In the first part of this series, I examined trades 11-20 in the best deals in New York Mets history.  Below is the top 10.

10. Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel to the Houston Astros for Mike Hampton and Derek Bell – It’s easy to mock Mike Hampton now for his never-ending injuries.  But in 1999 he was The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in the season before the Mets traded for him and he was the 2000 NLCS MVP in his only year with New York.  The Mets don’t make it to the World Series without Hampton.  And while he only played one year with the New York Mets, he did leave the team a going-away present.  When he signed with the Rockies as a free agent, the Mets got two compensation draft picks that they used to select Aaron Heilman and David Wright.

9. Xavier Hernandez to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez – Near the trading deadline in 2006, top setup man Duaner Sanchez was involved in a taxicab accident which put him out for the remainder of the season.  Looking to bolster its relief corps, the Mets reacquired Roberto Hernandez, who had been so valuable for the team the previous season before leaving as a free agent.  Hernandez was again a valuable member of the bullpen.  And to make the trade even better, Oliver Perez, seen as someone worth taking a flier on, won 15 games and struck out 174 batters last year.  And after Hernandez left again as a free agent, the New York Mets used the compensation pick they received to select Eddie Kunz, who the club hopes will be its closer of the future.

8. Kris Benson to the Baltimore Orioles for John Maine and Jorge Julio – At the time this deal was made the primary reason was to get Kris Benson off of the team.  Benson’s wife, Anna, is an outspoken woman who has no qualms about using her sexuality to advance her cause.  She infuriated New York Mets management by showing up to a Christmas Party in a low-cut Santa outfit.  The trade happened the following month.  Meanwhile, John Maine has developed into a number-two type starter and last year posted 15 wins and 180 strikeouts.  Jorge Julio was flipped to the Diamondbacks for Orlando Hernandez, who has also been substantially better than Benson when healthy.

7. Walt Terrell to the Detroit Tigers for Howard Johnson – Walt Terrell was a battler.  He was the kind of pitcher every rotation would love to have.  He took the ball every fifth day and despite not having overwhelming stuff, he gave his team a chance to win.  But Howard Johnson three times posted top-five finishes in the MVP race and was a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner.  He was a power-speed guy who three times topped the 30-30 mark.  Trying to sneak a fastball past HoJo was nearly an impossible task.  Just ask fireballing closer Todd Worrell of the Cardinals.  In 19 career plate appearances versus Worrell, HoJo was 6-for-13 with four home runs.  He batted .462/.632/1.385 against a pitcher who had one of the top fastballs in the game

6. Lee Mazzilli to the Texas Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell – In the dark days of the late 1970s, Lee Mazzilli was the closest thing to a star that the Mets had.  He was a pretty decent ballplayer, he was the real MVP of the 1979 All-Star game, but what put him over the top was the fact that he was from Brooklyn and all the girls loved him in his tight pants that resembled a leotard much more than a baseball uniform.  When this trade was announced, many New York Mets fans were outraged.  But Mazzilli was never as good as he was popular and Ron Darling was an anchor of the 1980s Mets rotation.  And Walt Terrell was good and was used to acquire someone even better.

5. Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Floyd Youmans and Herm Winningham to the Montreal Expos for Gary Carter – It’s better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late.  And because the Expos did that, they got a pretty good haul in return from the Mets.  But Carter gave the Mets two great years and two more solid ones.  He was an instrumental part of the 1986 World Series team and finished third in the MVP race that season.

4. Rick Anderson, Mauro Gozzo and Ed Hearn to the Kansas City Royals for David Cone and Chris Jelic – The Royals needed a catcher and had seen Ed Hearn play well filling in for Gary Carter the previous season.  So they gave away David Cone, their third-round pick a few years earlier.  It looked like they were dealing from strength to fill a need.  Cone looked promising but not overwhelming and the Royals had been churning out top pitching prospects for years.  Woops.  David Cone proceeded to go 20-3 for the NL East champion New York Mets in 1988.  This deal was a steal and would rate higher except that the Mets themselves turned around and dealt Cone away.  He went on to pitch over a decade more in the majors and even returned to the Mets for his final season.  Meanwhile Hearn played in just 13 games after the trade and saw his baseball career cut short by kidney problems and cancer.  Hearn nearly committed suicide over his problems but has since turned his life around and is now a sought-after motivational speaker.

3. Geoff Goetz, Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall to the Florida Marlins for Mike Piazza – As if Mets fans weren’t spoiled enjoying the end of the prime of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter they got to witness six years of Piazza’s prime and two more above-average seasons.  Simply the greatest hitting catcher in Major League history, modern fans have not truly appreciated what a fantastic player Piazza was.  He had trouble throwing out baserunners (which is just a small, small part of a catcher’s job) but was an excellent catcher in every other regard, from blocking balls in the plate to handling pitchers to being a team leader.  And Piazza’s offensive numbers, as great as they are, were hindered by playing in pitchers parks throughout his career.  Preston Wilson went on to a fine Major League career, but getting Piazza for Wilson and two warm bodies is a slam dunk.

2. Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana – This may turn out to be the greatest trade ever in the history of the New York Mets.  Less than a month into his tenure with the club, it’s hard to give Santana that distinction just yet.  I probably shouldn’t rank it over Piazza at this point, either.  But we all suspect that it’s going to be a great deal and ranking it second seems to be a decent compromise.  Gomez and Humber might be useful and it wouldn’t surprise me if either Guera or Mulvey made an All-Star team one day.  But this is Johan Santana, one of the two or three best pitchers in the game in the prime of his career that we are talking about here.  I can’t wait to watch his Mets career unfold.

1. Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the St. Louis Cardinals for Keith Hernandez – Many people point to the Santana deal as important because it signaled the end of the collapse and allowed people to focus on what’s to come in 2008 and not what happened in 2007.  And that’s a legitimate point.  But the collapse was a two-week period for an 88-win, star-studded team.  The reason the Keith Hernandez trade is the greatest in New York Mets history is because it put an end to a collapse that lasted from June 15th, 1977 until June 15th, 1983.  Six years is a long time for a franchise and a fan base to be mourning, and that’s exactly what happened when the Mets traded Tom Seaver.  Hernandez batted .306 with a .424 on-base percentage the rest of the ’83 season and the Mets went on to win 488 games the following five years, an average of 97.6 games per season, with Hernandez as their heart and soul.

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