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, #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.

Hello, Chance Sisco; See ya later, Albert Almora

Chance Sisco was a top prospect with the Orioles. (Wikipedia)

The Mets recently welcomed catcher Chance Sisco to the big league roster and bid adieu to struggling outfielder Albert Almora.

Both were once top prospects who have yet to live up to their promise.

Sisco has been in the majors since 2016, slashing .199/.319/.339 in 191 career games. With the Orioles this season, he hit just .154/.247/.185 in 23 games before being selected off waivers by the Mets in June.

But there is a glimmer of hope for Sisco. Despite his offensive struggles, he usually performs well in the minors (never mind his .207 average this year) and was twice selected to the Futures Game.

Encouragingly, he knows how to get on base, posting a career .383 on-base percentage on the farm and, as recently as last season, a .364 mark in the majors.

That bodes well for the 26-year-old, who has yet to enter his prime and who arrives in New York with three .300 seasons in the professional ranks under his belt.

At the very least, he shores up a team’s catching contingent that is in disarray, with starter James McCann batting .240 with an OBP barely over .300, backup Tomas Nido – currently on the Injured List – hitting .231 and career minor leaguer Patrick Mazeika managing a .276 average that is bound to regress.

Albert Almora disappointed with the Mets. (Wikipedia)

Optimally the Mets have caught lightning in a bottle – again, as Brandon Drury certainly fits that description, as well – and perhaps they did. Sisco collected a hit and RBI in his first Mets at-bat.

As for Almora, his tenure with the Mets has been nothing but a complete failure.

Once a sixth overall pick, he was once a wunderkind, making Baseball Prospectus’ and Major League Baseball’s top prospect lists five years in a row – peaking at number 18 on both – and Baseball America’s list thrice, peaking at number 33 there.

And it almost seemed like he’d live up to the hype. In his second big league season, 2017, he hit .298 in 299 at-bats and the next year – his first with significant starting time – he batted .286.

But the wheels fell off the cart.

Then Almora arrived in New York.

And the cart fell apart.

In 47 at-bats with the Mets, he’s batted just .128. His longest hitting streak is one game. He’s gotten a hit in just three of the 39 games he’s played.

Each year, New York keeps at least one struggling outfielder around way too long. In 2020, they let Billy Hamilton, who hit .045, steal 17 games and 22 at-bats from a more deserving player. In 2019, they had Carlos Gomez (89 AB, .198 BA), Keon Broxton (49 AB, .143 BA) and Aaron Altherr (31 AB, .129 BA). In 2018, they brought back former prospect Matt den Dekker and gave him 18 at-bats, just to hit .000. And this year, in addition to Almora, they had Cameron Maybin, who went 1-for-28 (.036 BA).

Trotting the same mediocrity out day after day just breeds the same mediocre results.

New York threw Almora at the wall. He didn’t stick. Time to try something new.

Hey, Mark Payton’s hitting .317 at Syracuse. Give him a shot.