Trade deadline deals are often a gamble for the buyer. The New York Mets pushed their chips in when they acquired Kenny Rogers in a swap with the Oakland Athletics back in 1999.
On July 25, 1999, the New York Mets made a gamble by acquiring veteran lefty Kenny Rogers. The free-agent-to-be was 5-3 with a 4.30 ERA as a member of the Oakland Athletics at the time of the trade. His final 12 games as a member of the Mets were a smidge more productive. In those dozen starts, Rogers went 5-1 with a 4.03 ERA.
If you remember baseball back in 1999, hitters were dominating the game. This was peak Steroid Era. The Mets starting staff was unable to escape the onslaught.
The 1999 Mets won 97 regular season games and among those who started 10+ times, Rogers had the lowest ERA. The other main starters completed the season with ERAs ranging from 4.23-4.58. This doesn’t include the 5.38 ERA posted by Octavio Dotel who spent some time in the bullpen as well.
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Rogers did exactly what the Mets though he could. Back in the ancient days of 1999, when complete games were not extinct, pitchers like Rogers went the distance. With 3 complete games already on the year, Rogers added two more including a shutout as a member of the Mets.
During the regular season, the trade looked like a win. The postseason had far different results.
Rogers returned to the postseason for the first time since 1996. He was a member of the New York Yankees squad who won it all. Amazingly, the usually talented lefty had a dreadful playoff run with them. He had increasingly poor ERAs in each series from the 9.00 in the ALDS to the 12.00 in the ALCS and finally up to the 22.50 in his World Series start. He never did actually take the loss until his first postseason start with the Mets.
The Arizona Diamondbacks beat up Rogers for 4 runs in 4.1 innings. One bad outing hardly negates what a player did in the regular season to help a team reach the playoffs. So, it was time for Rogers to step up in the NLCS when he would take the mound next.
Rogers lost Game 2 in a poorly pitched game where he lasted just 5.1. The Atlanta Braves scored 4 earned runs against him. Thereafter, the Metropolitans only used Rogers in relief.
He would appear in two more games, first tossing a pair of shutout frames in Game 5 during an extra-inning victory. Game 6 also went to baseball overtime. This time, Rogers wasn’t so lucky.
Two intentional walks loaded the bases and set up for an unintentional ball four to Andruw Jones. The walk ended the game and sent the Mets packing back to New York. It was the end of Rogers’ time with the Mets; complete in just a few months and on a sour note.
To fully grasp this trade, we have to see the other side of it, too. For the rights to rent Rogers in those final months of 1999, the Mets traded away a relief pitcher named Leo Vasquez and a promising young outfielder named Terrence Long.
For a short stretch of time, Long was a mainstay in the Oakland outfield. He drove in 80 runs as a rookie in 2000 and 85 in his second season. He played in all 162 of the Athletics’ games in 2001 and 2002 after taking the runner-up honors as Rookie of the Year in his first season.
Long’s career did quickly fade out so there aren’t many regrets here. The Mets needed Rogers in the regular season. And because they were able to make it to the World Series in 2000, I can’t say Long was a missing piece.
The Rogers trade didn’t work out exactly right for New York. When the games counted most, he came up small.
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Amazingly, Rogers never allowed another run in the postseason again. He pitched 1.1 scoreless innings for the 2003 Minnesota Twins and didn’t allow any runs in the 23 playoff innings he pitched for the 2006 Detroit Tigers at 41. Sadly for the Mets, he wasn’t ready in 1999 to be that dominant October pitcher.