When the New York Mets traded John Gant and Rob Whalen to the Atlanta Braves for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, the deal looked like a low-risk, low-reward move designed to distract fans from the gaping holes in the team’s lineup.
It will end up being so much more.
Johnson, 33, and Uribe, 36, will give the Mets two veteran bats. Major League bats. While both have played in limited games this season due to age limitations and an ample amount of Atlanta infielders, they will help New York tremendously thanks to their experience, character and hitting prowess.
The pair proved their worth on Saturday night in the Mets’ demolition of the Los Angeles Dodgers and first-time starter Zach Lee, who made his major league debut to the sound of home runs, Michael Conforto‘s bat and a raucous offensive explosion.
The 6’1″, 195 pound Johnson, who started the game at second base, was 2-for-6 at the plate with a home run that he unleashed into the second deck of Citi Field. Uribe came into the game in the eighth inning and went 1-for-2 while making a slick play at third base.
But as far as Uribe is concerned, his ability to rake isn’t the only positive that stands out about the towering third baseman. The clutch player was a key contributor to both the Chicago White Sox’s Championship win in ’05 and the San Francisco Giants’ Fall Classic victory in ’10.
When with the Dodgers at the beginning of the year he struggled, but he really found his groove after being traded to Atlanta, where he hit .285 with 7 homers and a .817 OPS in 46 games.
“One of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who spent 4 seasons in New York and established himself as a presence in the locker room before being shipped out to Los Angeles, where his game took flight and he became good friends with Uribe.
“He makes everybody laugh. He hangs out with everyone,” the other new addition, career journeyman Kelly Johnson said.
“People love being around Juan,” Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly added.
“A positive energy,” Turner said of Uribe. “It’s contagious.”
“If Justin Turner recommends somebody,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Justin Turner is a tremendous clubhouse guy. He keeps it loose, he keeps things on a fun basis. And he said that’s what Juan Uribe is going to bring.”
Johnson brings a positive element, too. He was hitting .275 with nine homers and a .772 OPS in 197 plate appearances for Atlanta, and brings versatility as he could play every infield position besides for catcher.
The move was even more impressive as Mets GM Sandy Alderson gave up practically nothing for the two hitters. Both Gant and Whalen were ranked at the bottom of the team’s prospect rankings, and barring either of them becoming the next Jacob deGrom, the team upgraded their bench at no cost.
The Braves needed to clear some space on their bench, and in exchange for two minor league pitchers, they were able to rid themselves of two underwhelming bench bats.
As the saying goes, however, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
The addition of two quality bats — maybe bench players, maybe cleanup hitters — may not drastically improve the abysmal Mets lineup, but it will bring life to a depleted bunch for the price of a couple of extreme longshots.
Low-risk, high-reward anyone?