Bret Saberhagen joined the New York Mets four days after Bobby Bonilla first signed a contract with them in 1991. This is significant because both are still getting paid by the team. We know more about the Bonilla deal possibly because it’s more money and a little more ridiculous.
Plus, the name Bonilla rolls off the tongue much smoother than Saberhagen ever will.
On December 6, 1991, the Mets had no idea they’d still be paying Saberhagen money more than 30 years later. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was coming off of another fine season with the Kansas City Royals where he went 13-8 with a 3.07 ERA. For sure, he could help the Mets get back into contention.
The Mets trade with the Royals for Bret Saberhagen is one with layers
The deal itself sent Saberhagen and Bill Pecota to New York in exchanged for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller. It was quite a haul for both teams. Pecota and Miller were the lesser guys exchanging uniforms with Jefferies and McReynolds parting from New York at two very different points of their career.
After enjoying a lot of success with the Mets in the first few seasons, McReynolds had a much weaker season in 1991. His power numbers and each of his slash line totals were below what he had done in previous seasons. Now about to embark on his age 32 season, it wasn’t too hard to move on.
Jefferies, on the other hand, was still relatively young and full of promise. The 1992 campaign would be his age 24 season. While he did improve in some areas, it wasn’t until after he left the Royals the following season when he would put together a pair of All-Star seasons with the other club from Missouri, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Neither Jefferies nor McReynolds would be all that impactful in Kansas City. Jefferies was traded after one season and McReynolds would end up back with the Mets in 1994 in another trade which rid the club of Vince Coleman.
Meanwhile, Saberhagen was far from the Land of Oz. His experience in New York wouldn’t be nearly as successful.
Starting in 1992, Saberhagen would experience something he didn’t face much in his early days: injuries. He made 15 starts and a pair of relief appearances for the 1992 Mets. The following season, on the far worse 1993 club, he increases it to only 19.
It was the shortened 1994 season when Saberhagen put together his best year with the Mets. In 24 starts, he went 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA. Selected to the All-Star Game, Saberhagen also finished third in the Cy Young race. Greg Maddux won it unanimously thanks to a 16-6, 8.5 WAR, 1.56, and 10 complete games tossed season all done throwing only 95 pitches—sarcasm.
Saberhagen would become a mid-1995 trade chip shipped out to the Colorado Rockies. The match wasn’t a good one. Unlike Mike Hampton years later, the school system wasn’t beckoning Saberhagen. He was a fraction of the same player he was, posting a 6.28 ERA in 43 innings for the playoff-bound Rockies.
For both clubs involved in this trade, it’s hard to declare a definitive winner. Neither made the playoffs throughout the journey of any players involved. It’s just kind of one of those deals that failed to meet expectations for either organization.