Although the Tom Seaver trade broke hearts more at the time, the worst trade in New York Mets history happened when the team dealt Nolan Ryan to the California Angels.
When the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver in 1977, it broke the hearts of fans all over the world. Seaver was literally “The Franchise.” Sending him packing stabbed fans in the back and ushered in a losing era of Mets baseball.
No doubt a terrible deal, it’s not the worst in Mets history. That trade happened several years earlier when the team dealt future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to the California Angels.
However you want to rank them, many people would say these are number one and two. The Seaver deal often comes up in the minds of many for what it represented. The team essentially punted on their future.
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The Ryan trade was much different. The Mets believed they were getting a quality contributor back from the Angels when they moved Ryan and three others across the country for Jim Fregosi. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Fregosi was a disaster in New York while Ryan thrived immediately with the Angels. In his first year, he won 19 games and posted a 2.28 ERA while earning his first trip to the All-Star Game.
The signs were already there that Ryan may one day develop into a stud pitcher. Unfortunately, the Mets thought Fregosi gave them a better chance at keeping the team competitive.
As bad as both trades were, the Ryan deal was actually far worse. Not only did the Mets send the all-time strikeout king away, but they also got very little in return. The same cannot be said about the Seaver trade to the Cincinnati Reds.
At least in the Seaver deal years later the Mets did get some decent players back. Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Pat Zachry are three of the four players that went from Cincinnati to Queens. Flynn won a Gold Glove, Henderson hit .287 across four seasons, and Zachry was an All-Star in his first full season with the team. This isn’t a half-bad haul for a single player. Too bad it’s the greatest to ever play for the team.
The Mets were in a much different position when each trade went down. When Ryan was traded, they were hoping to extend their winning ways and get back to the World Series again. They did manage to sneak into the 1973 playoffs and fight their way to the World Series. Had they still had Ryan on the roster, maybe they would have won it all.
Things were different in 1977 when Seaver was traded. The team hadn’t made the playoffs in several seasons and ownership was looking to dump salary. Even if Seaver had stayed with the Amazins, it’s hard to imagine they would have done much damage in the standings without the support of the front office to build around him.
Two painful trades in one team’s history. Two haunting scars fans have to wear.
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You can rank either of these trades as the number one worst in franchise history. For me, losing the best years of Ryan makes that trade a whole lot worse.