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Mets Historically Don’t Get Value in Deadline Sales

By Mike Silva ~ July 5th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva.

So you’re a proponent of the Mets trading their best assets? Send Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Francisco Rodriguez to the highest bidder? Excited about the possible return? Don’t get too excited, because historically the Mets have never been good sellers at the deadline. Take a look.

1992: The Mets sent David Cone post trade deadline to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Trading Cone, who was in his prime and headed to free agency, was a bad idea as he went on to become a big part of the Yankees dynasty. They should have been focused on signing him to an extension. Kent is a Hall of Fame second baseman; just not with the Mets.

In New York, he was terrible defensively, struck out too much, and didn’t hit nearly enough. He never seemed to like playing here either. The Mets did jerk him around from second to third, until they decided to trade him for Carlos Baerga. The Mets might have fared better in the deal if they requested another Toronto top outfield prospect, Derek Bell, instead of Thompson. For those that don’t remember Thompson, he was Lastings Milledge before there was Lastings Milledge. To be fair, Milledge has been more productive to date.

The fact that Cone made it through waivers is surprising. Remember, Toronto was the best team in the American League.

1995: Bobby Bonilla was having a career year as he was hitting .325 with 18 homers and 53 RBI. It’s an eerily similar type of turnaround to what we see with Jose Reyes, except Bobby Bo never could achieve ten percent of Reyes’s Q-Rating.

The process, unlike the Cone trade, was actually good. They received the Orioles top outfield prospect in Alex Ochoa, and centerfielder Damon Buford. The first time I heard “five tool player” was in reference to Ochoa. Buford was good prospect as well had power, speed, and could play a great centerfield. Neither worked out as they both turned out to be fourth outfielders on good teams. Ochoa’s one shining moment was hitting for the cycle against the Phillies in 1996. He was traded after the ’97 season to Minnesota for Rich Becker. Buford was sent to Texas for Terrell Lowery after 1995.

Three days later the Mets fire sale continued as they sent Bret Saberhagen to Colorado for Juan Acevedo and Arnie Gooch.

Saberhagen was coming off a ’94 season where he was in the Cy Young discussion. He was having a down year for a bad Mets team, but you have to wonder if taking Colorado pitchers was the right move.

Acevado won 17 games for Double-A New Haven in 1994. He had a live arm, but would spend a majority of his career injured. He was sent to St. Louis in 1998 for an obscure lefty named Rigo Beltran. He briefly was the closer for the Yankees in 2003 during the absence of Mariano Rivera.

Gooch was a hard thrower that was exposed once he hit higher levels. He never pitched in the big leagues and was out of baseball by the age of 25.

Again, hard throwers with upside for Saberhagen; I can’t haggle, but I wonder if they could have at least garnered a deal with one major league ready player ala Cone.

If you remember, those trades were considered a fire sale as the Mets were looking to pare down the payroll after the “worst team money could buy” disaster. I still remember the “Tight Wads” headline on the front of the papers after Saberhagen was dealt.

1996: Is the Jeff Kent/Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga/Alvaro Espinoza really a seller move? Since Cleveland was in the race, and the Mets weren’t (they were fringe Wild Card contenders), I will count it as such. I don’t remember being upset about the deal. As mentioned before, Kent was playing very poorly right before being dealt to Cleveland. He didn’t fare much better there as they sent him to San Francisco for Matt Williams after the season. Kent was playing particularly horrible defense at third right before the deal.

Vizcaino was having a career year (.303 batting average), so if you could get an in prime star (which Baerga was) why not leverage a disappointing prospect and a career year?

Who would have known the party life was beginning to take its toll on Baerga, and that he would be no better than Vizcaino for the rest of his career. Meanwhile, Kent became a Hall of Famer in San Francisco. Not sure I could blame the Mets for this; Cleveland dropped the ball as well. Of course I wonder what the scouts told them about Baerga before the deal.

2001: The Mets sent Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook to the Phillies for Bruce Chen and minor league lefty Adam Walker. Wendell and Cook were expensive middle relievers on a team, at the time, going nowhere. The Phillies were battling Atlanta for the division and needed bullpen help. Chen was one of the Braves top pitching prospects that actually went to the Phillies in the Andy Ashby deal. Funny how the Mets were sellers at the deadline, and nearly came back to win the NL East with their post 9-11 run.

Chen never lived up to his potential (he was dealt a year later to Montreal for nothing), but he’s lasted 13 season pitching for 10 teams. I don’t think Steve Phillips process was all that bad in this one. Looking back, resigning all those middle relievers after the 2000 season probably wasn’t the smartest thing, but that Mets team was built on their bullpen because of a dubious starting rotation that lost Mike Hampton to Colorado.

2003: New General Manager Jim Duquette’s first task was to find takers for Roberto Alomar, Armando Benitez, and Jeremy Burnitz. He would accomplish that feat, but none of the deals turned out to yield any sort of impact player. Alomar was sent to Chicago for Royce Ring. Ring, touted as a future closer, had some moments as a lefty specialist in the big leagues, but is your typical 4-A pitcher. The other two kids in the deal - Andrew Salvo and Edwin Almonte- never amounted to anything. Almonte was the only one with big league time, hurling 11 ineffective innings later that season. With Alomar’s decline I am not sure Duquette could have garnered a better deal.

Jeromy Burnitz was having a bounce back season (18 homers, .925 OPS), and the Dodgers gave up Victor Diaz, who some believe was “Manny Ramirez- lite.” Diaz was a terrible defender, but he found a brief home in the Mets outfield in 2005. He received playing time while Mike Cameron was out with an injury, and hit .257 with 12 homers and 38 RBI. He was best known for destroying the Cubs pennant hopes later that year with a game tying home run off LaTroy Hawkins. He played in Mexico last year where he is putting up monster power numbers for Veracruz. The other two kids in the deal were Jose Diaz and Kole Strahorn. Basically two raw arms that never made it.

Benitez was sent to the Yankees for three minor league arms: Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia, and Ryan Bicondoa. Anderson pitched for the Mets that season, but has been a 4-A pitcher his entire career. Getting rid of Benitez was addition by subtraction, which the Yankees learned rather quickly as they flipped him to Seattle for Jeff Nelson part deux.

2004: What do we say about this one? The Mets thought they were contenders as they were six games behind the Braves. In reality, the Braves slow start fooled the Mets into believing they could compete with the 2004 roster. They sent Scott Kazmir to Tampa for Victor Zambrano and Jeff Keppinger. The same day they acquired Kris Benson from the Pirates for Ty Wigginton (who was unnecessary because of the promotion of a prospect named David Wright), Jose Bautista (yes that guy that hit 50 homers last year), and Matt Peterson (a top pitching prospect at the time).

The Mets were prepared to cut payroll after the season and they felt that Benson and Zambrano could be two high ceiling, cost controlled starters that could solidify the rotation. They felt Kazmir was not durable and had a dubious work ethic. They were right about him, but the return was horrible. Especially since they received damaged goods from Tampa in Zambrano. We know what resulted from this. I can’t complain about the Benson part of the deal. He was a solid starter for a couple of years before he injured his arm. Wigginton is a backup on a good team, and Bautista didn’t figure it out for quite a few years.

Why the Mets never filed a claim I will never know. A person who was employed by the team at the time believes it was Fred, not Jeff, who put the brakes on the claim.


As you can see, the Mets haven’t been big winners with these types of deals. I know Beltran is going to leave after the season, but why not keep him (if you can afford the contract) for the rest of the year? He has become one of the leaders in the clubhouse, and losing him might demoralize a team that is trying to learn how to win again. The Mets really have no leverage in any Beltran deal. Reyes is a complicated issue, which we have discussed, but based on the return you saw for Cone, Saberhagen, and Bonilla, what makes you think Reyes will garner any better? Unlike Bonilla, he is in his walk year. His recent hamstring injury hurts his value as well.

Francisco Rodriguez makes the most sense. He is not about return in terms of prospects; he is about getting away from the obtuse $17.5 million vesting option that will surely trigger if he remains here as the closer for the rest of the season.

I would like them to hold on to Reyes and Beltran, unless a team severely overpays. What I mean by that is giving up at least one major league player in a deal; someone that could have an impact immediately. If not, why should Sandy Alderson help someone else win a pennant? Get K-Rod out of here for the good of the Mets finances, and ride out the season with Reyes and Beltran. Based on history, it probably makes the most sense.

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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