On this date in 1996, the New York Mets traded 2B Jeff Kent and SS Jose Vizcaino to the Cleveland Indians for All Star 2B Carlos Baerga and SS Alvaro Espinosa. It was the second of three trades the Mets made for All Star 2Bs that did not work out. In 1989, the Mets traded OF Lenny Dykstra and RHP Roger McDowell to the Philadelphia Phillies for Juan Samuel and prior to the 2002 season, the Mets made another trade with Cleveland, this time adding now Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. It really is amazing that all three never panned out with the Mets, but I think Baerga was as big of a disappointment as Alomar was.
I know it is hard to compare this to the Alomar trade, made in the offseason which should be touted “The second worst team money could buy.” But Baerga, similar to Alomar, was at the top of his game in Cleveland; prior to 1996 had hit over .300 the past 4 seasons with a .314 AVG in 1995. He was on a down year, hitting just .255 when he was traded to the Mets. But, he was still on a pace to drive in 75-80 runs with the 55 he had in at this point. He hit just .193 for the Mets for the rest of the season, driving in just 11 runs.
The following season, he .281, 9, 52 in 133 games for the Mets and finished off his Mets career in 1998 .266, 7, 53 in 147 games. Nothing close to his numbers in Cleveland where he would have had 4 straight 100 RBI seasons had the 1994-1995 seasons not been shortened due to the players’ strike. In 1992, he hit .312, 20, 105, with 205 hits, followed by .314, 21, 114 with 200 hits in 1993. Yet, it seems fans let him off the hook while criticizing the deals made for Samuel and Alomar. Its obvious the Samuel trade was made to accommodate Gregg Jefferies
. The Alomar trade could not be expected to turn out as bad as it did, as anyone would make that deal again.
I know Jeff Kent had his issues in NY. In fact, it wasn’t until the Indians traded him to the Giants that he became the borderline HOF player he was. Baerga was on that pace and had to be considered the best player in that trade. I, for one, was excited to see him added to the lineup. Unfortunately, he was no better than a platoon player with the Mets and became a bench player once he left NY. He even missed two full MLB seasons in 2000 and 2001 before becoming a pinch hitter through 2005. To make matters worse, the Mets paid Baerga nearly $10 million in his 2 plus seasons with the Mets. What a disappointment!