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Mets fans were rooting for an early spring on Groundhog Day 2008, as they wanted a look at the team's newly acquired ace.
One day after agreeing to make Johan Santana the highest paid pitcher in team history, the New York Mets officially acquired the two-time Cy Young Award winner from the Minnesota Twins on this date in 2008. Though it took a nine figure sum of money to make Santana a Met, the price GM Omar Minaya paid in talent to land the elite left-hander was, and still seems, surprisingly low. Of the four players included in the trade-outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Deolis Guerra, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey-only Gomez and Guerra were on Baseball America's list of the Top 100 Prospects in baseball (#52 and #35 respectively). Humber made BA's cut in 2005 and 2007, topping out at #50 in the former year, but that was before he'd lost a season of development time to Tommy John surgery. Mulvey, meanwhile, seems to have been included mainly because he happened to be the Mets' top draft choice in 2006 (62nd overall), a year the team lost its first round pick for signing Billy Wagner.
At the time of the Santana deal, an unnamed Mets official told BP's Kevin Goldstein that the trade had "ripped the heart out" of the farm system. That seemed like hyperbole then, especially considering the team managed to snag the best pitcher in baseball while holding on to its top overall prospect in Fernando Martinez (ranked #20 on Baseball America's list in 2008), and it definitely comes across as melodramatic now. So far, the most accomplished player the Mets gave up in the deal has been Carlos Gomez, who's been worth 6.9 wins above replacement since 2008, according to Baseball Reference. To put it in perspective, that happens to be exactly what Santana was worth to the Mets in 2008 alone (it also happens to be the seventh best single-season mark in team history).
As for the other players...well, it's not looking too rosy. Phil Humber is now a Houston Astro and, perfect gamed be damned, will be fighting for a rotation spot with the reigning worst team in baseball. Kevin Mulvey returned to the Mets organization in 2012 and walked nearly as many batters as he struck out for Double-A Binghamton. The only player who's still with the Twins in Deolis Guerra. He might turn into something yet, but Minnesota has already decided his future is in the pen and, unless he makes the club out of spring training, he's looking at a third go-round at Triple-A Rochester this year.
Also, Johan did this. Even if you watched it in yesterday's This Date post, watch it again.
- Ronny Cedeño turns 30. The middle infielder had the best season of his career so far as a member of the Mets bench last year, putting up a better than league average OPS+ (104) for the first time and setting a new personal best in on-base percentage with .332. Cedeño signed with St. Louis earlier this week, where he stands to get more playing time since the incumbent shortstop is the fragile Rafael Furcal.
- Scott Erickson, the former Twins and Orioles rotation stalwart who made two starts for the Mets in 2004, is 45. Since retiring from baseball, Erickson has begun a second career in the movie business. Last year, he and his wife, actress Lisa Guerrero, produced the film A Plumm Summer, a family comedy starring William Baldwin and Henry Winkler. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune's review, the film is "fraught with leaden direction and horrible acting" and "barely watchable and actually insulting to your child's intelligence."
- Happy 62nd birthday to Leo Foster, the Ronny Cedeño of the 1975-76 Mets. As a backup to Bud Harrelson et al., the Kentuckian hit .216/.291/.267 whilst keeping his his cap balanced precariously atop a well-coiffed afro.
- The butt of countless Keith Hernandez-uttered "Who's on first?" jokes, Chin-lung Hu is 29 today. Hu hasn't been seen on any base at the major league level since going 1-for-20 for the Mets in 2011. After his release, the infielder latched on with the Adelaide Bite of the Australian Baseball League and played well enough to be named the starting shortstop for the World Team at the ABL All-Star Game.
- It seems like only yesterday that rookie Melvin Mora scampered home on a wild pitch to score the winning run in Game 162 of the 1999 season. Today, he's a former two-time All-Star who's presumably enjoying his 41st birthday and retirement with his six children, five of whom are quintuplets.
- Dale Murray, one of the first bullpen arms to be worn down by Joe Torre, is 63. The righty made a team-high 111 relief appearances over the 1978 and '79 seasons, posting a 4.27 ERA in 183-plus innings. Murray was the first alum from Texas's Blinn College to make it to the majors, though the program has since graduated other notables like fellow former Met John Thomson.
- Pat Tabler turns 55. Nicknamed Mr. Clutch due to his .487 career batting average with the bases loaded, Tabler came to the plate three times with the bags juiced during his brief Mets tenure and went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles, a hit by pitch, and five RBI. Presently a color commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays, Tabler has mentioned his love for Jethro Tull over the airwaves on more than one occasion, so presumably he's blowing out his candles with a Locomotive Breath.
- Finally, Jason Vargas is 30. Acquired from the Marlins in 2006 for relievers Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens, that trade would have a nice little steal for Omar Minaya if only he'd held on to the lefty. Instead, the GM flipped him to the Mariners two years later in the J.J. Putz deal. Since 2007, Vargas has made 112 starts. Two came as a Met, during which he racked up a 12.19 ERA. The remainder were with Seattle, for whom he's posted a 4.09 mark.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today is Groundhog Day and, according to Punxsutawney Phil, we can expect an early spring this year. Only two MLB players have shared a hometown with the weather prognosticating land-beaver: John Mizerock, a catcher who played parts of four seasons with the Astros and Braves, and current Reds backstop Devin Mesoraco. Historically, Mets pitchers have made Mizerock's and Mesoraco's bats go as cold as six more weeks of winter. The two have combined to go just 6-for-33 (.181) against New York hurlers.