The month of December has included some fantastic trades for the New York Mets. These are the very best.
For the New York Mets, December has always been a fruitful month in the trade market. Over the years, they have frequently picked up other teams’ top players while unloading players from their own roster at precisely the right time.
It is always exciting for Mets fans when the winter hot stove picks up during one of the coldest months of the year. Fans spend the entire offseason wondering about who will be on next season’s roster and which “dream acquisition” might actually come true. Thanks to the new regime under Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson, the Flushing Faithful might be doing less dreaming and more celebrating in the coming years.
The Mets have made plenty of questionable trades in previous offseasons, but here, I’d like to highlight some of their all-time best December swaps. Honorable mentions include the R.A. Dickey trade and the acquisitions of Mike Hampton and John Franco. Though Franco has a claim to the title of “best closer in Mets history,” I decided to go with a trade for another closer who helped the Mets bring home an actual World Series title.
5) Mets get a steal for John Olerud, one of the best hitters in all of baseball
In the early 1990s, the Toronto Blue Jays were on top of the world, winning two World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 with John Olerud as their star first baseman. Meanwhile, the Mets were floundering near the NL East basement almost every year. Then, on December 20, 1996, the Mets acquired Olerud and $5 million in exchange for right-handed pitcher Robert Person. Olerud replaced Butch Huskey as the new everyday first baseman, and immediately elevated the Mets infield to new heights.
Olerud had been originally drafted by the Mets out of high school in the 27th round of the 1986 amateur draft, but he did not sign with them. The Blue Jays then drafted him in the third round three years later, which led to him spending the first eight years of his career in Toronto.
Though Olerud only spent three years in Queens, he etched his place in franchise lore by excelling at his position and setting several franchise records. His .354 batting average in 1998 is the highest single-season BA in Mets history (teammate Mike Piazza’s .348 from that same season is the second-highest). His .447 on-base percentage that same year is also a Mets single-season record (the next closest OBP was Olerud himself, the next year).
Olerud also set a franchise record in 1999 by walking 125 times, which was nearly twice as many as his 66 strikeouts that same season.
Meanwhile, Person had an unremarkable two-plus seasons in Toronto before rebounding somewhat after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He retired after the 2003 season with a career 4.64 ERA.
Olerud may not be as historically revered as other Mets players due to his lack of hardware. His .354 average did not lead the NL, as Larry Walker outpaced him by hitting at a .364 clip in 1998. Olerud also did not win a Gold Glove or make the All-Star team as a Met, though he accomplished both of those feats multiple times elsewhere in his career.
Nonetheless, for three seasons, Olerud was a cornerstone in New York. Considering what little the Mets gave up, this trade has to be considered one of the best in franchise history.