The gaps between quality first basemen in New York Mets history are quite slim. Even though it took until Keith Hernandez in the 1980s for them to have one of the best at the position in baseball, the Mets got by with a mix of different options in the 1970s. They’ve pulled off some fantastic trades to acquire a player at the position. What about the failures?
There is one Mets trade that stands out more than any other as the worst for a first baseman. Between the 2001 and 2002 season, the Mets swapped pitcher Kevin Appier for first baseman Mo Vaughn.
The worst Mets trade for a first baseman is the one for Mo Vaughn
Vaughn missed the entire 2001 season due to injury. This should have been enough for the Mets to look elsewhere to fill the position. The Anaheim Angels were willing to part with the 1995 MVP after two seasons on their roster where Vaughn slashed .276/.362/.503 with 69 home runs.
A talented slugger in his prime, the Mets immediately saw decline in 2002. He batted .259/.349/.456 with 26 home runs. It was far less than what he had been doing. From 1993-2000, Vaughn only failed to reach 100 RBI twice. Once was in the strike shortened 1994 campaign. The other year was in 1997 when he finished with 96.
Vaughn would go on to play only 27 games for the Mets in 2003. He batted .190/.323/.329 and knocked just 3 more home runs. It was a colossal failure. The team would be on the hook for another $17.16 million on his 2004 contract. He wouldn’t play a single game for them all year.
Meanwhile, Appier seemed happy to return to the American League where he’d spend 15 of his 16 MLB seasons. He was a good pitcher for the Mets in 2001, going 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA. On the 2002 Angels he’d go 14-12 with a 3.92 ERA. He wasn’t brilliant for the Angels, but when we consider they won the World Series in his first year with the team, Anaheim has to get the far greater advantage in this trade.
The weakness of this Mets trade is more about Vaughn’s weakening performance and absence from the field in the final two years of his deal. Overpriced veterans were a theme of the roster in those years. Vaughn was one of several.