In 2003, the New York Yankees were going one way while the New York Mets were going another. They would make it to the World Series and lose against the Florida Marlins. Trade deadline buyers this year, the Yankees did the impossible and actually struck a deal with the Mets.
On July 16, 2003, the Mets and Yankees made a rare trade. The offseason is one thing. In the dog days of summer is a completely different animal.
The trade sent longtime Mets closer Armando Benitez to the Bronx in exchange for Ryan Bicondoa, Jason Anderson, and Anderson Garcia. Even the most loyal Mets fans probably don’t recall any of those names. Only Anderson (the one with the last name) would ever play for the big league club. In fact, Bicondoa and Garcia would combine for only one major league appearance.
This rare Mets and Yankees trade deadline deal wasn’t so impactful
The Mets didn’t get anything out of this trade other than a few lottery tickets that didn’t work out. Benitez was a free agent at the end of the season so it made sense to trade him—even if he did go on to save a league-best 47 games with a 2.19 ERA the following year with the Marlins.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got a terrific performance out of Benitez. He turned his 3.10 ERA with the Mets into a 1.93 ERA with the Yankees. However, this was over the course of only 9.1 innings pitched. In early August, he was traded for the second time in a few weeks. This time, he went to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for former Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson.
Numbers can be deceiving. Despite the microscopic ERA, Benitez did with the Yankees what he did often with the Mets: give fans heart attacks.
Walks were plentiful in his brief stint as a setup man for Mariano Rivera. Benitez had a 1.50 WHIP in the Bronx, ultimately leading to the swap with Seattle.
Nelson wasn’t much better. In fact, he had a worse WHIP at 1.58. Added with a 4.58 ERA, there’s certainly a case to be made that the Yankees should have stuck it out with Benitez and see where things could go. This was an era of Yankees baseball where patience was not on the menu.
It’s kind of amazing how many Mets and Yankees trades over the modern era work out. Only a few years earlier, the Robin Ventura for David Justice swap never really came to fruition as planned. Justice never actually played a game for the boys in Flushing.
Surely, there was some Yankees fan at one point in the early 2000s who criticized Mets fans for putting down Benitez. After all, he was effective in many ways.
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They got to see firsthand how much danger Benitez could flirt with. It was too much and the Yankees front office decided rather quickly it was not worth the relationship.