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Evaluating the History of Mets - Yankees Trades

By Mike Silva ~ January 18th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, NY Baseball Memories.

Yesterday, Howard suggested the Mets and Yankees swap Mike Pelfrey for Joba Chamberlain. It got me to thinking about the history of these teams making deals. It’s rare when they get together, and when they do, it’s never been a blockbuster in the form of what Howard suggested. Let’s take a look at all the cross-town trades made to date:

December 9, 1977 - Mets traded Roy Staiger to the New York Yankees for Sergio Ferrer: Could there ever be a more boring trade in the history of either franchise? Staiger was a 3b/SS with no power, who was traded for Ferrer an infielder with no power. At least Staiger hit a little (.278) in 1976. I call this one even.

April 18, 1983 - Mets traded a player to be named later and Steve Ray (minors) to the Yankees for Tucker Ashford. The Mets sent Felix Perdomo (minors) (May 3, 1983) to the Yankees to complete the trade: Ashford hit .179 in for the Mets as a backup infielder in 1983. Ray and Perdomo never saw big league action. Yawn.

December 11, 1987 - Mets traded Rafael Santana and Victor Garcia (minors) to the Yankees for Darren Reed, Phil Lombardi, and Steve Frey: This one was interesting. Santana was the starting shortstop for the Mets since 1985. The presence of top prospect Kevin Elster made Santana expendable in the winter of ’87. The Yankees needed someone who could catch the ball and play every day at short. The prospects the Mets received never panned out, although each had some upside. Reed was coming off a 28 homer season in the minors, Lombardi profiled as a decent backup catcher, and Frey was a lefty reliever. None would play a significant role with the Mets. Reed became known for his spring training exploits, but never seemed to be good enough to make the team, Lombardi received 48 at bats in 1989 when Gary Carter was injured, and Frey’s best seasons came in Montreal and California as a middle reliever. Overall not a bad haul for a weak hitting shortstop. On the other hand, Santana played only one season for the Yankees and hit .240 with 4 homers. He would spend the entire ’89 season on the DL, and was released after the season. Again, this trade didn’t really pan out for either side.

July 10, 1989 - Mets traded Marcus Lawton to the Yankees for Scott Nielsen: Marcus brother Matt was the better known ballplayer in the Lawton family. If you remember Matt Lawton played for the Mets in 2001, when he was acquired midseason from Minnesota for Rick Reed. Marcus had 14 at bats for the Yankees after the July trade, while Nielsen spent the next two seasons at Tidewater as a swingman.

June 9, 1992 - Mets traded Tim Burke to the Yankees for Lee Guetterman. This actually worked out for the Yankees. Burke was struggling after a solid 1991 season with the Mets. After going to the Bronx he posted a 3.25 ERA. Guetterman was terrible with the Mets, striking out 3 batters per nine and posting an ERA of 5.75. He added to the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” lore.

September 17, 1993 - Mets traded Frank Tanana to the Yankees for Kenny Greer: The Mets were in the midst of a 100 loss season, while the Yankees needed some pitching to catch Toronto the last two weeks of the season. Tanana was a bright spot for the Mets as he went 7-15, with a 4.48 ERA. He would go 0-2 with the Yankees, but pitch decently in all three of his starts. Kenny Greer pitched on perfect inning, striking out two, in his lone Mets appearance.

December 7, 2001:  Mets traded Robin Ventura to the Yankees for David Justice. This was a deal that worked out well for the Yankees. Just a year earlier, Justice was a key acquisition at midseason to help the Yankees win the AL East. You could argue that, without Justice, they miss the playoffs in 2000. Ventura was a popular Met who won a Gold Glove in 1999 and drove in 117 runs. He was injured in 2000 and 2001, so the Mets decided to send him across town after they acquired Roberto Alomar. They subsequently flipped Justice to Oakland for Mark Guthrie. Ventura made the All Star Team in 2002 with the Yankees (27, 93, .247), while Guthrie was pretty decent as a situational lefty in the ’02 Mets bullpen (2.44 ERA). Who would have predicted that Ventura would have a better season than Hall of Famer Alomar? Yankees made out on this one big time.

July 16, 2003 - Mets traded Armando Benitez to the Yankees for Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia (minors), and Ryan Bicondoa (minors): Amazing how the Yankees would bring Benitez across town after his checkered history with the team. In addition to the brawl he started as a member of the Orioles in 1998, Benitez had blown numerous saves against the Yankees in the regular season and 2000 World Series. He lasted three weeks before they flipped him to Seattle for Jeff Nelson. None of the three minor leaguers were worth much. Jason Anderson was the only one to get time with the Mets, pitching in six games the rest of the season. It worked out better for the Yankees since it yielded Nelson, a useful bullpen piece for a pennant winning team.

December 3, 2004 -Mets traded Mike Stanton to the Yankees for Felix Heredia. Felix Heredia where have you gone? The Mets sent Stanton, scheduled to make $4 million in 2005, to the Yankees for Felix Heredia, who was only going to make $1.8 million. Heredia would pitch in three games, not give up a run, but suffer an aneurysm in his arm that ended his career. Stanton was terrible in his second Bronx stint, pitching to an ERA over seven. He would pitch for four teams the next two years before retiring.

As you can see none of these deals worked out for either side. The Ventura deal is the one that you could argue was profitable for the Yankees, but the Mets did secure a situational lefty for Justice. To be fair, no one could have predicted that Ventura/Alfonzo would have been a better combo in 2002 than Alfonzo/Alomar.

If the Mets swapped Joba for Pelfrey history states that something incredibly strange will happen where neither player will be of much use for either side.

For what it’s worth, they should just refrain from making any future deals based on the historical benchmark we have to date.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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5 Responses to Evaluating the History of Mets - Yankees Trades

  1. Rufus T. Firefly

    Frank Tanana was a knuckleball pitcher?

    In what alternate universe?

  2. Mike Silva

    If I remember correctly at the end of his career

  3. Rufus T. Firefly

    Mike, you don’t remember correctly.

  4. Russ

    That jumped out at me too. I don’t remember Tanana ever trying to hang on as a knuckleballer. I believe he was still throwing junk just FAR slower than he did before.

    Tucker Ashford was actually a big time prospect for a while. Speaking of big time prospects (who flopped), I seem to recall another deal where the Yankees got former Mets’ top prospect John Pacella, known as the guy who’s hat flew off on every (wild) pitch. Maybe I’m wrong, but does anyone remember this?

    Wasn’t Santana originally a Yankees’ draft pick? Did the Mets get him in the Rule 5 draft? Of course the ironic part of that deal, is that a few years later the Yanks would end up with Kevin Elster too. (George’s ’86 Mets fixation at work) At that point, I believe Elster finally started to hit that Spring but he was quickly let go because he showed up at the ballpark drunk or hung over often. At least that’s the rumor I heard.

  5. Mike Silva

    You guys are right. I jumped the gun on the Tanana knuckleball, apparently my 17 year old mind remembers Tanana pitching slow, but confused it with a knuckler. He did have shoulder surgery and went from a fireballer to a slop pitcher.

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