The decade of the 2010s was a dramatic, mixed bag for the New York Mets. They missed the playoffs from 2010-14, went on a run in the second half of 2015 to make the World Series, followed it up by appearing in the National League Wild Card Game in 2016, and haven’t made the playoffs since. However, they rounded out the 10-year run by winning 86 games in 2019 with a deep starting rotation and budding offense. Yeah, it’s weird.
Whether it be because of ownership, managerial hiccups, or players collectively underachieving, the Mets have been a guessing game in recent memory. Some of that derives from bizarre transactions, though, some have been worthwhile for their sake.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the New York Mets have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the New York Mets Have Made Since 2010: New York Acquires Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Toronto Blue Jays for R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas, and Josh Thole (December 17, 2012)
When this trade went down, the Mets were teased, as Dickey was coming off winning the 2012 NL Cy Young Award; no one was making fun of them three years later.
Syndergaard was the featured aspect of this trade for the Mets, and he quickly lived up to expectations. Making his MLB debut in 2015, the hard-throwing right-hander was a strikeout machine who pitched to a low ERA and was getting hitters to chase his off-speed pitches. He then supposedly pitched through an elbow injury in 2016 en route to the Mets hosting the NL Wild Card Game, where he tossed seven shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants.
The following season and really his entire career Syndergaard has been hindered by injuries; he recently underwent Tommy John surgery, which will keep him off the field in 2020. At his best, Syndergaard has been a force to be reckoned with every fifth day. He has ace-caliber offerings, pitches with confidence, and is a power pitcher; it’s a matter of consistency.
d’Arnaud was a steady force behind the plate in his time with the Mets; he was a plausible backstop and an underrated source of offense. In 2014 and 2015 d’Arnaud posted an OPS+ above 100 and posted an impressive .825 OPS in the latter year. Two seasons later (2017) he totaled 16 home runs and 57 RBIs across just 112 games.
Sure, Buck and Becerria never stuck with the Mets, but Syndergaard has exhibited glimpses of excellence, and d’Arnaud was one of the better hitting catchers in MLB before being released days into the 2019 season; they were the main return of this deal for the Mets. Plus, they didn’t surrender anything they wish they could have back.
Dickey was a respectable force after this trade, but he never came close to matching his 2012 Cy Young season. Furthermore, he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2017. Meanwhile, Nickeas and Thole have appeared in a combined 171 games since the trade.
For better or worse, the Mets’ identity has been starting pitching, and Syndergaard has been in the middle of it since 2015.
The Worst Trade the New York Mets Have Made Since 2010: New York Acquires Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners for Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, and Gerson Bautista (December 3, 2018)
A monstrosity, a lack of foresight, and a lack of internal value are some words and phrases that come to mind with this trade. In the span of just one year this trade has become one of, if not the worst trade in Met history.
Superficially, the Mets were getting one of the preeminent second basemen in baseball in Cano. Theoretically, trading Kelenic, who was maybe the team’s best position player prospect going into the offseason, was worth the price of admission, as Cano would be a force in the middle of the order. Meanwhile, Diaz, who was arguably the best backend reliever in MLB in 2018, would be the lights-out closer the Mets desperately needed. Then they played the games.
Cano began the season with a bang, launching a home run in his first at-bat of the season off Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals; it all went downhill from there. Cano, a career .304 hitter going into 2019, struggled to get on base and showed signs of regression from a consistency standpoint. The now 37-year-old also missed a lot of time due to injury, experiencing two stints on the injured list due to quad and hamstring injuries. He finished the season with a .256 batting average, a .736 OPS, and a 96 OPS+.
Jeff McNeil, who has established himself as one of the best pure hitters in baseball, is a primary second baseman. However, due to the Mets’ financial commitment to Cano ($80 million over the next four seasons), McNeil can’t play second base. Subsequently, he took the bulk of his 2019 reps at third base and both corner outfield positions; he was moderate at best at the positions.
Diaz put together a season for the ages — for all the wrong reasons. Posting a 5.59 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and a 73 ERA+ he was unstable in the late innings. He struggled to get his fastball over the plate, hitters read his off-speed pitches well, and he was unable to provide any sense of comfort or encouragement. To put those figures into perspective, Diaz nearly tripled his ERA, doubled his WHIP, and divided his ERA+ by three from 2018. He was arguably the worst closer in MLB.
We’re not done.
Kelenic flat-out raked in Double-A for the Mariners, finishing the 2019 season with a .904 OPS across three levels of minor-league ball. With Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Yoenis Cespedes all being riddled by major injuries over the last three years, a vibrant, young outfielder would be perfect for the Mets.
Dunn recorded a 3.55 ERA and 158 strikeouts across 25 starts in Double-A for the Mariners last season. With Syndergaard missing all of next season and a handful of starters in walk years, having a young arm in the farm would come in handy. Oh, and Kelenic and Dunn are former first-round picks.
No matter how you slice it, this was an awful trade for the Mets.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.