Thursday, August 19, 2004

Trading Aces, Head Cases, and Second Bases

Last week I ineptly deleted a piece that contained a look at the best and worst trades in Mets history. As you'll soon see, it probably wasn't worth the time to re-issue it, but as discussions go, this is . . . one of them.

The David Weathers for Richard Hidalgo (not addressing the lesser inclusions) deal looks extremely lopsided at this point. Hidalgo received new life when arrived in New York, and Weathers . . . well, he's been getting clubbed just as much in Houston as he did for the Mets. Even the Mets' narcoleptic bats woke up against their former mate.

Meanwhile, Mets Township is fearing the worst after Victor Zambrano's elbow news, while Scott Kazmir is lighting it up and could be on his way to the bigs as early as next week. That one might leave a mark.

So, my question is: what were the best and worst trades in the brief but adventuresome history of the New York Mets? We'll start with the worst.

The Worst

December 10, 1971: Received Jim Fregosi from the Angels for Nolan Ryan, Don Rose, Leroy Stanton, and Frank Estrada. Frego had a .232/5/32 year and was sold to Texas mid-way through the next year. Nolan Ryan . . . oh, don't make me type out what he did.

April 5, 1972: Received Rusty Staub from the Expos for Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgensen, and Tim Foli. Rusty was a good player, but Singleton was very good, and Jorgensen & Foli were good enough that the Mets later re-acquired them both.

December 3, 1974: Received Del Unser, Mac Scarce and John Stearns from the Phillies for Tug McGraw, Don Hahn, and Dave Schneck. Unser also lasted a year and a half, while Stearns was serviceable; Tug went on to similarly inspire the Phils to a World Series.

June 15, 1977: Received Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert from the Padres for Dave Kingman. Bobby V was awful, and Kingman was two years from a HR title. (He was also another re-acquisition.) But this wasn't even the worst trade of the day.

June 15, 1977: Received Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry, Dan Norman, and Doug Flynn from the Reds for Tom Seaver. Tom Seaver. TOM SEAVER. The franchise's all-time wins leader (still). Of course, the Mets picked him back up six years later after he'd won 71 games for the Reds. Meanwhile Steve Henderson contributed only mildly for the Mets until 1981, when he was traded to the Cubs for . . . Dave Kingman.

May 29, 1981: Received Ellis Valentine from the Expos for Jeff Reardon and Dan Norman. Another 1.5-year man for a guy who had recorded just 10 of his eventual 367 saves. And Dan Norman, of course, whose only claim to fame is being a throw-in on two of the worst trades in Met history.

December 10, 1982: Received Danny Heep from the Astros for Mike Scott. I always liked Heep. I guess I'd forgotten what his presence cost the Mets.

December 11, 1986: Received Kevin McReynolds, Adam Ging and Gene Walter from the Padres for Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson, Kevin Mitchell, Kevin Armstrong, and (not the) Kevin Brown. Three years later McReynolds still hadn't fit in, while Mitchell was MVP.

June 18, 1989: Received Juan Samuel from the Phillies for Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and Tom Edens. Every time I think about this one, it's a punch in the gut. Hold on . . . gotta catch my breath.

July 31, 1989: Received Frank Viola from the Twins for Rick Aguilera, David West, Jack Savage, Kevin Tapani, and Tim Drummond. Frankie V won 20 for the Mets, but he only lasted a couple of seasons with the Mets while Tapani went on to win 143 games and Aguilera to save 311.

July 29, 1996: Received Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza from the Indians for Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent. Not only was Kent on the verge of breaking out, it meant we essentially got Baerga and Espinoza for David Cone.

December 1, 1998: Received Armando Benitez from the Orioles for Charles Johnson. The numbers say this wasn't a bad deal. The years off my life say it was.

July 31, 1999: Received Billy Taylor from the Athletics for Jason Isringhausen and Greg McMichael. I guess with Benitez, all those saves weren't necessary.

July 28, 2000: Received Mike Bordick from the Orioles for Lesli Brea, Mike Kinkade, Melvin Mora, and Pat Gorman. The only team to deal with the Orioles over the last decade and lose, the Mets got three months of subpar Bordick for Mora, who has proven versatile in the field and a batting title candidate at the plate.

December 27, 2001: Received Mo Vaughn from the Angels for Kevin Appier. I think we've talked enough about this one, no?

Whew, we need some good news . . .

The Best

December 15, 1967: Received Tommie Agee and Al Weis from the White Sox for Tommy Davis, Jack Fisher, Billy Wynne, and Buddy Booker. Two World Series heroes for . . . not a lot.

[skipping the 1970's: see Trades, Worst for what happened during that decade]

February 10, 1982: Received George Foster from the Reds for Alex Trevino, Jim Kern, and Greg Harris. Cincy still felt bad about the Seaver deal.

April 1, 1982: Received Ron Darling and Walt Terrell from the Rangers for Lee Mazzilli. The Mets reacquired Maz for the title run in '86, Darling was a rock for the 80's, and Terrell got them HoJo.

June 15, 1983: Received Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Keith's off-the-field escapades helped the Mets rob St. Louis blind.

December 8, 1983: Received Sid Fernandez and Ross Jones from the Dodgers for Carlos Diaz and Bob Bailor. Another piece in the rotation puzzle.

December 10, 1984: Received Gary Carter from the Expos for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans. I liked Hubie, but Carter was the final piece. Oh, wait, we need to make one more deal for karmic purposes . . .

November 13, 1985: Received Bob Ojeda, Chris Bayer, Tom McCarthy, and John Mitchell from the Red Sox for Calvin Schiraldi, Wes Gardner, John Christensen, and La Schelle Tarver. There we go. We'll take Ojeda, and you just make sure Schiraldi pitches in Games 6 & 7.

March 27, 1987: Received David Cone and Chris Jelic from the Royals for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson, and Mauro Gozzo. Should've kept Cone for much, much longer.

February 6, 1998: Received Al Leiter and Ralph Milliard from the Marlins for A.J. Burnett, Jesus Sanchez, and Robert Stratton. Burnett is emerging as a future star, but I love Leiter.

May 22, 1998: Received Mike Piazza from the Marlins for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz. Ditto for Wilson and Piazza.

December 1, 1998: Received Charles Johnson and Roger Cedeno from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Todd Hundley and Arnold Gooch. Hundley turned out to be a one-season wonder; that he netted the Mets Benitez and Cedeno should file this under Worst, but it was a good deal at the time.

April 3, 2004: Received Chris Widger and Wilson Delgado from the Cardinals for Roger Cedeno. Uncool.

Not Sure Where to Put These

December 8, 1978: Received Greg Field and Jesse Orosco (named later) from the Twins for Jerry Koosman. A longtime Met starter for a longtime Met reliever, both of whom helped them win a World Series; that Orosco was on the way up and Koosman was approaching the twilight (though he did win 20 for Minnesota in '79) gives the Mets the edge, I'd say.

December 7, 1984: Received Howard Johnson from the Tigers for Walt Terrell. Both went on to produce for a number of years.

December 6, 1989: Received John Franco and Don Brown from the Reds for Randy Myers and Kip Gross. A star for a star, this was great for the Mets. Until now.

December 11, 1991: Received Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota from the Royals for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller. A few fairly big names that ended up disappointing.

September 1, 1992: Received Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson from the Blue Jays for David Cone. Didn't end up working out as well as it might have.

December 11, 2001: Received Roberto Alomar, Danny Peoples, and Mike Bacsik from the Indians Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, Jerrod Riggan, Earl Snyder and Billy Traber. Stink. Stank. Stunk.

So where does that leave us? I'll go with the Nolan Ryan deal for the worst all-time, with the Juan Samuel debacle a close second. Both seemed to set a tone of bad deals for a decade. The best would be either the Keith Hernandez or Gary Carter pick-ups; together they were the pieces de resistance of GM Frank Cashen (arguably the most brilliant fellow ever associated with the Mets). I'm sure there are others I've forgotten, but these comprise many of the biggies. Depending on Hidalgo's off-season contractual progress and Zambrano's elbow/Kazmir's future, these could make their way to the list. Stay tuned.

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