Sunday, December 12, 2010

Trade Gauge: Bret Saberhagen for Gregg Jefferies and friends

December 11, 1991: The Kansas City Royals trade Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota to the New York Mets for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller.

Royals fallout: This was a bold move by the Royals franchise, swapping their 27-year old ace (and former World Series hero... and former two-time Cy Young Award winner) for a couple of spare parts and a enigmatic brat of an infielder. Though I don't recall the specifics, there is no doubt economics played a factor in this swap, namely the Royal erroneous commitments to Mark Davis, Storm Davis and Mike Boddicker--three hurlers who were climaxing when they inked big free agent contracts with the Royals, only to flatline shortly after their arrival in the Midwest. The ascension of Kevin Appier perhaps made this deal easier to stomach on paper but the reality is the Royals went from two games above 0.500 in 1991 to 18 games under in 1992. Ouch. As for the bounty, McReynolds did little to distinguish himself in two seasons for the Royals and was eventually swapped back to the Mets in exchange for the bad contract of Vince Coleman. Jefferies became a solid spray hitter for the Cardinals and Phillies (though hardly the Herculean talent the Mets pimped him as back in 1988). The Miller-Pecota portion of this deal was a bit of a wash.

Mets fallout: While the Mets didn't give up a ton for a legitimate #1 starter (albeit one with a shaky health history), they did ship three regulars to Kansas City and replaced them the following season with two free agents (Willie Randolph and Bobby Bonilla) and a transplant (Dave Magadan, moving over to third base from first base after Eddie Murray was brought in). The 1992 Mets was a team of big money hustlers. But sure didn't play like it, finishing with the exact same 72-90 record as the Royals did. And as for Saberhagen, he only won 29 games in parts of four seasons with the Mets although he was kinda, sorta fantastic in the strike shortened 1994 campaign, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award voting behind Greg Maddux and Ken Hill.

The winner: I was going to award a slight edge to the Royals since they were able to parlay their "winnings" into swaps and decent seasons from Vince Coleman and Felix Jose (acquired after 1992 for Jefferies). But then again, Saberhagen was the only one of the four players to have a real standout season for his new team so slight edge to the Mets, in a swap where all four failed to impress in the big picture. So there.

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