Worst trades in Mets history, #9: Vance Wilson for Anderson Hernandez

This one stung my young Mets fan heart when I was a sprightly and youthful 14 years old. I liked Vance Wilson. As far as backups go, he was a decent option to spell starting catcher Mike Piazza. But, unfortunately, the cold business of baseball doesn’t take the feelings of kids into consideration.

Wilson was taken by New York in the 44th round of the 1993 amateur draft and was one of three men from that round to make the majors leagues, with the others being utility man Bry Nelson and pitcher Ed Yarnall.

Moving up a level per year, his ascension through the minor league system was steady. By 1998, he was in Triple-A. By 1999, he was in the majors for a single game; he didn’t get an at-bat. It was about the same in 2000, as well—four games, four at-bats with the big club.

Two-thousand-and-one was his chance to prove his worth. And boy did he. Though he hit just .246 in 65 Triple-A games, he batted .298 in 57 at-bats over 32 appearances behind Piazza after a mid-season promotion. Through his first 32 at-bats of the season, he carried a .406 average. Now you can see why I came to like him so much. To my young mind, this guy was good!

His arrival was especially refreshing, since his predecessor, Todd Pratt, hit just .163 before being traded to Philadelphia in late July for catcher Gary Bennett. After a few solid years in New York, Pratt had flopped. Bennett was a short-timer.

But Wilson was there to stay.

And for a few seasons, he was a reliable, if not headline-grabbing, backup. In 2002, he hit .245 in 163 at-bats, clobbering five home runs, including the first of his career, a shot off Expos pitcher Javier Vazquez on April 13. An adept fielder, he caught 49 percent of potential base stealers to lead the league.

With Piazza hurt much of the 2003 season, he was New York’s primary catcher, hitting .243 with 8 home runs in 268 at-bats. Okay, maybe starting wasn’t for him—his 75 OPS+ was the worst of his career—so the Mets put him back into a reserve role for 2004 and he responded by hitting .274 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI in 157 at-bats. Quite an impressive rebound.

The Mets thought so, too. In fact, with his stock elevated, they shipped him to Detroit for 22-year-old middle infield prospect Anderson Hernandez in January 2005.

Hernandez made the Mets’ postseason roster in 2006, but got into just two games. (Wikipedia).

If Hernandez panned out, the trade would have been a steal for New York. A backup catcher for a defensive wizard, as Hernandez was? It could have been a huge win for the Mets. But things rarely work out that way in Metsdom.

It didn’t look like he would ever play shortstop for the club, as Jose Reyes was the heir apparent for the position. But he could also play second base.

New York had a revolving door of second basemen in the early and mid-2000s, after Edgardo Alfonzo shifted to third base and, eventually, departed. Roberto Alomar, Kaz Matsui, Miguel Cairo and Jose Valentin all came and went.

Rated alongside Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez as a Mets top prospect, New York was counting on Hernandez to develop into something. But his bat never caught up to major league pitching. He had three cups of coffee with New York from 2005 to 2007, hitting .138 in 87 games.

In August 2008, he was sent to Washington as the player-to-be-named later in a deal for reliever Luis Ayala. Not surprisingly, Hernandez hit .333 with a .407 on-base percentage upon escaping New York.

A couple weeks shy of a year later, feeling sellers remorse, the Mets sent minor league infielder Greg Veloz to Washington to recoup Hernandez to help shore up that injury-ravaged 2009 squad.

With starting shortstop Jose Reyes hurt and his replacement, Alex Cora, tearing ligaments in both his thumbs and needing surgery, New York called on Hernandez to start the rest of the year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a .251 batting average. He fielded just .955 at short.

The Mets left him unprotected and Cleveland claimed him off waivers in March 2010. He spent one more year in the majors, hitting .220 in 54 games between the Indians and Astros, before being sent away for good.

Though Hernandez’s big league career was done, his professional career was not. After a couple seasons in Triple-A, he became a voyager, playing in Mexico, Japan and the Dominican Republic. As recently as 2019-20, he was still going in the Dominican Winter League.

As for Wilson, he collapsed to a .197 average in 152 at-bats for Detroit in 2006 but rebounded to a .283 mark with 5 dingers and 18 RBI in the same number of ABs the next year. Meanwhile, the Mets’ backup that season, Ramon Castro, hit .238 with an 83 OPS+.*

*Granted, Castro himself was an effective backup and I was not enthused when they traded him to the White Sox partway through 2009 for pitcher Lance Broadway, of all people. Broadway had a 6.75 ERA in 8 relief appearances for New York.

’06 proved to be Wilson’s final big league campaign. Injuries limited him to three games at Triple-A in 2007 and he missed all of 2008. He played in the Royals system in 2009—at Double-A—but was released in April 2010, before the season began. He chose to retire.

Wilson was an effective reserve who gave the Mets four solid years of service. In return, they received promise and potential that didn’t work out.

Promise and potential. That defines the Mets of the past, oh, 35 years. But when it comes to production … it rarely manifests itself into anything meaningful.

Not unlike Anderson Hernandez.

Worst trades in Mets history, #8: Dan Wheeler for Adam Seuss

Okay, okay. What I consider “worst” is very arbitrary. If I liked a player and he got sent packing, that’s a deal that goes in my pile of worst trades.

I made a similar face when I saw how well he did when he left the Mets. (Wikipedia).

Such is the case of reliever Dan Wheeler, whom New York traded to the Astros for minor league outfielder Adam Seuss on August 27, 2004.

Granted, to that point in his career, Wheeler hadn’t done much, not even with the Mets. From 1999 to 2001, he pitched sparingly for the Devil Rays, allowing 94 hits in 71 1/3 innings for a 6.43 ERA. He spent all of 2002 in the minors, then New York took a flier on him, signing him in February 2003.

Everything about the ’03 squad was horrid, including their pitching. Five guys finished with ERAs over 10 and their 4.48 club mark was 10th in the National League. Tom Glavine, brought on the help revive the team after a 75-86 2002, went 9-14 with a 4.52 ERA. The Mets lost 95 games that year.

With such a mediocre pitching staff, ample opportunities cropped up for men to try their hand at keeping the ship from sinking any further. Wheeler was one of them. Debuting with New York on June 18 against Florida, he went 3 innings, struck out 2 batters and didn’t allow a hit or a run. Welcome aboard, Dan.

Carrying a 2.31 mark through his first 15 appearances, Wheeler looked like the cog New York needed. Until he fell apart. On July 29, he allowed 4 earned runs in 4 innings for the loss; in his next appearance, he surrendered 5 earned runs in a single frame and his season ERA skyrocketed to 4.76. Though he carried a 2.38 mark from that point forward, his season totals—marred by two horrendous games—were an underwhelming 3.71 ERA and 114 ERA+ in 35 appearances.

It was even worse in 2004. In 32 games, he gave New York a 4.80 ERA and 11.5 H/9 IP ratio. The Mets had had enough and shipped him to Houston in late August for the little-known Adam Seuss (no relation to the doctor).

Seuss spent a couple games in the Mets system, never advancing beyond Single-A. They cut him loose and he re-signed with Houston for 2005, which proved to be his final professional campaign.

Wheeler became a whole new man after joining the Astros. In 14 games in 2004, he had a 2.51 ERA, then didn’t allow a run in 5 postseason appearances. In 2005, he had an All-Star quality campaign, posting a 2.21 mark and 192 ERA+ as Houston’s best relief pitcher not named Brad Lidge. The Astros won 89 games that year, snagged the wild card and—with the hurler producing a 2.08 ERA in the NLDS and not allowing a run in the NLCS—took home the pennant. They lost in the World Series to the White Sox; Wheeler had a 13.50 ERA. As Dan went, so went Houston.

The Astros slipped to just 82 victories in 2006, but Wheeler didn’t slip at all. In 75 games, he had a 2.52 ERA and 177 ERA+. After posting a 5.07 mark through 45 appearances in 2007, he was shipped to his old home, Tampa Bay, for former Mets third baseman Ty Wigginton (himself involved in one of the team’s worst trades ever).

From 2008 to 2010, he was one of the Rays’ most reliable relief pitchers, averaging a 3.24 ERA, 68 games and 20 games finished per season. Though he tanked in the ’08 postseason (6 earned runs allowed in 8 2/3 innings) it was on the back of his solid pitching that Tampa Bay got there in the first place.

After a couple more middling seasons with Boston and Cleveland, Wheeler wrapped up his career after 2012.

His totals after leaving the Mets: 492 games, 3.54 ERA, 157 games finished, 43 saves. In the playoffs, he had a 3.38 mark in 21 appearances, averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

Ahhh, what refreshingly respectable numbers the Mets could have used in the mid- and late-2000s, when they were vying for spots in the postseason and trying to establish some level of legitimacy. Instead, they kept the likes of the always-mediocre Aaron Heilman (see here) and Scott Schoeneweis around, as well as experiments like Dae-Sung Koo. Instead, they built a core that led to miserable collapses in 2007 and 2008.

Would Wheeler alone have prevented the Mets woes of that always promising, but perpetually disappointing, era? Maybe not. One relief pitcher does not change the fortunes of an entire team, unless he’s Tug McGraw.

But hey, he would’ve done more than Adam Suess and his one hit at Single-A.

Worst trades in Mets history, #7: Jose Bautista and Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger

Bautista did end up playing for New York—in his final season, 2019. (Wikipedia).

In retrospect, this was a godawful trade for New York. They surrendered two future All-Stars for a couple inconsequential ballplayers … but at the time, it didn’t seem like a bad deal.

The Mets needed to get rid of third baseman Ty Wigginton somehow, as David Wright was waiting in the wings and ready to take over at that position. They also needed a boost in their rotation, so acquiring a player like Kris Benson, the underperformer that he was, seemed like a good idea.

If only they had known what they were giving up. Wigginton spent about two full seasons in New York, slashing .302/.354/.526 in 46 games in a promising 2002 debut. He slipped to .255 in 156 games the next year, but still hit 36 doubles and 11 home runs, earning some Rookie of the Year support.

After beginning 2004 with 12 home runs, 42 RBI and a .285/.334/.487 line in 86 games, he was shipped with a little-known prospect named Jose Bautista and minor league pitcher Matt Peterson to the Pirates on July 30.

Peterson, once a top prospect, spent ten years in the minors but never reached the big leagues. No loss there.

But Wigginton and Bautista. Boy oh boy.

Wigginton played for seven teams after leaving New York. (Wikipedia).

Wigginton went on to hit 140 home runs the rest of his career, averaging 15 per year from 2005 to 2013 for a handful of teams. He eclipsed 20 dingers four times, with a high of 24 in 2006, and made the All-Star team in 2010.

His departure was and wasn’t a loss, depending on how you look at it. It paved the way for David Wright, a future Mets Hall of Famer who made seven All-Star teams and hit .296 with 242 home runs in 14 years with the club. Glass half full.

But, considering his solid performance with the Mets and afterwards, what Wigginton netted the club was paltry and meaningless. Glass half empty.

And that wasn’t even the worst part of the deal.

Granted, there is no way the Mets could have known what they had in Bautista at the time. No one could have. He was an itinerant before reaching the majors and a lackluster player in the majors for the first part of his career.

Signed by the Pirates in 2000, he was taken by the Orioles in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft and made his big league debut with them on April 4, 2004. On June 3, he was selected off waivers by Tampa Bay, then was purchased by Kansas City on June 28. On July 30, the Royals shipped him to the Mets for Australian utilityman Justin Huber.

To that point, his rookie line was unimpressive—with the Devil Rays, he hit just .167—but he did jump from A-ball to the majors, so growing pains were to be expected. And though his minor league numbers weren’t stellar, he did slash .301/.402/.470 with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads in 2002. That mirrors the sort of line he’d post with the Blue Jays a few years later …

But to his big league clubs, it was a throwaway season and he was a throwaway player.

And so he was to New York. His time as a Met was brief—a few hours—because later that day, they shipped him off to Pittsburgh with Wigginton and Peterson.

For six years, he seemed like no loss. From 2004 to 2009, he hit a measly .238, averaging just 10 home runs and 35 RBI per year. But then again, there is a reason why the Pirates and, later, the Blue Jays kept giving him try after try after try.

*You think the Mets made a bad deal: The Pirates shipped Bautista to Toronto for a player to be named later on August 21, 2008. It ended up being catcher Robinzon Diaz, who ended up spending all of 44 games in the majors, 43 of them with Pittsburgh.

Then, in 2010, he arrived. Exploding onto the scene with a league-leading 54 home runs and 351 total bases, he finished fourth in MVP voting and was just one of three players to earn a first place vote. In 2011, he again paced the loop in dingers with 43, as well as slugging percentage (.608) and OPS+ (182).

For each of those six years, he was an All-Star, averaging 38 home runs, 97 RBI, 95 runs and a 156 OPS+ per campaign. He won three Silver Sluggers; he finished with four top-ten MVP finishes.

In 2016, he slipped to .234 with 22 home runs in 116 games, then in 2017, he fell to .203 with 23 dingers.

After the Blue Jays gave him his walking papers following the season, he signed with Atlanta, but was released in May.

And who should come calling but the Mets. A few years late there, huh guys?

Not surprisingly, his time in the Big Apple, when it finally arrived, was not a good one. He hit just .204 with 9 home runs in 83 games, but because he could still draw a walk, his on-base percentage was a respectable .351. In late August, they shipped him to Philadelphia for a player to be named later or cash; he wrapped up his career with them.

What did the Mets get in return for those three ballplayers?

As with everywhere he went, Benson wasn’t bad with New York, he just underwhelmed—especially disappointing, since was a huge prospect in the late 1990s. (Wikipedia).

Benson gave them a middling season-and-a-half, going 14-12 with a 4.23 ERA in 39 games. In his one full year with the club, 2005, he was 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA in 28 starts; his ERA+ was 100, meaning he was the archetype of average. Not what you’d expect from a former number one overall draft pick.

He was a ho-hum, almost-decent hurler for a ho-hum, almost-decent team. The Mets went 83-79 that year.

On January 22, 2006, he was sent to the Orioles for reliever Jorge Julio and starter John Maine. For once a trade went the Mets way. Julio was a dud, but Maine played a big role in New York’s ’06 playoff run and won 15 games for them in 2007.

Keppinger was a non-factor in New York, hitting .284 in 33 games in 2004. He was shipped to the Royals on July 19, 2006 for infielder Ruben Gotay. Gotay had a solid single season with the Mets in 2007, but I also rank that a stinker of a deal.

July 30, 2004 won’t live on in Mets infamy like the Midnight Massacre of June 15, 1977, when they shipped stars Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman away in quick succession.

But another disastrous deal went down that day, as well. In addition to discarding Bautista and Wigginton for what amounted to rentals, they traded top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for mediocre hurler Victor Zambrano.

They’re still waiting to get Kazmir back.

Worst trades in Mets history, #6: Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano

Imagine Scott Kazmir in the Mets rotation in 2006, instead of Steve Trachsel or Pedro Martinez. They could’ve won the World Series that year! (Wikipedia).

Mets fans the world over rue this most terrible of trades, in which New York sent 20-year-old top prospect starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for perpetually mediocre hurler Victor Zambrano.

To this day, those in Mets-dom don’t understand the team’s convoluted thinking when they made that fateful transaction. Kazmir was a kid with a world of promise and upside that they were just giving away for a pitcher who had a 4.47 career ERA prior to the deal.

Sure, Zambrano had experienced some success in the minor leagues while pitching in Tampa Bay’s system. Before everyone was a strikeout pitcher, he was K-ing people with ease—he averaged more than a strikeout per inning in each of his first four professional seasons, and even in his first try in the majors, he did the same. With the Devil Rays in 2001, he struck out 58 batters in 51 innings in relief.

Key word there: Relief.

To that point, he had been nothing but a reliever, starting no more than 4 games in a professional season. Things took a turn for the worst when he shifted to the rotation.

Hits weren’t an issue, nor were home runs, but wildness killed him. In 114 innings in 2002, he surrendered 68 walks, threw 10 wild pitches and hit 5 batsmen. And the next year, he tossed 188 1/3 innings and led the league with 106 walks, 15 wild pitches and 20 HBP.

Between 2002 and 2003, his K/BB ratio was just 1.18.

Tampa Bay gave him one more shot in 2004, but by the trading deadline, had had enough. On July 30, they shipped him to New York with 29-year-old rookie hurler Bartolome Fortunato (himself wracked with control issues) for Kazmir and righty Jose Diaz (who was no major loss).

Zambrano had pitched 128 innings and walked a league-leading 96 batters at the time of the deal. No, he didn’t just lead the American League in bases on balls at the time of the trade, he paced the loop for the entire season, despite spending the second half of it in the NL. He also had 15 hit batters and a refreshingly low (lol) 5 wild pitches before his departure.

He pitched just one full season in New York, 2005, and for his part, managed to get his control under … uh … control, kind of. In 166 1/3 innings, he surrendered just 77 walks, but still clobbered 15 batters, which was second in the National League behind Jeff Weaver. And his 8 wild pitches were eighth in the league. To add insult to injury, he committed three errors, which were fourth-most among pitchers.

Hey, look guys, it’s Victor Zambrano! Boooo! Hiss!! (Wikipedia).

Dammit Zambrano, couldn’t you do anything right?

In 2006, he tortured Mets fans with only 5 mediocre starts before a bum elbow that eventually needed Tommy John surgery took him out of commission for the rest of the year. And Mets fans breathed a sigh of relief.

He was non-tendered following the campaign and granted free agency, but somehow fooled the Blue Jays into signing him for 2007. He had a 10.97 ERA with them before being let go. The Pirates signed him, but thought better of it and sold him to Baltimore, who threw him at the wall to help make their 4th-place, 69-93 season even worse, and it worked. He posted a 9.49 ERA in 12 1/3 innings there to finish out 2007, giving him a 10.17 mark for the year. In 23 innings, he allowed 22 walks to just 16 strikeouts.

Colorado signed him for 2008, but he was released without appearing in a game; the Yankees picked him up, but they, too, granted him free agency before he donned a big league uniform, because he performed too poorly in the minors (2-7, 7.17 ERA between 4 teams) for their liking.

And that is how all this comes full circle: Way back in 1993, Zambrano signed as an infielder by none other than the Yanks. He didn’t even play beyond rookie ball before they cut him loose—the first time—because his performance was so lackluster. So he converted to pitching.

And because New York tossed him aside, the ball started rolling, the gears were set into motion and here we are now, nearly 30 years later, writing an article about a terrible Mets trade involving Zambrano the failed infielder-turned-pitcher.

Isn’t that called, like, the butterfly effect or something?

For his part, Bartolome Fortunato, the other piece the Mets received, spent parts of two seasons with New York and had a 27.00 ERA in his last one.

As for Kazmir—did I say he was a top prospect? Now, that doesn’t do him justice. He was among the very, very best prospects three years in a row. Going into 2003, Baseball America ranked him number 11 in all the land, ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Zack Greinke. In 2004, he fell a spot to number 12, but was still ahead of Greinke, Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright. And in 2005, he was rated at number 7—among the top ten percent of the very best prospects in the minor leagues—and he was still only 21 years old.

So, of course, it would make sense to trade him for such mediocrity that had flunked out of the minor leagues once already.

And though Kazmir never became a superstar—he didn’t even earn a Cy Young vote—he did rattle off a streak of four solid seasons from 2005 to 2008 in which he averaged 11 wins, 172 innings and 186 strikeouts per year, while posting a 3.51 ERA and 127 ERA+. In those few seasons, he made a couple All-Star Games and led the league in strikeouts in 2007, with 239.

He stumbled from 2009 to 2011 and didn’t play in the majors at all in 2012. Upon his return in 2013, however, he managed a run of three campaigns in which he averaged 11 wins, 177 innings and a 3.54 ERA per year; in 2015, he went 15-9 and earned his third All-Star selection.

The injury bug bit after 2016 and he pitched only briefly in the minors the next year, and not at all in 2018 or 2019.

But the desire to play was still there. After briefly appearing for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre of the independent Constellation Energy League in 2020, Kazmir mounted a major league comeback attempt and signed with San Francisco in February 2021. On May 22, he returned to a big league mound, tossing four innings, and surrendering just one run, against the Dodgers.

While Zambrano flamed out just a few years after joining New York, Kazmir went on to win 108 games and become the strikeout pitcher Zambrano was meant to be.

Kazmir has lost 97 games in his career. The Mets lost a whole lot more.

Worst trades in Mets history, #5: Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for Adam Bostick and Jason Vargas

Lindstrom had 37 saves between 2009 and 2010. (Wikipedia).

Relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom never spent a day in a Mets uniform, so it is fitting that he was involved in a deal for someone who, likewise, never spent a day in a Mets uniform.

On November 20, 2006, the flame-throwing right-hander was sent with pitcher Henry Owens to the Florida Marlins for pitchers Adams Bostick and Jason Vargas.

Red flags surrounded Bostick everywhere. Save for a brief stint with the GCL Marlins in 2001, he had never averaged less than four walks per nine innings in a season. He didn’t surrender many home runs, but he gave up his share of hits—and his ERAs reflected it. He had a 4.91 mark in 2003 and a 4.26 mark in 2001.

Okay, that’s not terrible. Plus, he struck out a lot of batters, K-ing 163 in 114 innings in 2004, alone. To say he didn’t have potential would be an insult to his work—he did, on paper, have skills that could get him to the major leagues.

Except … all his success was in the low-minors. His one trial at Triple A in the Marlins system, in 2006, was underwhelming. He had a 4.67 ERA in 9 starts.

But Triple A is right where the Mets placed him in 2007 and—in typical Mets fashion—he struggled mightily. In 21 games, 20 of which he started, Bostick posted a 5.66 ERA. In 97 innings, he allowed 20 home runs—so much for keeping those to a minimum—and maintained his undesirable walk rate.

Sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season to straighten himself out, he posted a 2.74 ERA in 6 starts, then a 2.77 mark in 3 starts in the Dominican Winter League.

Triple A proved to be too much again, however, as he had a 6.04 ERA in 44 2/3 innings in 2008. Shifted to the bullpen for 2009, he performed well, lowering his ERA to 3.05 and averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings between two clubs.

But it was for naught. The Mets let him walk following the season. He latched on with an independent league team, had a 10.80 ERA in 2010, and his career was over.

Vargas won 86 games away from New York. (Wikipedia).

The deal initiated Vargas’ first tour with New York. Like Bostick, he struggled at Triple A in 2007, with a 4.97 ERA in 24 starts, but still managed a brief stint with the big club. In 10 1/3 innings over two starts, he allowed 14 earned runs on 17 hits and a couple walks for a 12.19 ERA.

But like Bostick, the warning signs were there. In Triple A the year before, he had a 7.43 ERA in 13 appearances. Granted, he came to New York with a higher pedigree—he was a 2nd round pick in 2004 and had ERAs of 2.09 and 2.50 his first two pro campaigns, respectively—but at the time of the trade, he had never done much at the major league level. In 116 2/3 innings with Florida between 2005 and 2006, he had a 5.25 ERA.

On December 11, 2008, the Mets sent him to the Mariners in another clunker of a deal that netted New York relievers J.J. Putz and Sean Green, as well as outfielder Jeremy Reed—failures all.

After bouncing around the American league from 2009 to 2017 as a decent innings-eater, he returned to the Big Apple in 2018 and picked up right where he left off. In his first year back, he was 7-9 with a 5.66 ERA.

Lindstrom, who never pitched above Double A in the Mets system, became a serviceable relief pitcher for nearly a decade. Debuting in the majors in 2007 and armed with a triple-digit fastball, he averaged 68 games per year and posted an ERA of 3.11—and an ERA+ of 140—over his first two seasons. In 2010, with Colorado, he had 23 saves and from 2011 to 2013, he had a 2.95 ERA and 147 ERA+ in 185 games between four clubs. All told, he spent eight years in the big leagues, making 469 appearances.

Owens wasn’t long for the major leagues and is lucky he got there at all—by age 26, he still hadn’t pitched above A ball. He debuted with New York, making a single appearance in 2006.

He shined in his lone year with the Marlins, 2007, allowing no runs in his first seven games and posting a 0.79 ERA in his last 12; in 22 appearances total, he had a 1.96 ERA. A bum shoulder required surgery partway through the year and Owens never played in the majors again.

Between them, Lindstrom and Owens made 491 relief appearances after leaving the Mets, posting a combined ERA of 3.56.

New York received two starts and a 12.19 ERA in return.

Worst trades in Mets history, #4: Heath Bell and Royce Ring for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson

Heath Bell received Cy Young Award votes in 2010, his fourth year with San Diego. (Wikipedia).

During his five years in San Diego, Heath Bell was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball—and for the final three seasons, he ranked among the best closers.

Averaging 71 appearances per year, he posted a 2.53 ERA, while striking out more than a batter per inning, on average. From 2009 to 2011, he averaged 44 saves per year and was an All-Star each season. Over his final six campaigns, he compiled 166 saves in 354 appearances.

Reliever Royce Ring, for his part, had a decent 2007, which included a 2 hit, 0.00 ERA showing in 11 games for the Braves. In 26 appearances overall—he began the year in San Diego before being traded—his mark was 2.70. Though he lasted just two more seasons, posting a 9.12 ERA in 47 games, he showed flashes of brilliance throughout. During one 27 game stretch in 2008, he had a 1.32 ERA and walked just one batter.

The Mets look like fools, then, for trading them to the Padres on November 15, 2006 for outfielder Ben Johnson and relief pitcher Jon Adkins.

Johnson arrived with a decent power-speed pedigree, hitting 20-plus home runs twice in the minor leagues, and stealing 15 or more bases twice, as well.

Ben Johnson spent just 9 games with the Mets. (Wikipedia).

A fourth round draft pick in 1999, he was never ranked among the game’s best prospects, but he did have his moments in San Diego. In August and September 2006, he rattled of an 18 game stretch in which he slashed .353/.436/.618.

And Adkins, too, was a useful tool for a couple years. In ’06, he was one of the Padres’ primary relievers, appearing in 55 games. A couple seasons before, in 2004, he made 50 appearances for the White Sox.

But that was the past.

In total, they combined for 10 games played in New York, with Johnson hitting .185 in 27 at-bats and Adkins pitching a single inning—but hey, at least his ERA was 0.00.*

*Trivia break: A career Mets ERA of 0.00 has been accomplished 17 other times, first by Bob Johnson in 1969 and most recently by Todd Frazier in 2020. Dan Schatzeder had the longest Mets career with a 0.00 ERA (6 games); CJ Nitkowski ties him if you go by innings pitched (5 2/3).

New York cast them away following the 2007 campaign.

Granted, Bell underwhelmed in his three years with the Mets. In 81 games, he had a 4.92 ERA and allowed nearly 11 hits per nine innings on average. Heck, he was a former 69th-round pick and a 26-year-old rookie. Who could have predicted his future success?

Well, those who tracked him through the minors could have. Excluding his clunker seasons of 2001 and 2003, his minor league ERAs from 1998 to 2006 were, respectively: 2.54, 2.60, 2.55, 2.58, 3.12, 1.69 and 1.29. He averaged no less than 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings those years, and as many as 14.4.

And Ring was a former first round pick. He made the Futures Game in 2003. He had a 2.13 ERA for the Mets in 2006. 

In surrendering Bell and Ring, the Mets gave up a former top prospect and a future All Star.

They received almost nothing in return.

They traded gold for garbage.

Worst trades in Mets history, #3: Jeff Keppinger for Ruben Gotay

Ruben Gotay spent just one year in New York. (Wikipedia)

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.

Jeff Keppinger forged a nine-year career in the majors. (Wikipedia)

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.

Worst trades in Mets history, #2: Kazuo Matsui for Eli Marrero

Kaz Matsui hit well after joining the Rockies. (Wikipedia)

This one is not so bad because of what the Mets lost, but because of what they received in return. Addition by subtraction only works when what is gained isn’t, itself, a subtraction.

Joining the Mets in 2004, Kazuo “Kaz” Matsui was nothing less than a disappointment in his two-plus years in New York. He was a star in Japan, batting as high as .322 and stealing as many as 62 bases in a season, but that success didn’t translate to the major league stage.

The middle infielder spent time at second base and shortstop and found little success at either position, struggling offensively and defensively. In his first campaign, he hit .272 with 32 doubles and 14 stolen bases in 114 games — which earned him some support in Rookie of the Year voting. In the field, however, he finished second in the league in errors committed.

Any promise his 2004 season held was dashed in 2005, as his batting average fell to .255 and his on-base percentage slumped to a meager .300 in just 87 games. By 2006, he was slashing .200/.235/.269 and the Mets decided the Matsui experiment had to come to an end.

Having all but lost his starting job to Jose Valentin, Matsui was shipped off to the Rockies for Cuban catcher/outfielder Eli Marrero on June 9.

Matsui went on to hit .345 for Colorado that year, then hammered out two decent campaigns in 2007 and 2008, averaging 26 stolen bases and 25 doubles per season, while hitting .290.

Marrero — who was batting just .217 at the time of the trade and was a .245 career hitter prior to 2006 — lasted 25 games with New York. He hit .182 in 33 at-bats and was released on August 9, ending his Mets, and major league, career.

Escaping the Big Apple helped Matsui turn a corner in his career. Adding Marrero helped nothing. Though Matsui was struggling, trading him, it seems, was a worse deal than doing nothing at all.

Worst trades in Mets history #1: Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady

Mike Cameron, toward the end of his career. (Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, at the time this wasn’t a terrible deal. Only in retrospect can we see how much the Mets lost.

Outfielder Mike Cameron, he of great defense, good pop and even better speed, joined the Mets in 2004 and hit 30 home runs that season. In 2005, he was on pace for one of the best years of his career, hitting 12 home runs with 39 RBI and an elevated batting average through 79 games.

Partway through the year, however, he was involved in a terrible outfield collision with Carlos Beltran, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. It was a matter of two center fielders trying for the ball at the same time—Cameron had shifted to right field to accommodate the newly arrived Beltran, but he was a center fielder by trade.

In Cameron, the Mets had damaged goods who might or might not fully recover and a guy who was forced to play out of his natural position. Trading him, and his pretty large contract, seemed like a good idea.

On November 18, 2005, he was sent to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Xavier Nady.

Nady spent less than a full season in New York, hitting .264 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 75 games before himself being sent to the Pirates. Granted, he was a big reason the Mets got off to a hot start in 2006—they were 46-29 in games he played—but the brevity of his stay negated much of the impact he had on the club.

Upon leaving the Mets, Cameron averaged 23 home runs, 75 RBI, 81 runs scored and 17 stolen bases per year from 2006 to 2009. He was superior to Nady on defense, quicker on the base paths and possessed greater power. Nady, never a slugger, averaged only 10 home runs and 42 RBI per season from 2007 to 2012.

The Mets traded Cameron, a former All Star centerfielder, for Nady, a marginal starting outfielder, at best. At the time, it seemed like it made sense. But the power of hindsight suggests it didn’t.