The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals have a unique rivalry. Former National League East foes, the switch for the Cardinals to the National League Central took away some of the luster.
Long before they began to meet less frequently, the two clubs made trades quite regularly. And the best one is an easy selection.
In mid-1983, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey were traded by the Mets to the Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. An absolute legend in Mets history and the best to play first base, there’s no competition.
The best Mets trade with the Cardinals was the deal for Keith Hernandez
Off-the-field issues led to the Cardinals making one of their worst trades. Hernandez’s past drug use gave him a poor reputation—which may be hard to believe for those who know him best in today’s world on Mets broadcasts.
Disagreements with management, including Whitey Herzog, led the team to trade him to New York. It turned out to be an absolute steal for the orange and blue.
Hernandez was a huge part of the 1986 World Series team and an impact player in the years before and after. With the Mets, he won five Gold Gloves and batted .297/.387/.429. His first full season with the team in 1984 even included a second-place finish in the MVP race.
The fact that it didn’t take all that much for the Mets to acquire Hernandez makes this an even bigger victory. He was one of the first of many veterans the club would bring in during this time period. Seizing an opportunity, the Mets built with Hernandez and would eventually take home a championship.
Honorable mention Mets trades with the Cardinals
As sweepingly terrific as this deal was, the Mets had a few other good moves with the Cardinals.
On a much lighter note, the Midnight Massacre swap of Mike Phillips for Joel Youngblood ended up benefitting New York. Only because the Mets traded Tom Seaver away that same day and were about to embark on a major rebuild has this deal gone a little unnoticed in franchise history. Youngblood was a .274/.333/.410 hitter for the Mets during a time period when winning wasn’t on their minds.
Far better was the 1996 trade which brought them Bernard Gilkey. Gilkey had one of the all-time great offensive seasons for the Mets that year. The price was Yudith Ozorio, Erik Hiljus, and Eric Ludwick—none of whom are regarded as Cardinals legends.
The Hernandez deal remains at the top and is easily one of the best trades the Mets have ever made with any club.