Not many players have been on both sides of bad trades in Mets history, but Jeff Keppinger was.
By July 19, 2006, New York was running away with the National League East. The team was firing on all cylinders, but anything can happen in the second half of the season. It was still necessary to bolster the ranks—and, to do so, Keppinger was found expendable. He was shipped to the Royals for 23-year-old prospect Ruben Gotay.
A 26-year-old utility infielder for a decent prospect. Sounded like a decent move.
Except Gotay didn’t play for New York at all in 2006, after spending 86 games with Kansas City the year before. He spent the whole season at Triple A, batting .265 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI.
And when he did arrive in New York, Gotay proved to be a temporary lodger. He was a serviceable utility player in 2007, and had the best year of his big league career, slashing .290/.351/.421.
But that was it. Whether the Mets should have brought him back for another campaign is up for debate—I, for one, think they should have—but they didn’t. He went to the Braves, struggled, and was out of the majors after 2008.
As for Keppinger.
He didn’t have home run power or drive in many runs, but the defensively versatile utilityman hit for average, had decent extra base prowess (career high 34 doubles in 2010) and could play all over the field. He was one of the hardest batsmen to strike out, leading the National League in at-bats-per-strikeout ratio in 2008 and 2010.
While Gotay was one-and-done in New York, Keppinger forged a nine-year big league career. He earned significant starting time for much of it and batted as high as .332, with another season of .325. Though he never stuck with any one team for more than a couple seasons—he was traded three more times after 2006—Keppinger proved to be a valuable asset wherever he went.
But this deal wasn’t even the most egregious involving Keppinger and the Mets. A couple years earlier, on July 30, 2004, he was traded from Pittsburgh as part of the return package for future star outfielder Jose Bautista and 2010 All-Star Ty Wigginton.
His departure from the Mets was a bad one. But the conditions of his of arrival made that pretty horrid, too.
But that’s an article for another time.