs. Now, he would be part of another.
The Indians started shopping Carter around, and had no shortage of suitors. The Padres wanted him. The Angels wanted him. The Red Sox, according to the Plain Dealer, offered Mike Greenwell for Carter straight up, and the Cardinals, Royals and Blue Jays were also suitors. Carter was the main topic of conversation at the winter meetings in Nashville.
The Indians finally closed the deal on Dec. 6. The deal was likened to Frank Lane’s trade of Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Lane likened it to trading hamburger for steak, but it turned out to be steak that was past its prime.
The free-agent signing of Keith Hernandez sucked all the air out of the room in Cleveland, but it was the Carter deal on which the Indians made out. Alomar, who wouldn’t get a chance to break into the Padres’ everyday lineup behind Benito Santiago, became the Indians’ American League Rookie of the Year in 1990, and was one of the mainstays of those teams of the 1990s. Baerga – who was insisted on as part of the deal by Cleveland – was moved to second base from third, and also had a productive career with the Indians. James spent two years in Cleveland before becoming a free agent.
The Blue Jays, who dropped out of contention for Carter with the Indians, ended up getting him after the 1990 season, and he helped Toronto win back-to-back World Series – including the 1991 series, which he ended with a home run.
The dealbreaker between the Indians and the Blue Jays was, of all people, Tony Fernandez, who went to San Diego with Fred McGriff for Carter and Sandy Alomar’s brother Roberto. The Jays wouldn’t part with him. Eight years later, he, more than any one player, was responsible for the Tribe making their second World Series appearance in three years.