Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History: The New York Mets Edition

We have posted five Pirates Trade History articles here and plan to eventually get to all 30 teams. Some of the teams will have a long and detailed history of trades, such as all of the early National League teams. Our articles for the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers (see links below) showed that trades between National League and American League teams didn’t happen too often in the early parts of the 20th century. There were still plenty of deals between the clubs because they’ve been around so long. Other teams like the Seattle Mariners or Arizona Diamondbacks (links below) don’t have a long history, but they have still made a decent amount of trades with the Pirates.

Just like with the other articles, I’m only including trades that had players from each side, with at least one player who was either in the majors, or eventually made it to the big leagues. That means no waiver transactions or straight up player purchases or minor league trades that went nowhere. The Pirates and Mets have made 25 transactions over the years, but only 15 qualify for this article.

We start with the first one and it happened during the Mets first year in 1962. New York acquired veteran pitcher Wilmer Mizell for first baseman Jim Marshall. This didn’t work out for either team. Mizell struggled in relief, while Marshall hit .220 with two homers in 55 games. Both players were out of the majors by the end of that season.

Four years later the teams made a four-player deal, with two going each way. Pirates got outfielder Gary Kolb and pitcher Dennis Ribant for outfielder Don Bosch and pitcher Don Cardwell. Bosch was very bad for three years, never hitting above .179 in a season. Cardwell was a solid pitcher for the Mets for 3 1/2 seasons, helping them to the 1969 World Series. Ribant had a mediocre season in 1967, before he was traded away for little return. In two seasons with the Pirates, Kolb was slightly better than Bosch, which isn’t saying much. Win here for the Mets due to Cardwell’s contributions.

You have to skip ahead eight years for the next trade. Pirates got catcher Duffy Dyer for outfielder Gene Clines. Dyer was a solid backup for four seasons, getting extra time in 1977 without Manny Sanguillen around. Clines had one bad season for the Mets (-0.3 WAR) before they traded him for almost no return. Win for the Pirates.

In 1977, the Mets and Pirates were part of a huge four-year deal that included Al Oliver, Bert Blyleven, Jon Matlack, John Milner and many others. Really can’t make a comparison between the Mets and Pirates as far as winning, since there were so many moving parts. Pirates were happy with their return (Blyleven and Milner), while the Mets probably felt like they lost the deal, getting Tom Grieve, Willie Montanez and Ken Henderson, all decent players in their prime, for Matlack and Milner. Matlack alone had much more value with his new team.

Early in 1979, the Pirates got shortstop Tim Foli and minor leaguer Greg Fields for shortstop Frank Taveras. Due to slipping defense, Taveras was a -0.7 WAR in three seasons with the Mets. Fields never played in the majors, but Foli had a career year for the 1979 Pirates, making this an easy win for the Pirates.

In 1983, the Pirates acquired outfielder Marvell Wynne and pitcher Steve Senteney for catcher Junior Ortiz and pitcher Arthur Ray. Senteney and Ray never made the majors after the deal, so they cancel each other out. Wynne became the everyday center fielder immediately, holding the role for three seasons. He was then traded even up for Bob Patterson, who was in the bullpen for the 1990-92 playoff run. Ortiz was a -1.6 WAR in two seasons before the Pirates picked him up as a Rule 5 draft pick in the winter of 1984. Another win for the Pirates.

In 1987, the Pirates traded infielder Bill Almon for infielder Al Pedrique and outfielder Scott Little. Pedrique had a solid 1987 season, then fell off hard in 1988, while Little had a cup of coffee in 1989. Almon had just 62 plate appearances with the Mets, mostly as a bench player. Pirates did better, but no real win here because Pedrique’s success was short-lived.

Right before the 1988 season, the Pirates got power-hitting first baseman Randy Milligan and minor league pitcher Scott Henion for pitcher Tim Drummond and catcher Mackey Sasser. Mets won this deal, but not by a lot. Sasser was a decent platoon player for four seasons in New York, but he got the throwing yips and had to move from behind the plate, where his bat would have been more valuable. Drummond was part of the Frank Viola trade before he ever played for the Mets. Henion never made the majors, while Milligan disappointed in Pittsburgh, then was moved to Baltimore for a minor leaguer who never made the majors.

The next trade was nine years later and Wes Chamberlain was the only player in a four-player deal (two going each way) to make the majors, except that his big league career was already over at that time.

You skip another seven years to the Kris Benson deal. Pirates received minor league pitcher Matt Peterson, along with Ty Wigginton and Jose Bautista, who they lost earlier in the Rule 5 draft. Pirates also included Jeff Keppinger in the deal. This trade was a big deal at the time in both cities, but it didn’t amount to much for either team. Benson was an average starter for 1 1/2 seasons, while Keppinger saw little time in New York. Peterson never made the majors, Bautista struggled in Pittsburgh, and for a time in Toronto too, until batting coach Dwayne Murphy changed his swing, and then his career took off. Wigginton was a hard-nosed player, who had a decent bat, but it was negated by poor defense.

At the 2006 trade deadline, the Pirates got Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. The real deal here was Nady for Perez, since Hernandez was a veteran salary dump. Perez had two good years in New York after the deal and 2 1/2 poor years, with those last two years amount to $24M for -2.4 WAR. Nady basically played two full years with the Pirates and he had 2.9 WAR before being sent to the Yankees in the six-player deal that brought back Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens. Easy win for Pirates, especially with Nady being a -1.3 WAR in five seasons after the deal to the Yankees.

Jump to 2013 and we have the Marlon Byrd deal. Everyone will remember his contributions to the Pirates during his short time in Pittsburgh. Pirates also got catcher John Buck, who barely played. Mets got prospects Vic Black and Dilson Herrera, so the deal had a chance to go bad. Black, who coaches with the Pirates now, had a brief run with the Mets where he pitched well, but injuries set him back and he only threw 47.2 innings after the trade. Herrera never reached his peak and he has been a -0.2 WAR over 102 big league games.

In 2014, the Pirates acquired first baseman Ike Davis for minor league pitchers Zach Thornton and Blake Taylor. Neither pitcher made the majors, though Taylor is more injury related and he still has a chance. Davis did not live up to expectations in Pittsburgh and he was let go at the end of the year.

The next trade I’m making it into two deals. Neil Walker for Jon Niese before the 2016 season, followed by Niese for Antonio Bastardo and cash in August. Niese was bad for the Pirates most of the time, yet he still ended up with a 0.6 WAR. The first deal would have been much worse if not for the second deal. That’s because Bastardo was a 0.1 WAR for the Pirates, while Niese was a disaster back in New York, putting up a -0.6 WAR in a short time before his big league career was done. Still an obvious win for the Mets when you combine the deals, but not as bad.

In early 2018, Pirates sent minor league pitcher Daniel Zamora to the Mets for Josh Smoker. This trade didn’t make much sense at first and it ended up poorly. Zamora wasn’t big league ready at the time, but he out-pitched Smoker in the majors by the end of the year. Zamora has 33 big league appearances (4.08 ERA), while Smoker lasted seven outings and an 11.12 ERA with the Pirates.

Here are the previous Trade History articles:

Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Indians

Arizona Diamondbacks

Seattle Mariners

Los Angeles Angels

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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