NY Mets: Revisiting the anticlimactic 2016 trade deadline
Sitting at 54-50 through July, the 2016 New York Mets were looking for answers to their injury woes. At that time, the roster had already been ravaged by injuries to so many of their core players.
Matt Harvey had already undergone surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He wouldn’t return until 2017, and he was never the same.
David Wright had already been out for nearly two months after undergoing surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. Captain America wouldn’t play a full game again in his career.
Lucas Duda was in the midst of an injury that would keep him out for 107 games, not returning until mid-September. Juan Lagares, who had been so reliable in center field over the past three seasons, was just placed on the injured list for the second time that season. Even Jose Reyes, who has just returned to the Mets at the start of the month, didn’t make it through July before hitting the IL.
At the trade deadline, the Mets had to do something to try and right the ship.
So, they made two trades, neither of which were particularly exciting.
The smaller and far-less impactful one was with the Pittsburgh Pirates, bringing back an old friend in Jon Niese.
Niese had spent his entire career with the Mets up until 2016, making his debut in 2008 and becoming a regular fixture in the rotation in 2010. After the 2015 season though the Mets left him walk because frankly, they just had better options.
Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Bartolo Colon were all at that point proven commodities and expected to be regular fixtures in the rotation. The final rotation spot went to Steven Matz, who made his debut the year before and really dazzled across the first six starts of his career.
Harvey’s injury threw a wrench into things, so the Mets shipped off seriously underperforming veteran reliever Antonio Bastardo for Niese to get some length.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work. In his first three appearances, all in relief, Niese pitched well, giving up just one earned run over five innings of work. However, in his fourth appearance, Niese got tattooed by the Diamondbacks, giving up six earned runs in one inning.
His last two games, both starts (and his only two starts for the Mets that season), didn’t work out much better. In a combined five innings, Niese gave up seven earned runs. A week later, the Mets placed Niese on the injured list, and he never played in the majors again.
The other trade the Mets made was a bit more impactful.
In a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, the Mets sent Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell for 2016 All-Star Jay Bruce.
Wotell was a third-round pick for the Mets in 2015, and he was never really a highly-touted prospect. Herrera, however, was at least at one point a decently high prospect in the Mets’ organization.
Back in 2014, he was ranked the Mets’ No. 8 prospect on MLB.com and the Mets’ No. 11 prospect on Fangraphs. When he was traded in 2016 though Herrera had already spent some rather uneventful time in the majors in both 2014 and 2015, so he had dropped off the top prospects lists.
There was some real hope that Herrera could become the second baseman of the future, and while that hope had subsided a bit by the time he was traded, letting him go was by no means nothing. Herrera even played in the Futures Game just that season, so he was supposed to turn into a good major league player for the Mets.
Interestingly though, the deal could have looked much different. When the trade went through in 2016, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com said the original deal had the Mets sending Brandon Nimmo, Wotell and a third player to Cincy for Bruce. DiComo said the Reds decided against it after reviewing the medicals, and then reworked the deal to include Herrera instead. I’m sure Mets fans are glad the first deal didn’t work out.
Bruce, through that point, was having a really nice season, hitting .265/.316/.559 with 25 home runs over 97 games. He was on pace to have the highest OPS (.875) and OPS+ (126) of his career. When he got to the Mets though, his production fell off HARD.
In Bruce’s first month in Queens, he hit .183/.262/.290 with just two home runs in 93 at-bats — not exactly what the Mets envisioned when bringing him in. He picked it up a bit over the final month, putting up an OPS of .846 in his final 24 games, but overall, he just didn’t have nearly the impact Yoenis Cespedes had the year prior. His OPS of .685 with the Mets in 2016 speaks for itself.
Bruce did bring back a bit in trade value later down the line, as after the Mets exercised his option for 2017 and he put up an OPS of .841 over his first 103 games, the Mets traded him to Cleveland for prospect Ryder Ryan. In 2020, Ryan was sent to Texas as the player to be named later in the deal that brought Todd Frazier back to the Mets.
As for the prospects the Mets gave up for Bruce in 2016, neither of them turned into anything of note when it comes to major league production. Wotell never made it, last pitching in the minors in 2018 and never making it above A-ball.
Herrera made it to the bigs again after the Mets traded him, but hasn’t found any success the few times he’s had the opportunity. The Reds called him up in 2018 but he didn’t do much, playing in 53 games, hitting under .200 and putting up an OPS of .682.
The Mets actually signed him back after he was granted free agency following the 2018 season, but he never got the major league call up and hit the free-agent market again following the 2019 season. He actually did see a bit of major league action in 2020, playing in three games for Baltimore, going 0-for-5 at the plate with a hit by pitch and four strikeouts. He hasn’t seen major league action since and is currently in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
Looking back on the deadline, while neither Bruce or Niese had a particularly positive impact on the Mets in the final two months, the Mets didn’t end up giving away anyone they had to regret later down the line.
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Ultimately, since Bruce became a productive player for the Mets in 2017 and they were then able to flip him for another prospect, the 2016 trade was probably a net-positive, even if it was nothing crazy like 2015.