The New York Mets have actually been pretty awesome when it comes to making trades for first basemen. They robbed the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1990s for John Olerud. The same happened with the Florida Marlins in the 2000s when they acquired Carlos Delgado. Even way back in the 1960s we could consider Donn Clendenon a part-time first baseman in 1969.
As far as impact and results go, nothing compares to the other big trade for a first baseman. On June 15, 1983, an outcast former MVP and still very productive Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets. The franchise would never be the same.
The best Mets trade for a first baseman landed them Keith Hernandez in 1983
The Mets were not ready to win 1983. Hernandez was one of the pieces to push them a little bit closer. At that year’s trade deadline, Hernandez’s off-field issues led the St. Louis Cardinals to deal away the star first baseman still very much in his prime.
Amazingly, it didn’t cost all that much. Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey went to the Cardinals in the trade. Hernandez, a .284/.352/.431 hitter at the time the trade occurred, would get even better in his first 95 games for the Mets in 1983. He’d slash .306/.424/.434 for them and once again receive mild MVP consideration plus a Gold Glove.
Fans who weren’t alive in the 1980s to understand Hernandez’s impact still get it. He is talked about glowingly by his teammates. If you watched the Once Upon a Time in Queens documentary on ESPN, it was confirmed by numerous teammates how it was Keith who was the real leader behind the scenes. This was already known yet to hear about it more than 30 years after the fact confirms the legacy he left with the Mets.
Hernandez would spend a total of six and a half years in New York, frequently hitting over .300. His second season with the team included a runner-up finish in the MVP race. Taking a chance on him, a guy whose life slipped off the tracks, paid off.
It all culminated in the 1986 World Series with Hernandez helping to lead the team to the postseason and the eventual chaos on the field at Shea Stadium after Game 7. He was the first big trade acquisition to kick start the Golden Age of Mets baseball. It led to the team picking up Gary Carter and building around them with young stars and other veterans such as Ray Knight and Bob Ojeda in separate deals that worked out well for the Amazins.