Baseball America recently did a piece on the five biggest prospect hauls (in terms of WAR) acquired in deadline deals over the last decade. The Mets were involved in two of them – and not in a good way. The piece is subscriber only, so I am copying and pasting (without permission, but with much love) along with their notes – with a few of my own
July 31, 2002
Padres receive OF Jason Bay, LHP Bobby M. Jones and RHP Josh Reynolds from Mets for RHPs Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrooks.
What BA said at the time: “It wasn’t a blockbuster by any means, but the Mets and Padres exchanged some interesting players in the first deal on Wednesday . . . In 102 games between Double-A Binghamton and high Class A St. Lucie in 2002, Bay has hit .272-13-73 with 34 steals in 39 attempts. He has some gap power and on-base skills, runs well for a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder and has a strong arm that’s an asset in right field.”
What Happened: Bay never fully established himself in San Diego, but that winter the Padres were able to trade him for outfielder Brian Giles and lefthander Oliver Perez. While Perez’s lows outnumbered his highs, Giles was a solid addition for the Padres for several years. With the Pirates, Bay turned into one of the league’s better outfielders.
My take: At the time, I was wondering why the Mets would trade a promising AA outfielder in exchange for Jason Middlebrooks – an ok-to-pretty-good middle reliever. Especially at a time when the Mets were abysmal and middle relief was the LEAST of their problems. BUT – Bay had come over in a fleecing of the Expos in a deal for Lou Collier (who as it turns out, never played a game for the Mets – he was acquired in the 01-02 offseason from the Brewers, and dealt in Spring training in 02). ‘Oh well’ I thought to myself, “Steve Phillips probably knows something I don’t. East come easy go”. Turns out not to be true. And while Phillips is quick to note that he is wrongly accused by folks of trading Scott Kazmir, this one is totally on him. Not to worry the Mets made sure to sign Bay to a huge contract just as his production tanked. Hey, did someone mention Scott Kazmir…?
July 30, 2004
Rays receive LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Joselo Diaz from Mets for RHPs Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
What BA said at the time: “While the Devil Rays have had success developing everyday players, they haven’t had the same luck bringing pitchers to the major leagues. That trend could change after they pulled off a stunning trade.”
What Happened: Rarely has a trade been more universally panned at the time Zambrano’s control problems continued in New York (and then he had Tommy John surgery the next year) while Kazmir quickly became the Rays ace. The diminutive lefty’s peak didn’t last long, as his velocity diminished and he was out of the big leagues by the time he was 27, but by then he had made a pair of all-star appearances
Career WAR from prospects involved in the deal: 15.2
My take: Now clearly, the sting of this has worn off over time. It also doesn’t hurt that Kazmir flamed out rather quickly, though as noted, he was very good for a short period. In a spec piece I used to audition for this site, I noted how I felt that – both at the time and now – the Scott Kazmir trade was the worst deal in Mets history. Even worse than Nolan Ryan. Not to get all talk radio host (say something outrageous to fill airtime), but there is – I believe – solid reasoning here. At the time of his trade at the age of 26 in 1971, Ryan was a hard throwing righty who showed glimpses of greatness, but also bouts of wildness. In ’71, he walked 116(!) batters in 152 innings, while striking out 137. Keep in mind this was before free agency and players were as valuable to organizations as matches in a box – hard throwers who couldn’t pitch were a dime a dozen. The Mets had legit concerns that as he entered his late 20’s, he was the pitcher he was going to be, and while other teams would take a flier on him, they wouldn’t give the Mets a ton (he was a throw in in the Jim Fergosi trade).
In 2004, the baseball landscape had changed dramatically. Teams sunk serious money in to prospects, thus prospects had significant currency, especially at the trade deadline. Kazmir was considered perhaps the best left handed pitcher in the minors in July of ’04, and was already in AA at the age of 20. Was there risk with him? Sure. But if the Jim Duquette – or whoever was calling the shots for the Mets at the time – had shopped Kazmir around to the 28 other teams, they would have gotten 28 better offer than the Rays gave them. I doubt the same could have been said about Ryan. And that is why it is the biggest blunder in Mets history, even to this day.