Biggest trades in Mets history

December 1st, 2021

In their dealings with rival teams, the Mets have never lacked for drama. Some of the foremost stars have come and gone via trade, leaving the Mets with a history full of colorful transactions. Some worked. Some didn't. In both cases, the deals have often been memorable.

Here's a look at the 10 biggest trades in franchise history:

1. Mets land a big Fish
Mets received from Marlins: C Mike Piazza
Mets gave up: OF Preston Wilson, LHP Ed Yarnall, LHP Geoff Goetz
Date: May 22, 1998

Eight days after the Marlins acquired Piazza -- a former National League Rookie of the Year and five-time All-Star -- in a trade with the Dodgers, they spun him to the Mets for a trio of prospects. The only one of the bunch with any big league experience, Wilson, went on to make an All-Star team of his own, though by that point he had already moved on from Miami to Colorado. Yarnall appeared in just seven career big league games, none with the Marlins, while Goetz never cracked the Majors. Then there was Piazza, who launched the Mets back to relevance, led them to the 2000 World Series, delivered seven more All-Star seasons and went into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque.

2. Captain incoming, Part 1
Mets received from Cardinals: 1B Keith Hernandez
Mets gave up: RHP Neil Allen, RHP Rick Ownbey
Date: June 15, 1983

The Mets were floundering in the early 1980s when they took advantage of Hernandez's contract situation (and often-stated sour relationship with Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog) to acquire a star in his prime. Already a five-time Gold Glove winner at the time of the trade, Hernandez instantly became part of the Mets' backbone, finishing second in NL MVP voting his first full season in Flushing. In 1986, Hernandez led the Mets to their second World Series title, and they returned the favor by naming him captain the following year. Meanwhile, neither Allen nor Ownbey distinguished themselves much in St. Louis, though the former at least remained in the big leagues for 11 seasons.

3. Captain incoming, Part 2
Mets received from Expos: C Gary Carter
Mets gave up: OF/IF Hubie Brooks, C Mike Fitzgerald, OF Herm Winningham, RHP Floyd Youmans
Date: Dec. 10, 1984

The acquisition of Hernandez made the Mets relevant, but it was the trade for Carter 18 months later that transformed them into a title-bound team. One of the foremost Winter Meetings blockbusters in baseball history, the deal filled a significant hole in New York's lineup. Carter became everything the Mets hoped he would be, clubbing 56 homers his first two seasons in Flushing plus another two in the 1986 World Series. He was named co-captain with Hernandez in 1988 and went into Cooperstown 15 years later (though with an Expos cap on his plaque). The most distinguished of the players the Mets gave up was Brooks, who posted one All-Star season in Montreal but never had the type of impact that Carter did in New York.

4. Midnight massacre
Mets received from Reds: RHP Pat Zachry, INF Doug Flynn, OF Steve Henderson, OF Dan Norman
Mets gave up: RHP Tom Seaver
Date: June 15, 1977

Rather than acquiesce to Seaver's demands for a new contract, the Mets shipped their most popular player, and a key part of their 1969 World Series team, to the Reds for four players. At 32, Seaver was a former Rookie of the Year, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a nine-time All-Star. He was the soul of the Mets and his departure remains, to this day, the most unpopular move in team history. Though Zachry, Henderson and Flynn all made marks on the franchise, none could compare to The Franchise himself, who enjoyed 5 1/2 seasons of success in Cincinnati before returning to the Mets in 1983. By that point, Seaver was 38, near the end of a brilliant Hall of Fame career.

5. Hello, Mr. Smile
Mets received from Indians: SS , RHP
Mets gave up: SS , SS Andrés Giménez, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene
Date: Jan. 7, 2021

This was a huge deal, but not necessarily a huge surprise. When Steve Cohen took over as the Mets’ owner after the 2020 season, it was clear he was intent on making a big splash immediately. And trade rumors had long swirled around Lindor, who is scheduled to reach free agency at the end of 2021. The Mets always seemed to be a logical destination, and finally, a deal came to fruition. New York landed a genuine superstar, a 27-year-old four-time All-Star with a famous smile and spotlight-worthy personality. The Mets also were able to address two needs in one, adding to their rotation depth behind ace Jacob deGrom by landing an accomplished starter in Carrasco. In return, they gave up two players who had been highly regarded shortstop prospects before graduating to the Majors (Rosario, Giménez), as well as their ninth- and 10th-ranked prospects, per MLB Pipeline (Wolf, Greene). The deal also brought up another big question for the Mets: Would they be able to sign Lindor to a contract extension, preventing him from going one-and-done in Queens?

6. So long, Cy
Mets received from Blue Jays: RHP , C , C John Buck, OF
Mets gave up: RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole, C Mike Nickeas
Date: Dec. 17, 2012

There are few better examples of selling high than the Mets' trade of Dickey, who won the NL Cy Young Award in November 2012 and was traded a month later. Although Dickey proved plenty serviceable for the Blue Jays over the next four seasons, averaging over 200 innings with a 4.05 ERA, he never approached the level of dominance he reached with the Mets. In return, the Mets received a potential franchise catcher in d'Arnaud and a hard-throwing 20-year-old named Syndergaard. d'Arnaud never developed into the perennial All-Star the Mets were hoping for, but he nonetheless played a key role in their 2015 World Series run. Syndergaard, meanwhile, made an lasting impact, winning Game 3 of the 2015 Fall Classic and earning a spot atop the rotation in the seasons that followed.

7. A Cespedes for the rest of us
Mets received from Tigers: OF
Mets gave up: RHP , RHP
Date: July 31, 2015

Ostensibly a contender but featuring one of the Majors' worst offenses, the Mets made their biggest splash in years when they acquired Cespedes minutes before the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Over the final two months of that season, the Mets leaned on Cespedes, who hit 17 homers in 57 games -- including nine over a 13-game stretch that effectively wrapped up the NL East title in early September. After the season, Cespedes inked a one-year extension, then subsequently signed on for four more years the next winter. The deal was also far from a bust for the Tigers, as Fulmer won the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year Award and was an All-Star in '17.

8. Ryan Express leaves the station
Mets received from Angels: SS Jim Fregosi
Mets gave up: RHP Nolan Ryan, OF Leroy Stanton, RHP Don Rose, C Frank Estrada
Date: Dec. 10, 1971

Unable to match the magic of 1969 in either of the next two seasons, the Mets mortgaged a significant chunk of their future to acquire Fregosi, a six-time All-Star. While Ryan's hard-throwing talent was obvious to the Mets during his first five big league seasons, his control issues frustrated them. Almost immediately, Ryan proved his old team's worries were unfounded, dropping his ERA from 3.97 to 2.28 during his first year in Anaheim. He went on to complete a Hall of Fame career with the Angels, Astros and Rangers, retiring with a Major League record 5,714 strikeouts that still stands.

9. Mets land an ace
Mets received from Twins: LHP Johan Santana
Mets gave up: OF , RHP Philip Humber, RHP Kevin Mulvey, RHP
Date: Feb. 2, 2008

With most of the nucleus back from stacked 2006 and '07 teams, the Mets believed Santana was the piece they needed to reach the World Series. One of his generation's best pitchers, Santana signed a six-year, $137.5 million contract after the Mets agreed to trade for him, then delivered one of his best seasons in 2008. But it wasn't enough for the Mets, who collapsed again down the stretch in '08 and fell out of contention much earlier in '09. Santana missed all of '11 due to injury, returned to throw the first no-hitter in franchise history in '12, then went down for good two months later. The second-most prominent player in the deal was Gomez, whose best years came after the Twins traded him to the Brewers in '09. Humber made only 13 appearances in two years with the Twins and retired with a 5.31 ERA over a modest eight-year career, but the righty threw the 21st perfect game in Major League history, retiring 27 straight Mariners while with the White Sox on April 21, 2012.

10. An Amazin' trade
Mets received from Expos: 1B Donn Clendenon
Mets gave up: RHP Steve Renko, INF Kevin Collins, RHP Jay Carden, RHP David Colon, 3B Terry Dailey
Date: June 15, 1969

Seeking a veteran for his team's surprising playoff push, Mets manager Gil Hodges settled on Clendenon -- a solid but unspectacular first baseman over eight seasons in Pittsburgh. In a new uniform, Clendenon became dynamic down the stretch, hitting 12 home runs in 72 games. After sitting out the NL Championship Series, Clendenon earned World Series MVP honors with a .357 average, three homers and a 1.071 OPS in four games. In exchange for that spark, the Mets gave up Renko, who played 15 years in the big leagues; Collins, who retired after the 1971 campaign; and three others who never cracked the Majors.

Honorable mention: Van Wagenen makes his mark
Mets received from Mariners: 2B , RHP
Mets gave up: OF , RHP , RHP , OF Jarred Kelenic, RHP Justin Dunn
Date: Dec. 3, 2018

New GM Brodie Van Wagenen made good on his promise to rejuvenate the Mets' roster in the first trade of his tenure, completing a seven-player blockbuster barely a month after joining the front office, affirming a win-now mode for the franchise. For the Mets, the prize was Diaz, who was coming off a franchise-record 57-save season and was under team control through 2022. A five-time Silver Slugger, Cano waived his no-trade clause to return to New York, his home from 2005-13 with the Yankees, but he arrived with a potentially burdensome contract that runs through his age-40 season. In exhange, the Mets unloaded the contracts of Bruce and Swarzak as well as a high-ceiling prospect package featuring their 2018 No. 1 pick in Kelenic, a top pitching prospect in Dunn and Bautista, a fireballing reliever. The bold move did not help the Mets get to the playoffs in 2019 or '20, after which the team parted ways with Van Wagenen.

Honorable mention: An error in judgment
Mets received from Rays: RHP Victor Zambrano, RHP Bartolome Fortunato
Mets gave up: LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Jose Diaz
Date: July 30, 2004

Assailed by many at the time, the Mets' trade of Kazmir -- a dynamic young left-handed pitching prospect -- for Zambrano looks even worse in retrospect. Pitching coach Rick Peterson's reported proclamation that he could fix Zambrano in 10 minutes never came true, with arm trouble limiting Zambrano to just 39 games over three seasons in New York. Kazmir, meanwhile, made good on much of his potential, making two All-Star teams and winning 108 games over 12 big league seasons.