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.