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.