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The Ryan Express left New York on this date in 1971, but 13 years later, there was a new Kid in town. Oh, and K-Rod became a Met, too.
Three of the biggest trades in Mets history have occurred on December 10. Big both in their impact on the franchise and number of pieces moved between teams. Behold the full carnage:
December 10, 1971
The Mets trade P Nolan Ryan, OF Leroy Stanton, C Francisco Estrada, and P Don Rose to the California Angels for IF Jim Fregosi
December 10, 1984
The Mets trade IF Hubie Brooks, C Mike Fitzgerald, OF Herm Winningham, and P Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos for C Gary Carter
December 10, 2008
The Mets, Mariners, and Indians agree to a twelve player, three-way trade. New York sends P Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, P Jason Vargas, P, IF Mike Carp, OF Ezequiel Carrera, and P Maikel Cleto to Seattle, P Joe Smith to Cleveland, and in return gets P J.J. Putz, P Sean Green, and OF Jeremy Reed.
If you don't feel like counting, that's fifteen men (including one Hall of Famer) who have become ex-Mets in these deals and five (including one Hall of Famer) and who have joined the team.
Much has been written about these trades, too. Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi is one of the foundational stories in Mets lore, helping to define how many non-fans (and I'd argue a fairly large portion of the team's own base, but that's a topic for another piece) see the franchise: Bumbling, incapable of keeping of elite talent, and until 2012, unworthy of that which almost all other teams have: a no-hitter (Sorry, San Diego). Even at the time it was consummated, the narrative of the Gary Carter deal was that the Mets had to make the trade to be considered legit title contenders. That the Kid actually did help the team win a World Series seems like one of the few times in Mets history where fans and beat writers were both satisfied with how a story line resolved.
As for the 2008 blockbuster, you can read what Amazin' Avenue's head honcho wrote at the time here, which includes this relevant quote:
As with all trades, this one will be judged twice: Once at inception and again in retrospect once all of the principals have settled and established themselves (or not). The latter will have to wait, but in the case of the former, I think the Mets are a clear winner here.
Four years on seems like a fair time to submit the deal to double jeopardy and the verdict is not good for the Mets, obviously. In retrospect, the frequency with which the phrase "if healthy" appeared in reviews of the trade, here and in the other outlets Eric linked to in his write up, probably should have tempered expectations among New York partisans more than it did. As for the narrative of this deal, I'd say its failure illustrated GM Omar Minaya's fatal flaw: His tendency to solve yesterday's problems today while simultaneously causing tomorrow's. The Mets bullpen was terrible in 2008, but Omar's attempted at fixing it by orchestrating this deal and signing Francisco Rodriguez (which also happened on this date four years ago) cost the team organizational depth and payroll flexibility. If those problems sound familiar, it's because those are the things that are still making it hard for the Mets to field a competitive roster today.
Or you can look at the trades this way: The players the Mets dealt away accrued 67.1 rWAR for their new teams. In return, New York got 10.3 rWAR from Gary Carter and -1.5 rWAR from everyone else acquired. Plus, they gave up Endy. Whether you're a Mets fan who likes stats or grafting story lines on to events post facto, we can agree that's a terrible tragedy.
- Victor Diaz is 31, which means that Baby Manny is now solidly middle-aged. Diaz hasn't appeared in a Mets uniform since trading him to Texas in early 2006, nor a 25-man roster since the Rangers let him walk at the end of the 2007 season. It's too surprising, given that right handed hitters with poor gloves, poor contact skills, and good, but not elite power are a fungible asset, but it is somewhat weird to think that Mike Nickeas, the player the Mets acquired for Diaz, has accumulated more MLB service time over the last five years than Big Vic.
- Doug Henry turns 49. The former reliever finished his 11-year big league career with an 34-42 mark. He went 5-14 as a Met from 1995-96, but 29-28 everywhere else he played. It helped that Henry mostly played for winning teams after leaving New York. Between 1997 and 2000, Henry was a solid contributor to the pens of part of four division winning teams (1997 Giants, '98 and '99 Astros, and 2000 Giants).
- Utility man Ted Martinez reaches senior citizenship today, as he's now 65 years of age. Between 1970 and '74, Martinez appeared at every position for the Mets, save pitcher, catcher, and first base. Unfortunately, his bat didn't play at any spot on the diamond, as he only mustered a .235/.267/.309 line.
- Facing the Mets on May 11, 1994, Mel Rojas, 46, struck out the side on nine pitches. Three years later, Rojas was a Met and if he accomplished a similar feat for the team, the Shea faithful probably still would have booed him. Extremely unpopular during his 15-month tenure, Rojas didn't help matters by pitching very poorly. WAR isn't a great metric for analyzing relievers, but somehow Rojas managed to cost the Mets 1.4 wins above replacement in just 84 innings with the club.
- Dan Wheeler turns 35. The righty spent 2003 and '04 with the Mets and was just about average: 4 wins, 4 losses, 100 ERA+. Wheeler blossomed after getting traded to the Astros, though. Aside from a lost season in 2007, Wheeler has been a well-above average reliever until the last two years or so.
While Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the best pitcher the Mets dealt on this date, they also bid adieu to a future Cy Young winner today. Exactly thirty years ago, the team traded Mike Scott to the Astros for outfielder Danny Heep. Houston most likely remains incredibly pleased with transaction, even if the goods were slightly scuffed in shipping.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Melvil Dewey, namesake of the Dewey Decimal System, was born on this date in 1851. Should you ever find yourself in a library needing to find books on the Mets, look in the 796 section along with all the other tomes on athletic and outdoor sports and games.