Free agency is an opportunity for teams to add players they wouldn’t normally have a chance to employ. Let’s take a look back at what the New York Mets did with the 1977 free agent class.
The offseason is underway and the stove is heating up. Depending on who you ask, New York Mets fans are wishing for a new infielder, or relief pitcher, or outfielder, or serviceable catcher who can throw out runners and get on base for the holidays this year.
As the first free agents begin to sign, I wanted to look back at how the Mets have done in free agency over the years following the landmark Seitz Decision. The decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz in December 1975 put an end to MLB’s “Reserve Clause” that allowed teams to renew contracts automatically and ushered in the modern age of free agency.
In 1976, first-year manager Joe Frazier led the Mets to an 86-76 record and a third-place finish in the NL East. Dave Kingman slugged 37 home runs and Tom Seaver led the staff with a 2.59 ERA to go along with a 14-11 record.
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That November, MLB held its first Re-Entry Draft for players who had fulfilled their contracts and were newly eligible for free agency. The Mets did not get a player from the pool, but the first signing to head to Queens was right-handed reliever Jeff Reardon on January 4, 1977.
Reardon didn’t join the big club until the 1979 season, when he appeared in 18 games as a rookie and compiled a 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings of work. He would go on to make 61 appearances in 1980 (8-7, 2.61 ERA, 6 SV) and another 18 in 1981 (1-0, 3.45 ERA) before being shipped off with Dan Norman to Montreal for Ellis Valentine on May 29, 1981.
In what feels like True Mets Fashion, Reardon pitched another 14 seasons outside of New York, earning four All Star selections, the NL Rolaids Relief Man Award in 1985 with the Expos, and a World Series title in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins. He was, however, saddled with two of Atlanta’s four losses in the 1992 World Series against Toronto, after blowing a save in Game 2 and allowing the winning hit in Game 3.
The Mets’ other free agent signing in the offseason leading into 1977 was left-handed pitcher Ray Sadecki. Sadecki was at the end of an 18-year career in which he won 20 games for the Cardinals on the way to a World Series in 1964, and made his final stop at Shea Stadium before hanging up the glove.
He was no stranger in Flushing, having mixed time as a starter and reliever for the Mets between 1970 and 1974. He was a critical piece of the 1973 team that won the pennant, and he only allowed one run in four appearances in the World Series against the Oakland A’s.
He appeared in 161 games, started 62, and threw 13 complete games for the team before he was traded in a package to St. Louis for Joe Torre in 1974. Sadecki came back to the Mets on March 31, 1977, and his stay was brief.
He pitched 3.0 innings across four appearances and gave up two runs. The team released him on May 2.
The 1977 season did not go well for the Mets. In June, the team traded away Seaver, Kingman, and Mike Phillips – on the same day – and wound up with a disappointing 64-98 record.
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As new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen prepares for his first offseason at the helm, here’s to hoping the pieces brought in help the team to greater success in 2019 than 1977.