THE 9th BEST TRADE IN METS HISTORY
* November 24, 2005: New York Mets trade Grant Psomas, Mike Jacobs and Yusmeiro Petit to the Florida Marlins for Carlos Delgado.
This trade almost didn’t make our Top Ten, and there are arguments against it, I suppose, but the more I thought about this deal, the more I’ve come to admire it.
One of the things that always comes to mind with Delgado is that the reason we had to trade for him was because we couldn’t close the deal a year earlier. That unsuccessful Delgado courtship prior to the 2005 season was painful, as Pedro was dealing that year and with one more bat like Delgado’s we would have been a very dangerous team.
But a year later the Mets got anther shot at Carlos and the fact is they made a great trade. This trade paid immediate dividends in 2006.
You can look at what the Mets gave up and shrug, nothing. But at the time, those fellas were getting a lot of love from the prospect mavens. Mike Jacobs was organizational player of the year in 2003. In 2005, the converted catcher swatted 11 HRs in only 112 PAs — a monstrous .710 SLG. This was his first taste of the big leagues, an auspicious debut! Meanwhile, we’d been watching Yusmeiro Petit rise through the system with ease. He was widely considered the Mets #1 prospect. His WHIP at A-ball: 0.83. At A+: 0.93. At AA in 2005: 0.92. Even better, he struck out 130 and walked only 18 in Binghamton. But there were whispers from the scouts, concerns that the “stuff” wasn’t outstanding, that he was getting by with a deceptive delivery. The numbers on the page said he’d be great, but there were doubts from the stands (see: Ynoa, Gabriel). Lastly, Grant Psomas was touted as a hard-hitting 3B stuck behind David Wright. At Hagerstown in 2005, his slash line was .300/.403/.551 with 19 HRs. Obviously, three stars in the making. There’s a lesson in this, I think.
Just for fun, here’s a 2005 Baseball America rating of the Mets top 10 prospects. If only Omar had held on to all those guys and waited for the good times to come! I had a 2007 rotation penciled in of Humber, Petit, Hernandez, Bannister, and Soler!
1. Lastings Milledge, of
2. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp
3. Gaby Hernandez, rhp
4. Mike Jacobs, c/1b
5. Philip Humber, rhp
6. Carlos Gomez, of
7. Fernando Martinez, of
8. Anderson Hernandez, ss/2b
9. Brian Bannister, rhp
10. Alay Soler, rhp
As we also saw with the Clendenon deal, one of the benefits of young prospects is the ability to trade some to rebuilding teams when you are in position to win. To win you need a great deal of core talent together at the same time. After the 2005 season the Mets already had Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright in place. It was not a moment to be timid, and this was a bold deal. The players traded for Delgado were very highly rated. Because they never accomplished much this trade now looks one-sided, but it looked very fair when it was consummated.
But it paid off. Delgado had an even 100 home runs in the three years that followed the trade. The Mets won 274 games with only 212 losses. Shea rocked nightly, with paid attendance going all the way to over 4 million customers in 2008. All Mets fans know how disappointing the final games of the season were in each of those years. What now gets glossed over is how much fantastic baseball, winning baseball, we witnessed at that time.
Delgado was in the middle of much of it. That includes the 2006 postseason, as Delgado was a force in the sweep of the Dodgers, and again in the seven games with the Cardinals. Lost in the heartbreak that came from Beltran taking strike three, was that Delgado’s had a great NLCS with a slash line of .304/448/.826.
The bitter endings to 2007 and 2008 have marred our appreciation of the Mets in that era. When it ends in heartache, it’s hard to look back and think, “Gee, those were good times.”
I played with some numbers recently. The 2006-08 three-year stretch ranks right there with the great 1998-2000 stretch (279 wins), and trumps the 1969-71 era (266 wins). The only period in Mets history that was appreciably better was any three-year period from 1985-90, take your pick. The all-time best was 1985-87 with 298 wins (a 108-win season really helps those three-year averages).
The idea is to make the postseason, and those teams did it only once. So I’m the first guy not to get totally misty eyed about the era. But the recent narrative that discusses the time period as one big fail is an interesting rewrite of history. The last three years we keep hearing about sustained success. Between 2006 and 2008 we actually experienced it.
One last bit of date, the five worst three-year stretches in Mets history:
- 1962-64: 144 wins
- 1980-83: 200 wins (Note: 1981 was strike season, so I skipped it.)
- 1991-93: 208 wins
- 2002-04: 212 wins
- 2011-13: 225 wins
There are so many dimensions to the Delgado deal, I have to mention another: internal scouting. When you trade big-time prospects and they don’t work out, it’s a credit to the team’s minor league evaluators. Right now, I’m sure that’s the kind of conversation the Super Friends (nickname credit: Metstradamus) are having about Syndergaard and Montero. I can imagine a scout in a room pounding a fist on the table, saying “If you trade Syndergaard, you will regret it for the rest of your life!” Another guy might be saying, “Yes, but I have my doubts about Montero.” Or vice versa, somebody is looking at Syndergaard’s delivery and saying, “Guy is going to break down.” A clear, accurate assessment of the talent is a critical ingredient to any trade.
That is true. If you look at players as commodities, you also have insider information on the commodity. A team should have a better handle on the players in their own system than anyone else. Selling high on some of these guys can provide the greatest return they can ever give a team.
Clearly, the Mets were willing to take on big salary to get this deal done. They gave up a lot, paid a lot of money, and got in exchange an outstanding player and leader. The result: a legitimate shot at the World Series.
As you pointed out, that strange war involving Delgado’s agent when he was first a free agent after the 2004 season — a sad battle of egos, and insults, and wounded pride — tainted the eventual trade in many eyes. It killed me at the time, because I kept believing that we should have had him a year sooner without giving up all those prospects. But once the water rolled under the bridge, Omar kept at it and kept at it. He knew who he wanted, he had a vision for a championship team, and Carlos Delgado was destined to be the big bat in the thick of things.
Omar Minaya has been rightfully hammered for some terrible free agent signings. But this trade was great and led to a lot of winning baseball in New York.
As we search for a bat this offseason, we could use another deal like this one right now. As Alderson mentioned himself, it’s not like we already have one in our organization.