July 31, 1989 – Mets acquired Frank Viola
In what was one of the best trade deadline deals ever made by the Mets, the team managed to acquire the reigning American League Cy Young winner right at the 1989 deadline. The man, Frank Viola, was a native New Yorker ready to bring his talents to the National League for the first time.
Viola was coming off a year where he won a league-leading 24 games. One year earlier, he won the World Series with the Twins and was named the World Series MVP.
Viola wasn’t having as great of a season in 1989. Through 24 starts with Minnesota, his record sat at 8-12. He also had a 3.79 ERA which was underwhelming after two great years in a row.
The change of scenery worked out well for Viola. He made 12 starts of the 1989 Mets, going 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA. He followed it up with an even better season in 1990. Viola won 20 games while pitching to a 2.67 ERA. He kept the Mets competitive in what would become essentially their final run during the golden era of the franchise.
To acquire Viola, it cost quite a bit. Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, and David West were all sent directly to the Twins. Later on, they added in Jack Savage.
Several of the players involved went on to have successful careers with the Twins. We can look at this trade as a win for the Mets. We can also look at it as a “what if.”
The Amazins swung big to land one of the league’s best arms. It didn’t work out in the standings but seemed to be worth it.