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Saturday, 11 April 2020 18:54

The Ten Worst Trades In Mets History

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The Mets have made some disastrous trades over the years. Of course, the trading away of Nolan Ryan ranks up there as one of the worst in Major League history. And there is that one called the Midnight Massacre that has come to define the Mets futility as an organization.

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the 10 Worst and 10 Best Trades in Mets history. First a look at the 10 Worst Trades made by the Mets:

 

Joe Foy for Amos Otis after 1969 season and retirement of Ed Charles

The Mets seemed to have an endless search for a third baseman. Ed Charles, the popular player known as “The Glider” was already on a decline and his resurgence helped the Mets to a World Championship. But they needed a replacement. They had a talented trio of outfielders in the minor leagues – Amos Otis, Ken Singleton, Leroy Stanton – all considered five-tool athletes. They attempted to get Otis to move to third base. That didn’t work very well so they shipped him off to Kansas City for Foy. Foy posted a career-best .373 OBP while hitting .236/.373/.329 with 6 home runs and 37 RBI in 322 at-bats with the Mets in 1970. But that doesn't paint an accurate picture.

According to a story conveyed by Jerry Koosman, Foy fell under the influence of his old friends in the Bronx. In the first game of one doubleheader, Koosman and others thought he was high, especially when he walked in front of manager Gil Hodges the dugout during a pitch and started cheering. Still, Hodges started him at third base in the second game. The first batter hit a hard ground ball by Foy. He never even saw it, but even after it went by him, he kept punching his glove and yelling, "Hit it to me, hit it to me."

At Shea Stadium for a game with my grandfather, I personally saw him running for a foul ball outside of the third baseline yelling, “I GOT IT…I GOT IT!” He got it. He got hit on the top of the head with it and it bounced into the stands. He was soon bounced out of town.

Jim Fregosi for Nolan Ryan and Leroy Stanton, Don Rose, Frank Estrada after 1971 season

After the Mets tried another veteran third baseman, Bob Aspromonte, and after another one failed, they decided to take a novel approach. Go out and get a former All Star shortstop and convert him into a third baseman. OK…so the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez and slid him in next to Derek Jeter. But Jim Fregosi was no Alex Rodriguez.You always have to give up something to get something. We know that. Giving up on Nolan Ryan was clearly an ill-conceived decision. But the fact that the Mets also had to give up three other players, including Stanton, a highly-touted five-tool talent is incomprehensible for an aging shortstop to play a position that needed a power bat.

Given what Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were able to accomplish, Ryan frustrated the Mets with his control issues. In five seasons with New York, Ryan posted a 3.58 ERA and averaged 8.7 strikeouts per 9 innings -- solid enough numbers for those times…multi-year, million dollar contract numbers in today’s world. This is what Mets GM Bob Scheffing said: "But we've had him three full years and, although he's a hell of a prospect, he hasn't done it for us. How long can you wait?... "I can't rate him in the same category with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Gary Gentry." Ugh!!! We all know what he did after leaving the Mets.

Rusty Staub for Ken Singleton, Tim Foli, and Mke Jorgensen during spring training 1972

In addition to jettisoning Nolan Ryan to California, the Mets worked to bring in an established big bat by obtaining Rusty Staub. Many people would get irate for saying “obtaining” Rusty was a bad trade. But, in hindsight, it was. The Mets did not get the best Rusty Staub, even though he amassed 500 hits as a member of the club during his years with them. His best years were with the Astros, Expos, and Tigers, where he amassed 500 hits with each of those clubs as well.

The Mets gave up the third of the triumvirate of highly touted outfielders, Ken Singleton (Otis and Stanton being the other two). Singleton would go on to be a big-time hitter for the Expos and then the Orioles for many years. A switch-hitting power and RBI bat that the Mets coveted, and, ironically, continue to covet all these years later. The few years that Staub gave the Mets in his first tour of duty with the Mets after that trade, was not worth the cost of Singleton.

The Mets also gave up on shortstop Tim Foli who became an above average player with the Pirates, and Mike Jorgensen, a slick-fielding first baseman who also was a more than capable centerfielder, who had a solid career for the Expos and Cardinals. Both would return later to play for the Mets, as would Staub to finish his career.

Del Unser, John Stearns, Mac Scarce for Tug McGraw, Don Hahn, Dave Schneck after the 1974 season

I loved Del Unser when I saw him play for the Washington Senators. And I was happy to see him come to the Mets to be their new centerfielder. However, sending away Tug McGraw was a huge mistake. McGraw was a leader in the clubhouse. But that is probably what led to his departure. M. Donald Grant didn’t like that. So he ordered him shipped out. McGraw had already been around a long time. Most people don’t even know that he was originally a starter…who beat Sandy Koufax in a matchup in 1965. So one could say that he was probably done by the time he was traded. But he wasn’t. And he led the Phillies’ resurgence and helped them to a World Championship.

Unser, probably would've hit .300 in 1975, his first year as a Met, if not for a rib injury late in the season that hampered his swing. He finished at .294 with 10 homers and 53 RBI and had perhaps his finest year defensively roaming Shea's outfield, too. But that was it for him. He fizzled out quickly.Oh, yes, John Stearns. Loved Stearns. Who didn’t? He played with heart. But he had more heart than talent. He was good enough to make a couple of All-Star teams but that is because the only other talent the Mets had at the time was Lee Mazzilli. So you could look at the trade really as McGraw for Stearns. But it still was not worth the cost for the Mets.

Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin for Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton before the 1976 season

Although the trade in which the Mets acquired Rusty Staub was not a good one for the Mets, the one trading him away, was exponentially worse. In December of 1975, for whatever reason, the Mets decided to get rid of their most productive hitter. Rusty was another outspoken clubhouse leader and that was a no-no in Mets land. And somewhere in the minds of the Mets front office, the logic was that they could acquire another ace for their pitching staff.

Mickey Lolich was a World Series hero, winning three games for the Tigers. However, that was 1968, seven years earlier. Lolich was 35 years old and, after 17 years in the Tigers organization, was grossly overweight, and over-the-hill. He didn’t want to be traded, and he didn’t want to be in New York. So the Mets had to throw money at him to get him to agree to the trade. The money apparently didn’t inspire him at all…because he was just not good.The Mets also received a lefty hitting outfielder named Billy Baldwin who never made it, and never made the fans forget Le Grande Orange.

Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn, Dan Norman for Tom Seaver at the trade deadline on June 15, 1977

The day that lives in infamy for every Mets fan is June 15, 1977 better known as The Midnight Massacre. That’s the day that M. Donald Grant signed his own death warrant, becoming the most hated man in New York sports history.  Long before the days of Jeff Wilpon and James Dolan, Grant showed how much of prick someone could be. For he was the one that commissioned the trade that sent Tom Seaver, The Franchise, the most beloved player in Mets history, out of town for a mere bag of balls.

I’m sorry, that is not to knock the four players who came to the Mets. But they never had a chance. Nothing they did was going to make up for what the Mets gave up in Seaver.

Steve Henderson was supposed to be a five-tool outfielder. He seemed to be pretty good at the start, but could never live up to the promise that he brought with him. Pat Zachary was a not going to remind anyone of the man he replaced in the rotation. He was okay with a heavy hitting team like the Reds, but was never going to survive with the light hitting Mets. And he didn’t. Doug Flynn was one of the best fielding second baseman you could ever find. He was a joy to watch. Really. But he was a better country singer than he was a hitter. Great field. Great guy. Great singer. No hit. And there is Dan Norman. Dan who? We’ll leave it at that.

Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert for Dave Kingman June 15, 1977

Another part of M. Donald Grant’s demolition project was kicking Dave Kingman out of town. Kingman always danced to the beat of his own drum. But he would hit monster shots…MONSTER shots. I can just imagine what HIS exit velocity was. And I think about how may home runs he would have hit if he were playing today.While the Mets got a virtual bag of balls for Tom Seaver, what did they get for Kingman? Believe it or not, the Mets got an infielder/outfielder named Bobby Valentine. Yes…THAT Bobby Valentine. But Valentine was useless as a player for the Mets…hanging on for a season and a half…while Kingman went on to slug 48 home runs as a member of the Cubs in 1979 and many more after that. Paul Siebert was just another in a long line of lefty relievers tried by the Mets who was not very successful.

Juan Samuel for Lenny Dystra and Roger McDowell on June 19, 1989

One of the most head-scratching trades made was when the Mets acquired second baseman Juan Samuel from the Phillies for Roger McDowell and Lenny Dykstra. McDowell and Dykstra were two of the players that were the heart of those late 80’s teams. However, they were both free spirits who were out of control…more Dykstra than McDowell. It probably got to a point that Manager Davey Johnson could no longer control. Mets history shows that, if you are not a good little soldier, you are shipped out. And so it was.But why bring in Samuel? The Mets had already awarded second base to prospect Gregg Jefferies, probably the most hated person to ever play for the Mets. Oh…wait…that may be the reason why McDowell and Dykstra were shipped out. Hmmmmm

But what to do with Samuel. Throw him out in centerfield? Well…watching him play centerfield…or rather TRY to play centerfield was like watching Joe Foy play third base in 1970. He looked like he was stoned.Well he couldn’t play centerfield, and he suddenly couldn’t hit either. He was brutal. McDowell and Dykstra? They went on to lead the Phillies to the 1993 World Series. I guess we could thank Gregg Jefferies for that one? On a side note, the manager of that 1993 World Series team? Jim Fregosi.

Frank Viola for Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond, Jack Savage on July 31, 1989

At the trade deadline in 1989, the Mets desperate to make a run and sure up their injury-riddled rotation, pulled off a trade for the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and New York native Frank Viola.

And while Frank Viola would have a 20-win season for the Mets a year later, the price was way too high. Viola would not have a long career with the Mets and would never have the sustained success he had while with the Twins. On the other hand, Rick Aguilera, a nice fourth or fifth starter with the Mets, became the dominant closer in the American League and was a huge part of the success of the Twins World Series championship team in 1991. For that matter, Kevin Tapani became an effective No. 2 starter behind Jack Morris in the Twins rotation, and David West was also successful as a lefty swingman, both starting and relieving for years.

Bottom line, the Mets way overpaid to get, basically, one good year out of Viola, and his addition made no impact when they acquired him during the 1989 stretch run.

Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinosa for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino July 31, 1996

At the trade deadline in 1996 the Mets acquired All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga along with former Yankees shortstop Alvaro Espinosa for second baseman Jeff Kent and shortstop Jose Vizcaino. On the surface, it looked like the Mets might have gotten a slight edge in the deal, after all, Baerga had been having a great career.  But why in the world would the Indians trade one of their stars in the middle of their little dynasty of the 90’s? Well, as would happen with every other star second baseman acquired by the Mets, Baerga’s career would quickly fizzle out. See https://newyorkmetsmania.com/index.php/item/80-kent-couldn-t-escape-from-the-mets-black-hole

And while Baerga fizzled, Kent, well, he took off and put together numbers worthy of entrance into the Hall of Fame. The problem with Kent simply seemed to be that the press just didn’t take to him, he was never well-liked, and his range at second base was widely criticized. So off he went.

Next up: The Ten Best Trades In Mets History

Read 1661 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 April 2020 03:59
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About New York Mets Mania

Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.