The New York Mets are the little brother of the New York Yankees, who they share a large sports market with. They're younger, the owners of fewer championships, and a smaller legion of fans than their big brother, so the Mets are often overlooked. They’re a team on the rise now thanks to some really good trades. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Travis d’Arnaud were all acquired via trades which have helped to build a strong core. We can credit good scouting for getting these young talents.
While some of these recent deals have worked out, the Mets have made some really bad trades in their team’s history.
Traditionally the Mets have struggled to make the correct decisions with their transactions. The first ever pick in the MLB draft went to them in 1966. Their choice was catcher Steve Chilcott over the second overall pick, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Unfortunately this was far from the last terrible move they would make. It’s nothing against them. Every team has those lists of blunders.
Included on this list of the worst trades in Mets’ history are deals that were made prematurely with future stars, others where the return was not equal, and a few trades that burdened the roster and payroll. Successful teams are built through smart, savvy maneuvers. At the time a trade may seem like such. After a few years or even just a handful of games, we can get a good idea as to which team won the deal.
As the Mets continue to build toward a championship they will surely end up with a few more bad trades along the way. In the meantime, these are the 15 worst trades the Mets have made.
15 Trading Rick Reed for Matt Lawton
Starting pitcher Rick Reed may not be remembered by some young Mets’ fans, but in 2001 he was an All-Star. During his stint with the team, he put together a 59-36 record and 3.66 ERA. However, things ended abruptly when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Matt Lawton shortly after his All-Star selection in 2001. Lawton only ended up hitting .246 for the Mets for the remainder of the season, down from the .293 batting average he had with the Twins. The Mets missed the playoffs that year, barely finishing above .500 with an 82-80 record. Lawton was traded in the following offseason to the Cleveland Indians leaving no room to save this deal.
14 Trading David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays
In late August of 1992, the Mets traded starting pitcher David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was an All-Star that season and in the prime of his career. Cone went on to win the World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992 while also putting together several more fantastic seasons. Included in his triumphs was winning the 1994 Cy Young Award as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Although the Mets did get second baseman Jeff Kent in return for Cone, he had his best years with the San Francisco Giants and was nothing more than filler for New York. Kent was eventually used to acquire Carlos Baerga from the Cleveland Indians which, in hindsight, was another bad move.
13 Trading Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants
The Mets may have underutilized outfielder Angel Pagan during his time with the team. A career .284 hitter with them through parts of four seasons, Pagan was traded to the San Francisco Giants prior to the 2012 season. He had a very good year in his first season with the Giants while even receiving a very distant 32nd place finish in the MVP voting. In return for Pagan, the Mets received Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. Torres hit .230 for the Mets in 2012 before returning to the Giants in 2013. Ramirez had a similar path, delivering a 4.24 ERA in 2012 for the Mets in 58 games before returning to the Giants for a few games in 2013.
12 Trading for Oliver Perez
In mid-2006 the Mets traded Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez. Nady produced decent numbers for the Pirates, however the part that makes this trade memorably bad was the acquisition of Perez in the first place. Almost immediately Perez struggled. In seven starts with the Mets in 2006, he went 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA. Even more questionable as to why they made this trade was the fact that he was 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA in Pittsburgh. He rebounded in 2007, but thereafter began to decline. Perez is remembered most by Mets’ fans for his erratic control which reached a new low with 105 walks in 2008. His large contract also made a few enemies in Flushing.
11 Francisco Rodriguez for Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario
As strained as the relationship between the New York Mets and Francisco Rodriguez became before he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, they should have gotten far more for him. At the time of the trade, Rodriguez was still an elite closer who had a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves for the Mets. He was even better for the Brewers, but that is beside the point. What made this trade bad was that all they got back for K-Rod was Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario. Herrera only ended up pitching 8 innings for the Mets while Rosario never got above Double-A.
10 Trading for Mo Vaughn
Mo Vaughn is one of the worst players in Mets history. The way he got there was through a trade with the Anaheim Angels (as they called themselves at the time) for starting pitcher Kevin Appier. Appier had a solid 2002 season with the Angels before age caught up to him the following season, but who they gave up is truly irrelevant when discussing why this trade sucks. Vaughn, with an already huge contract attached to him, was paid for three seasons of baseball and earned nearly $50 million from the Mets. He only ended up playing 166 games for them while delivering a .249/.346/.438 slash line and 29 home runs.
9 Trading Mookie Wilson for Jeff Musselman
When the Mets traded Mookie Wilson, it was probably about time. They were only dealing a guy with an iconic moment rather than someone with great years ahead of him. In mid-1989, Wilson was sent north to the Toronto Blue Jays with a minor leaguer for pitcher Jeff Musselman. Musselman pitched well in 1989, but in 1990 he was finished already, as he went just 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA with the Mets. The 1990 season ended up being his last as a big leaguer too at only 27-years-old. Clearly, the Mets picked the wrong pitcher to add to their roster.
8 Trading Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato
The Mets traded away their first round pick from 2002 in hopes it could get them the MLB-ready players to take them to the World Series. It didn’t work and the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Tampa Bay Rays is one they surely regret. In spite of injuries, Kazmir has been a steady pitcher over the last decade. He is also a three-time All-Star, who is highly respected around the league. In return for Kazmir, the Mets picked up Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. In three seasons with New York, Zambrano was 10-14 with a 4.42 ERA. Fortunato was even more useless, pitching only 17 games for the Mets.
7 Trading Rusty Staub Away
Rusty Staub probably belongs in the MLB Hall of Fame. Regardless, the trade the Mets made in December 1975 involving Staub has landed in their HOF of bad transactions. Following a year where he drove in 105 runs for the Mets, Staub was sent to the Detroit Tigers with Bill Laxton for Billy Baldwin and Mickey Lolich. Baldwin only had a handful of appearances for the Mets, making him insignificant in this trade. Lolich was the main attraction, but at 35-years-old he was only capable of going 8-13 with a 3.22 ERA. He also missed all of 1977 to make this one hurt even more. Over in Detroit, Staub continued to thrive and was an All-Star in his first year with the Tigers. His power numbers went up too and he even had one season with them where he finished 5th in the MVP voting.
6 Trading Collin McHugh for Eric Young Jr.
We haven’t yet to see the full effect of this recent trade. However, after the 2015 season, it’s safe to say this has the makings of a trade that will go down as one of the worst trades the Mets have ever made. In June of 2013, the Mets traded pitcher Collin McHugh for Eric Young Jr., hoping to capitalize on the latter’s speed. While Young Jr. did deliver stolen bases, he struggled with the bat. McHugh, on the other hand, has found new life as a member of the Houston Astros where he was selected off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. In two seasons with the Astros, McHugh has gone 30-16 with a 3.39 ERA. In 2015, he finished 8th in the Cy Young Award voting.
5 Trading Mel Rojas for Bobby Bonilla
This is one of those trades where the Mets were smart in trading Mel Rojas, but really screwed themselves over by re-acquiring Bobby Bonilla. As you may have heard, Bonilla makes over $1 million each year from the Mets and will continue to do so, due to a strange clause in his contract. It was a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought Bonilla back to the Mets for the 1999 season to set this in motion. Neither Rojas nor Bonilla contributed to their new teams helping to save this from a higher ranking. If the Mets had only stuck with Rojas instead of trying to get fancy, maybe they wouldn’t have one of the worst contracts in history on the books.
4 Trading Amos Otis Away
You have to go back into the archives to find this bad trade, as it took place only a few months after man first walked on the moon. Amos Otis, an outfielder who only saw a little bit of time with the Mets, was traded to the Kansas City Royals with Bob Johnson for Joe Foy. Foy only played 99 games for the Mets in 1970 while posting a .236 batting average. Meanwhile, Otis was with the Royals from 1970 through 1983 and was a five-time All-Star who won Gold Gloves and earned MVP consideration several times.
3 Trading Lenny Dykstra to the Philadelphia Phillies
Outfielder Lenny Dykstra was a big part of the 1986 Mets World Series team, yet only a few years later he was no longer employed by them. In the middle of the 1989 season, New York traded Dykstra to the rival Philadelphia Phillies along with Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel. Dykstra continued to get better, earning his first trip to the All-Star Game in his inaugural season with the Phillies. Samuel only stayed with the Mets for the remainder of 1989 while contributing just a .228 batting average. The fact that Dykstra landed on a team the Mets played on a regular basis is a big factor in this bad trade ranking so high.
2 Trading Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi
Strikeout King Nolan Ryan pitched for four teams in his MLB career. However, it was the Mets who originally drafted Ryan then traded him to the California Angels before he was 25. In his first year with the Angels, Ryan won 19 games and made his first trip to the All-Star Game. It was also the first of many seasons where he would lead the league in strikeouts. The Mets traded him to the Angels along with a package of players for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi only ended up playing in 146 games for the Mets while delivering a .233 batting average and five weak home runs. The Mets let one of the greatest pitchers in history slip out from under their fingers for practically nothing.
1 Trading Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds
Unlike trading Nolan Ryan away when he was young, the Mets knew exactly how phenomenal Tom Seaver was when they made the mistake of trading him. Seaver won three Cy Young Awards with the Mets before he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in June of 1977. The Mets received four players back: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman, and Pat Zachry. None of them are Hall of Famers or put together the kind of years Seaver continued to deliver while with the Reds. In fact, none were very good. Seaver had continued success with the Reds for the next six seasons, going 75-46 with a 3.18 ERA. He returned to the Mets for the 1983 season as a shell of himself, going 9-14 with a 3.55 ERA at 38-years-old. The fact that the Mets were unable to get anything better for their greatest pitcher in franchise history is what makes this the worst trade they ever made.