Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Best Mets Pickups Of The Last 15 Years

I had a lot of fun breaking down the worst free agent signings and worst trades in Mets history last week, so I decided I’d do the opposite this week.  Today, I’ll highlight the best Mets transactions of the last 15 years, and Thursday I’ll put together my dream team for best Mets lineup of the last decade-plus.  Thanks again to UltimateMets.com for all the transactions.

Mets trade Robert Person to Toronto for John Olerud

Person was a 25-year-old pitcher whose best year was probably going 15-7 with a 4.19 ERA for the Phillies in 2001.  But Olerud was a revelation in his Mets years, and criminally underrated.  He hit 63 homers over three seasons as a Met, with a .315/.425/.501 line that boggles the mind.  John Olerud, the guy who wore his batting helmet in the field, did that?

Those years, 1997-99, came smack in the middle of the steroid era in baseball, and Olerud was overshadowed by many of his slugging contemporaries over at first base. He was never an All Star or Gold Glover or a serious MVP candidate with the Mets, but there’s little doubt that he was sorely overlooked.  Take some of his advanced stats that were less en vogue during the 90s – a 142 OPS+, 100 more walks than strikeouts, nearly 13 wins above replacement over three seasons – and it becomes clear that Olerud was something special in New York.

Mets trade Preston Wilson, Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnell to Florida for Mike Piazza

The former first round pick, Wilson was a steep price to pay for Piazza, especially given his relationship to former Met hero Mookie Wilson (Preston was Mookie's stepson AND nephew, somehow...).  Wilson had some solid if unspectacular years for Florida, bounced around late in his career and was done with baseball by age 32.  Piazza retired the same year as Wilson, 2007, but did so as the best slugging catcher of all time. Piazza hit 220 homers with the Mets, with a .296 average, a .915 OPS, seven All Star appearances, multiple hair colors, countless bounced throws to second base and one very awkward press conference.

Mets sign Jose Reyes

Cheating a little bit - remember, Reyes was never drafted but signed as a 16-year-old kid from the Dominican Republic. It's unnecessary to recount Reyes' exploits as a Met, so I'll sum up his 2011 as best I can: before hitting the disabled list this week, Reyes was leading the NL in batting average, runs and triples, was second in hits, stolen bases and offensive WAR, and top 10 in a whole host of other offensive categories, despite a DL trip last month.  Let's hope he bounces back quickly (and gets a new contract too!).

Mets sign Carlos Beltran

Now that Beltran has moved on, we can look back on his Mets tenure and deduce that, hey, he was pretty damn great.  There was no doubt that he broke down after his first four seasons, but his 2006 was really outstanding: he hit .275/.388/.594, clubbed 41 homers, stole 18 out of 21 bases, had eight WAR, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and came in fourth in MVP voting.  Maybe he didn't achieve everything he could have with the Mets, but in a few years we may look back and be glad he netted us Zach Wheeler too.

Mets trade Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit and Grant Psomas to Florida for Carlos Delgado

Another instance in which the Mets seemingly fleece the Marlins for a big time slugger.  Delgado was on the downswing of his career, but still had two terrific seasons for the Mets.  His first year in New York, Delgado had a .909 OPS with 38 homers and his third year he had an .871 OPS with another 38 homers.  Perhaps his defense left something to be desired, but the other Carlos had a solid stay in New York and cost almost nothing in the trade.

Mets trade Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra to Minnesota for Johan Santana

Humber is having a good season this year, albeit for the White Sox. Gomez has never seemed to figure himself out as a player and has missed significant time the last two years.  The other two guys haven't amounted to much quite yet.  So let's put this one squarely in the win column for Santana, since the Mets haven't helped him win much since his arrival in New York. An outstanding first season gave way to two years with just 13 and 11 wins each, thanks to shoddy run support - Santana had the second worst RS in 2010 and the worst run support in 2009.  He has still managed to pitch beautifully during his time with the Mets, with a 2.85 ERA, before injuring his shoulder last year.  It remains to be seen how Santana will bounce back, but his first three years as a Met already cement him as the best Mets pitcher of the last decade.

Evan is also the author of Umpire State. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_S_S.

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