Top Mets cast-offs at every position that starred for other teams
By Alan Karmin
First Base – Mike Jorgensen
The local product from Queens was a fourth-round draft pick of the Mets and debuted as a 19-year-old in 1968. He was not only a surehanded first baseman, but he was a pretty adequate centerfielder too. He spent a few seasons behind Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon at first base and Tommie Agee in centerfield before being included in the package, along with Ken Singleton and Tim Foli, to acquire Rusty Staub from the Montreal Expos.
It was with the Expos that Jorgensen flourished, finally getting a starting job at first base. He played six seasons in Montreal and averaged 10 home runs a year with an on base percentage of .365, striking out very few times over the course of his tenure. Jorgensen, like Foli, would later return to the Mets for a second tour of duty but as a back-up.
During the beginning of the new regime, Jorgensen, along with Dave Kingman, were brought back to the organization and the two would often share first base duties. For the most part, Jorgensen was a reliable utilityman as a Met, but definitely had his most productive days out of a Mets uniform.
Second Base – Jeff Kent
Kent was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in the trade that exiled David Cone from New York. However, he wasn’t even the gem in the deal. That label went to Ryan Thompson, another one of the “can’t miss five-tool” players the Mets always seemed to acquire.
Kent was never expected to be anything special. The Mets management focused more on the excitement a special talent like Thompson would bring. Kent was going to be another in the revolving door that was third base, until incumbent Willie Randolph’s illustrious career began to disintegrate in Queens. Kent was then moved to second base where he was chastised for his lack of range in the field, and regardless of how well he hit, he was never well-liked by management, and was actually disliked by the media.
In just over four years, he averaged .279 with 16 home runs and 65 runs batted in. Not bad for a second baseman. But during the 1996 season, Mets GM, Joe McIlvaine, decided to flip Kent for Cleveland Indians All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga. Kent would go on to a career in which he hit .291 and slammed 366 homers and drove in 1,467 runs. Kent was a dominant force at the plate, and served as the protection for Barry Bonds in the San Francisco Giants line-up for a number of years. He played for multiple teams and was successful wherever he put on a uniform in what should have been a Hall of Fame career.
During a nine-year span with the Giants (six seasons), with the Houston Astros (two seasons), and his first season with the Dodgers, Kent dominated at the plate when he hit for a .295 average with 28 home runs and 110 RBI. He won four Silver Slugger Awards, he was selected to play in five All Star Games, and he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2000. Given his numbers, given his longevity, given his quiet yet hard-nosed, old school approach every game, every season, it’s a wonderment as to why Kent is being snubbed by the HOF voters. What is noteworthy, with all of his success throughout his career, is his “subdued” performance while in a Mets uniform.
Shortstop – Kevin Mitchell
One has to wonder, what IF Kevin Mitchell was not included in the trade with the San Diego Padres for Kevin McReynolds after the 1986 championship season?
Mitchell was labeled “World” by Gary Carter because of Mitchell’s ability to play every position on the field, and play it well. The problem is that Mitchell was a problem. He didn’t exactly live a “clean” life or travel in “safe” circles. Manager Davey Johnson loved him, and loved to insert him into the lineup at shortstop. But GM Frank Cashen hated him and wanted him out.
Mitchell would be traded a second time to the San Francisco Giants where he would become a pure monster at the plate and an MVP, and even catch a fly ball over his shoulder with his bare hand while playing left field.
Mitchell hit .275 with 12 home runs in a Mets uniform. He struggled in his very brief stay with San Diego but truly emerged as a powerhouse with the Giants, garnering the National League MVP Award in 1989 when had league-leading totals of 47 HR, 125 RBI, .635 slugging percentage and 1.023 OPS.
Even though he really wasn’t the shortstop Davey Johnson thought he could be, Mitchell slugged 143 HR with 411 RBI with an on base percentage of near .400 during his four-plus years with the Giants. Clearly production the Mets could have used.
Third Base – Justin Turner
Turner is really one of those late bloomers. I liked him when he was a Met, but I didn’t think he was anything more special than a short-term solution at second base. He was a waiver wire pick-up after having been traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles and playing 17 games over parts of two seasons with horrible results.
The Mets took advantage of his versatility and played well, averaging 100 games during a three-plus-year span and sported a .265 batting average with eight home runs.
Turner was granted free agency prior to 2014 and signed on with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. His first three season in LA were much like his Mets day, but then, suddenly in 2016, he took off and began launching home runs. Over the next four seasons he averaged 23 dingers with an on base percentage of over .400.
Since he donned Dodger Blue, Turner has a .302 batting average, .503 slugging percentage and .886 OPS over his seven seasons with the Dodgers, and he’s been sensational in the postseason batting .295 with a .507 slugging percentage and .899 OPS over 72 playoff games. Clearly a tad better than what he exuded in the Blue and Orange.