Mets: Declaring a winner in the Tug McGraw for John Stearns trade
By Tim Boyle
Although the New York Mets landed four-time All-Star catcher John Stearns in the deal for Tug McGraw, the Philadelphia Phillies may have been the real winners.
I’m not sure there’s anyone in baseball history as important to a pair of rival franchises as Tug McGraw. Both a legendary New York Mets player and a key member of a Philadelphia Phillies championship squad, McGraw has the unique distinction of being fondly remembered by both squads.
This was made possible on December 3, 1974, when the Mets traded him to the Phillies. Coming off a down year in which he had a 4.16 ERA and saved only 3 games, the Metropolitans seemed to stop believing. They traded him, Don Hahn, and Dave Schneck to Philadelphia for Mac Scarce, Del Unser, and John Stearns.
Hahn barely saw any action with the Phillies before leaving the franchise while Schneck never played a game for them. As far as this trade is concerned, all Philadelphia received was McGraw.
However, the Mets didn’t get much more in the swap than Stearns. Scarce pitched just one game for them. Unser had a solid 1975 season but declined rapidly in 1976 in his final season with the Mets.
As anyone might expect, this trade was essentially a McGraw for Stearns swap with a few other players thrown in for good measure.
All things considered, the Phillies seemed to get the win in this trade. After all, it was McGraw who threw the final pitch in 1980 to help the franchise win its first World Series.
Meanwhile, in all of the years Stearns spent with the Mets, the club never made it to the postseason. He had just missed the 1973 run and was gone before they returned in 1986 for a championship. The timing couldn’t have been worse for a guy who was a four-time All-Star with the franchise.
When discussing a trade like this with no obvious winner based on the players’ performances, the amount of winning that’s done is usually my tie-breaker. Given this, it’s quite clear who the winner was.
The Phillies have done a swell job at defeating the Mets plenty in trades. The Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell swap for Juan Samuel in the late 1980s was terribly painful in more ways than one.
Trades between these two longtime rivals have become rare although we did see them make two deals in 2018. In separate trades, the Mets sent Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista to the Phillies. For Cabrera, the Mets managed to pick up pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome. He’s a guy we can only hope can put an end to the beating done by Philadelphia in these trades.
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Unfortunately, the abridged trade from 1974 which sent the great Tug McGraw to the Phillies for John Stearns has no way of getting better. It was a loss for the Mets despite Stearns’ best efforts.