There are times when teams make trades they appear bad in hindsight. The classic example of this was the Nolan Ryan trade. Ryan was an enigmatic right-hander the Mets just couldn’t quite figure out, and they were going to get a former All-Star in Jim Fregosi to handle third. At the time, it made sense, but as time passed it looked worse and worse.
Then there is the Robinson Cano trade.
This was a trade deemed flat out dumb at its inception. It wasn’t just that Cano had what many perceived to be an untradeable contract. That was partially because he was already in his mid 30s. Mostly, it was because he was coming off of a PED suspension which should have cast serious doubt over not only his career stats, but also his ability to produce as he aged. Of course, Brodie Van Wagenen was the one person who actually bought the bogus explanation.
Brodie says he's comfortable with Cano and the violation. Said it was a suspension for a diaretic not steroids.
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) December 4, 2018
Despite all the red flags and warnings, Van Wagenen went forward to rescue his former client from Seattle to return him to New York like Cano wanted. In the process, he made what ranks among the worst, if not the worst, trades in all of Mets history. Certainly, it is easily the worst Mets trade this century.
Each and every year which passes, this trade gets worse and worse. To put it in perspective, all we need to do is examine where the pieces of this trade are and will be in 2021:
Gerson Bautista – after dealing with injury issues has signed a minor league deal to return to the Seattle Mariners.
Jay Bruce – Free agent whose $14 million is off the books available for now the Philadelphia Phillies to invest this offseason.
Justin Dunn – projected to be part of the Mariners Opening Day rotation after posting a 104 ERA+ over the past two seasons. Notably, the Mets are looking to build not only a 2021 pitching rotation, but also pitching depth.
Jarred Kelenic – widely seen as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and he may very well make his MLB debut at some point during the 2021 season.
Anthony Swarzak – did not pitch last year after making $8.5 million in 2019.
Edwin Diaz – after a terrible 2019, he rebounded to have a strong 2020 season albeit one with four blown saves in 10 attempts. The question for him in 2021 is whether his good year, bad year pattern continues.
Really, Diaz is it for the Mets return because Cano is not going to play in 2021. There is now a question about whether he actually plays another game again. Certainly, you could argue the Mets would look to buy him out at some point or just flat out release him. Who knows?
The only thing we do know is Cano is out of baseball in 2021. Perhaps, that is a large reason why Van Wagenen and the person who hired him, Jeff Wilpon, will also be out of baseball. In fact, this trio may very well be and probably should be out for good. That will give them all a front row seat to seeing Kelenic and Dunn lead the Mariners organization back to postseason contention.
To put in perspective how well thought of Gary Gentry was, when the ill-fated trade for Jim Fregosi went down, the Angels initially asked for Gentry, and they were rebuffed. That led to them “settling” for Nolan Ryan. Back in 1971, this made a lot of sense.
In 1969, Gentry was a rookie for that Miracle Mets team which shocked the world and won the World Series. Gentry would have his moments during that rookie season, but it was a mostly pedestrian season where he served as an effective third starter behind Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. However, Gentry would do something that year neither Seaver nor Koosman would do.
The first postseason ever thrown at Shea Stadium was by Gentry. It wasn’t a great start with him leaving after two innings, but he was the pitcher who started the game where the Mets clinched their first ever pennant. Gentry would repeat that history in the World Series, and things would go much better for him.
Gentry would start Game 3 of the World Series, and as such, he became the first ever pitcher to throw a pitch in the World Series in Shea Stadium. After Koosman shut down the Orioles in Game 2, the Mets were in this series, and they had a chance no one never thought they would. They took full advantage.
What made this game interesting for the Mets was this was the first time in the series there was purportedly a clear pitching advantage for the Orioles with them starting future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. However, on this day, the Mets would be the better team and Gentry the better pitcher.
That Game 3 will forever be known for Tommie Agee. He had a lead-off homer and made two great defensive plays. What has been overlooked was how good Gentry was. Over 6.2 innings, he shut out the Orioles while allowing just three hits albeit while walking five. As a result, Gentry would become the first ever pitcher to win a World Series game at Shea Stadium.
This was one of the most important starts in Mets history. With this great start, the Mets took a 2-1 lead, and they were about to hand the ball to Seaver and Koosman. The rest, as we know, is history.
That game would be the apex of Gentry’s career, but to be fair, it would be the apex of just about anyone’s career. There were some issues for Gentry including his temper. At times, he would show his frustration and show up fielders. His biggest issue would be his arm problems, which the Mets never could quite diagnose and fix.
As a result, at the time, he was seen more as a disappoint and a what could’ve been. After all, this was a pitcher the Mets thought was better than Ryan. It wasn’t just the Mets who felt that way. That was a common perception. Regardless of all of that, Gentry was still a good pitcher for the Mets with a 103 ERA+ posting the 10th most shutouts in team history. Overall, Gentry was the best Mets player to ever don the number 39.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
For many Mets fans, the number 11 is associated with Tim Teufel and the Teufel Shuffle, or Ruben Tejada, who went from frustrating player to folk hero when he was attacked by Chase Utley at second base in Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS. That said, when you go through Mets history, Wayne Garrett is the Mets player who wore number 11 who stands above the rest.
Garrett was first obtained from the Mets because the team felt they needed an effective backup to Bud Harrelson, who was dealing with knee issues in the offseason. As a result, the team obtained him in the Rule 5 Draft. As a Rule 5 pick, the Mets had to use him or lose him in 1969, so they would up using him.
During that 1969 season, he would bounce all over the infield. Ultimately, he would find himself in some sort of a rotation at second with Ken Boswell and Al Weis at second, but mostly, he played third where he split time with Ed Charles.
Over the first two months of the season, he was a sensation, and he would prove himself defensively. After the year wore on, he regressed significantly at the plate. In the game before the famous black cat game, Garrett broke the tie with a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth. As great as that was, his best work was in the postseason.
In the Mets shocking three game sweep of the favored Atlanta Braves, Garrett hit .385/.467/.769 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI. It was his two run homer in Game 3 which put the Mets ahead for good and sent them to their first World Series. Garrett didn’t have much of an impression in the World Series, but he was a key part of that team nevertheless.
Garrett’s career from that point was marked by the Mets looking to bring someone over him, like Jim Fregosi, and Garrett outplaying and outlasting that player. The Mets were lucky that was the case as Garrett was one of the best players on that team. In fact, by WAR, Garrett was the best position player on that team.
In that 1973 season, Garrett hit .256/.348/.403, and he had a career best 4.3 WAR. More than that, he rose to the occasion. He hit leadoff and was a sparkplug. He would also lead the team in game winning hits. That included four in September when the Mets needed every last win they could get to win the division.
Garrett didn’t have many hits that 1973 postseason, but when he got them, he made sure they counted. In Game 2, he homered in the Mets victory. He would hit a lead-off homer in the next game, one which the Mets unfortunately lost.
Overall, Garrett would set what was then a World Series record with 11 strikeouts, and he would pop out to short to end the series. Still, there is no way the Mets ever get to that point without Garrett.
One interesting note to consider with Garrett was when he came to the Mets, they went from perennial loser to World Series champions. In his eight years with the Mets, they had a winning record in seven of those years. That’s a remarkable feat considering the Mets didn’t have a winning record in the their first seven years.
After the Mets traded him in 1976, the Mets would not have a winning record again until 1984. In fact, they’d finish in last place in five of the ensuing seven seasons. You can’t put all of that on him, but certainly moving on from a versatile player and leader like Garrett took its toll on the franchise.
By the time Garrett left the Mets, he was the all-time leader in games played at third. He was also fifth all-time in WAR among position players. He was also the all-time leader in walk rate, and he was second in OBP and walks. Today, he is still fifth all-time in walks, and he still has the best walk rate out of any Mets player who has played at least 500 games.
Overall, Garrett was an important player in Mets history, and to a certain extent, he was the first ever player who represented an answer to a murky third base position. He was a leader, could get on base, and ultimately, was the best Mets player to ever wear the number 11.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Garrett was the 11th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 11.
(4) Bud Harrelson – First Mets player to ever inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Two time All-Star and first infielder to ever win a Gold Glove. Started a brawl with Pete Rose during the 1973 NLCS. Only person on the field for both the 1969 and 1986 World Series.
(13) Nolan Ryan – First and only Hall of Fame player drafted by the Mets organization to debut with the team. Earned a win in the 1969 NLCS clinching game and a save in Game 3 of the World Series. Best known not for his time pitching with the Mets but rather for the trade which netted the Mets Jim Fregosi.
In Mets history, there have been a number of people who have worn the number 2, and to some extent it is an almost cursed number in team history. Perhaps that is a function of Marvelous Marv Throneberry being one of the first people to ever wear the uniform.
Over time, we would see many wear the number and fall far short of expectations. It was the number of Jim Fregosi. It was also the number of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini. It was also the number of Justin Turner who had better days after leaving the Mets.
Seeing all the number is and what is represents, perhaps Mackey Sasser is the best Mets player to ever to wear the number.
Knowing Gary Carter‘s days being a top catcher were going to be limited, the Mets were proactive, and they addressed the future of the position by obtaining Sasser from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the eve of the 1988 season. That would make Sasser the back-up catcher for the Mets last division title of the century.
That 1988 season was the worst of Carter’s career, and the Mets needed their back-up catcher to contribute more than in year’s past. That season he was an above-average offensive catcher. In fact, he was better than that with his having the sixth best wRC+ among National League catchers with at least 90 PA.
That was the case for his two year tenure as Carter’s back-up. It was Sasser’s play which allowed the Mets to feel comfortable making the very difficult decision in releasing Carter at the end of the year to hand the reigns to Sasser. In 1990, Sasser would reward the Mets faith in him.
In 1990, Sasser would play a career high 100 games that season, and he would catch a career high 87 games. During that season, he would do what had been previously impossible by becoming the first Mets catcher to throw out Vince Coleman attempting to steal a base.
Up until that time, Coleman was a perfect 57/57 in stolen base attempts against his future team. Aside from the throwing highlight, Sasser proved his offense could withstand a heavier defensive workload with his being now the fifth best offensive catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, this season would be it for Sasser behind the plate.
The beginning of the end came on July 8, 1990. In that game against the Atlanta Braves, Sasser was already 2-for-3 at the plate raising his season stats to .336/.381/.455. In the game, Jim Presley ran over Sasser at the plate. Sasser would get the out (he was quite adept at the tag), but he would depart the game with a badly sprained ankle.
From there, Mackey Sasser Disease, the cousin of Steve Blass Disease was born. Sasser would soon begin having issues throwing the ball back to the catcher. This effectively ended his career even with the Mets keeping him around a few more years as a backup and utility player.
That would not be the end of Sasser’s impact upon baseball or the Mets. As it turns out, Sasser wanted answers to why he had the yips. He would seek them out, and as he said to Anthony McCarron then of the New York Daily News, he got that help from Dr. David Grand.
With that help, he was able to successfully be able to throw the ball again, and he would not have issues doing things like throwing batting practice. That would partially help him have a coaching career. In that coaching career, he would again help the New York Mets.
During his coaching career, Sasser would find himself coaching a young infielder named T.J. Rivera at Troy University. When Rivera was undrafted, Sasser called to the Mets and recommended the team sign him. This would eventually lead to Rivera becoming the team’s everyday second baseman in September 2016 and helping that Mets team claim the top Wild Card spot.
More than that, Sasser has made himself available to help those players who have had potentially career altering yips the way he once did. That included calling up Mike Pelfrey when the young right-hander was experiencing issues with balks.
Overall, Sasser not only helped the Mets as a player, but he did what he could do to help the organization after his playing career was over. As we saw, he did hit part to help save Pelfrey’s career, and he helped launch Rivera’s. Even with Turner having his moments and Juan Uribe becoming an instant Mets folk hero, it is difficult to argue any Mets player who wore the number 2 having a bigger impact on the franchise than he.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Sasser was the second best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 2.
On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
On August 22, 1973, the Mets won their second game in a row to raise the Mets record to 57-67 leaving them 6.0 games out in the National League East behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.
From that point forward, the Mets would be the hottest team in baseball going 25-12 carrying them to an unlikely division championship. The Mets rode the hot streak to beat the Big Red Machine 3-2 in a best of five NLCS, and they came within a win of disrupting the Oakland A’s dynasty.
The popular story was the Mets were spurred by Tug McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe!” after a M.Donald Grant “pep talk” in July. However, the truth is that team just got healthy at the right time, and when the team was at 100%, they were among the best teams in baseball.
During that year, the team was hampered by injuries. Jerry Grote, John Milner, Bud Harrelson, and Cleon Jones all missed significant time. Rusty Staub player through injuries all year. On top of that phenom Jon Matlack was having a down year a year removed from winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He was joined by Jerry Koosman in having a surprising down year. Willie Mays looked to be every bit of his 42 years of age. Young fill-ins like Don Hahn just were not producing. The Mets were forced to do anything they could do to improve the team like releasing dead weight like Jim Fregosi. About all that went right that season for the Mets was Tom Seaver; that and the fact that no one ran away with the division allowing the Mets to enter the postseason with an 82-79 record.
Isn’t that what this Mets season has been. With Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Adrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, we have seen this Mets team be hampered time and again by injuries. We have seen countless Mets play through injuries like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz with their bone spurs. We’ve seen replacements like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds not play up to snuff. Players like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto had surprising down years. About the only thing that has gone right for the Mets this year is the fact that Jacob deGrom has continued to pitch like an ace, and the fact that no one has ran away with the second Wild Card spot.
Maybe, just maybe, this is 1973 all over again. That 1973 team was much further back in both the standings and more teams to leapfrog in the standings. All they needed to do was to get healthy and to get hot. Right now, with Cespedes back and hitting home runs for the Mets again, this team is healthy, and they are on the verge of getting hot. If that happens, the Mets can very well take that second Wild Card spot and get into the postseason.
As we saw in 1973 as well as last year, with great Mets pitching, the Mets can beat anyone in the postseason. They can shock the world. Anything is possible so long as they get hot and get into the postseason.
There are two times when any particular trade is judged. The first is when the trade is initially made. People look at the value derived from both teams and make a determination. The second is when the players involved play for their respective teams. These impressions are much longer lasting, and at times, these trades become quite infamous.
On December 10, 1971, a pitching rich Mets organization traded their fifth or sixth starter Nolan Ryan along with three other players for Jim Fregosi. It could be argued it was a shrewd move as Ryan was 29-38 with the Mets, and the Mets were acquiring six time All Star Fregosi to fill a position of need. It was done to help improve a team thought to be a possible World Series contender.
Ryan played more years than any other player. He won 324 games. He set all time records for strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (7). Fregosi played two years for the Mets hitting .233/.319/.328 in two season. The Mets are now universally panned for this trade.
On August 12, 1987, the Detroit Tigers traded prospect John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander. The Tigers were 1.5 behind the Blue Jays in the AL East race. Alexander would go 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for a Tiger team that would win the division by two games. He would go 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA in an ALCS the Tigers lost in five games. Alexander made the All Star team for the Tigers in 1988, and he would follow that with a league leading 18 loss season in 1989.
Smoltz pitched 20 years for the Braves. In his career, he was 213-155 with 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA. He took his game to another level in the postseason. In 41 postseason games (27 starts), he was 15-4 with four saves and a 2.67 ERA. He was the 1992 NLCS MVP, and he was a member of the 1995 Braves World Series Championship team. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2015. The Tigers are now universally panned for this trade.
On August 30, 1990, the Boston Red Sox traded prospect Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson. The Red Sox had a 6.5 game lead and were trying to sure up the bullpen for the postseason. In the regular season, Anderson pitched in 15 games. He had a 1.23 ERA and one save. In the ALCS, he was 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three appearances. The Red Sox were swept by the Athletics, and Anderson would go to the Phillies in the offseason.
Bagwell made his debut a year after the trade, and he would win the Rookie of the Year Award. He would win an MVP, be named to four All Star teams, three Silver Sluggers, and a Gold Glove. Last year, he received 71.6% of the Hall of Fame votes. He appears to be on track to be elected next year. The Red Sox are now universally panned for this trade.
On July 7, 2008, the Cleveland Indians traded CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for four prospects headlined by Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley (PTBNL). The Brewers were four games out and in third place in the NL Central. They were a half a game out of the Wild Card. Sabathia would make 17 starts, many on short rest, for the Brewers going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. The Brewers won the Wild Card on the last game of the season. Sabathia started that last game allowing only one run in a complete game win.
In his lone NLDS start, a fatigued Sabathia would only last 3.2 innings while allowing five runs in a Game Two loss. The Brewers would lose the series, and Sabathia would sign with the Yankees in the offseason.
LaPorta lasted only four years for the Indians hitting .238/.301/.393. He hasn’t played a major league game since 2012. Brantley is in his eighth season for the Indians. He has hit .293/.349/.422 in his career. In 2014, he was an All Star, won the Silver Slugger, and he finished third in the MVP voting. The Brewers now receive universal praise for the trade.
On July 31, 2015, a pitching rich Mets organization traded Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes. At the time of the trade, the Mets trailed the Nationals by three games in the NL East. Cespedes would hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homeruns and 44 RBI. The Mets would win the NL East by seven games. Cespedes hit .222/.232/.352 with two homers and eight RBI. He signed a three year deal with the Mets with an opt out after one year. To date, a vast amount of Mets fans approve of the trade.
Cessa was traded by the Tigers to the Yankees. He made his major league debut this year pitching two innings and allowing one earned in his only appearance. He was sent down to Triple-A. It is too early to tell what will become of his career.
Fulmer was the Tigers main target in the Cespedes trade. Fulmer was a first round pick by the Mets in the 2011 draft. In a deep system stocked with pitching talent, he was a well regarded prospect. Once he became a Tiger, he quickly became their top prospect.
Tonight is his first career start. It will be not only the first chapter in his career, but it will also be the first chapter on how we judge what the Tigers received in exchange for Cespedes.
Almost immediately, the Mets wish they could’ve undone the Fregosi trade. Anderson and Alexander undoubtedly helped their teams, but in retrospect, the Red Sox and Tigers wish they could’ve undone those trades. On the other hand, the Brewers are pleased with their trade.
We’re about to start finding out where the Cespedes trade falls in Nolan Ryan to CC Sabathia spectrum.