Holy Cow!: The story of Travis d’Arnaud’s incredible path to Flushing

On June 5, 1987, General Manager Frank Cashen used the Mets’ 8th round pick, the 212th overall selection on Eastern Illinois University middle infielder Tim Bogar.  Little did Cashen know at the time, but he set into motion an extraordinary chain of events which is partially responsible for landing catcher of the future Travis d’Arnaud on the Mets.

After Bogar was recalled from AAA in 1993, he stuck with the club for four mediocre seasons, posting a triple slash of .242/.297/.328 and an OPS+ of 68 in 544 PA, far too many for someone with an OBP under .300.  At the end of spring training in 1997, GM Joe McIlvaine traded Bogar to the Houston Astros for Luis Lopez.

Lopez had a relatively successful three-year run with the Mets as a utility infielder from 1997-1999.  His best year was his first, where he posted career highs in batting average (.270) and on-base percentage (.330) in 78 games.

In 1999, things fell apart for Lopez, and he hit a paltry .212/.308/.308.  On January 21, 2000, GM Steve Phillips traded Lopez to the Milwaukee Brewers for former member of the ill-fated Generation K, Bill Pulsipher.

Pulsipher pitched 6.2 innings for the 2000 Mets, posting an 0-2 record, coupled with a 12.15 ERA and an eye-popping 8.10 BB/9.  By June 2nd, Phillips had seen enough and traded Pulsipher to the Arizona Diamondbacks for professional pinch hitter Lenny Harris.

Harris was a key man of the bench for the playoff run in 2000, hitting .304/.381/.457 in 76 games after being acquired.  The next year, 2001, Harris did set the all-time pinch hit record, passing Manny Mota for the top spot on the list, but the season was a disappointment; he hit just .222/.266/.274 and posted an ugly -0.7 fWAR.

Here’s where things start to get interesting.  During the fateful 2001-2002 offseason Harris was sent packing to Milwaukee along with Glendon Rusch in the three-way Jeromy Burnitz trade.[1]

Burnitz, like most of the aging veterans Phillips brought in during that offseason had a rough go of it in 2002, hitting .215/.311/.365, numbers symbolic of how big a disappointment that 2002 team was.

To say he bounced back nicely in 2003 would be an understatement.  He hit .274/.344/.581 in 65 games for the Mets, slugging 18 homeruns and posting a gaudy .308 ISO.[2]  This allowed Phillips to unload Burnitz after the All-Star break to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kole Strayhorn, Jose Diaz and Victor Diaz.

Strayhorn never reached the majors, and Jose Diaz had a few forgettable cups of coffee with Kansas City and Texas, coming after he left the Mets as a throw-in player in the Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato fiasco of 2004.

Victor Diaz, on the other hand, played at an acceptable level in parts of three seasons for the Mets, hitting .260/.309/.487.  Diaz’s fatal flaw was a propensity to strike out, posting K-rates of 28.3%, 26.2% and 45.5% from 2004-2006.  On August 30, 2006, Diaz was traded to the Texas Rangers for catcher Mike Nickeas.

Nickeas played in 73 big-league games in three seasons as Josh Thole’s backup, hitting .180/.241/.238 before being the “non-elite prospect” that went to Toronto two months ago alongside R.A. Dickey and Thole.

For those who have lost track, d’Arnaud’s path to the Mets is as follows: Bogar for Lopez, Lopez for Pulsipher, Pulispher for Harris, Harris for Burnitz, Burnitz for Diaz, Diaz for Nickeas, Nickeas for d’Arnaud.  Twenty-five years, eight transactions executed by five general managers, 24 players involved in total.

The players that I mention directly (Bogar, Lopez, Pulsipher, Harris, Burnitz, Diaz and Nickeas), collectively contributed 3.1 fWAR to the team in their tenures.

There is no reason to believe that Travis d’Arnaud, if he reaches his full potential with the Mets, could feasibly double that number in a single season at his peak.  For Mets fans, that would be a satisfying ending to a very long and incredible saga.

Follow Joe Vasile on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.



[1] Complete trade included: Harris and Rusch to Milwaukee, Burnitz, Lou Collier, Jeff D’Amico, and Mark Sweeney to the Mets, Benny Agbayani, Todd Zeile, and Cash to the Colorado Rockies, Ross Gload and Craig House from the Rockies to the Mets, and Alex Ochoa going from the Rockies to the Brewers.

[2] ISO, for those who don’t know is Isolated Power.  It measures the player’s power in terms of the frequency of the extra base hits the player gets on a batting average-like scale.  It is calculated by this formula (Slugging % – Batting Average).  For some context, the MLB average ISO in 2012 was .151, with Giancarlo Stanton leading qualified hitters by posting a .318 ISO.

16 comments for “Holy Cow!: The story of Travis d’Arnaud’s incredible path to Flushing

  1. February 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I dig it!

    I did a similar post on another site awhile back. Here’s a couple of snippets:

    Currently, the longest stretch I have spans from 1957 through 1995. With the signing of Milt Pappas, the Baltimore Orioles also got production from Frank Robinson, Doyle Alexander, Rudy May, Don Stanhouse, Ken Dixon, Mike Morgan and Mike Devereaux.

    In the fifth round of the 1982 draft, the Mets picked Gerald Young. He went to Houston in the Ray Knight trade. After Knight left as a free agent, the Mets turned the compensation pick into Todd Hundley. Next came Roger Cedeno who in turn became Mike Hampton. Despite the Mets’ best efforts to keep Hampton, he left as a free agent but a compensation pick turned into David Wright.

  2. February 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Outstanding. Great job!

  3. steevy
    February 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Wow,can you connect him with Kevin Bacon somehow?

    • Joe Vasile
      February 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      I can try, but somehow I believe I would have to go through Bernard Gilkey and his cameo in Men in Black.

      • February 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm

        Tommy Lee Jones was in MIB and he and Kevin Bacon were in JFK.

        • Joe Vasile
          February 12, 2013 at 12:55 am

          And we have a winner

  4. February 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    In 1979, the Knicks drafted Bill Cartwright. Eventually they traded Cartwright for Charles Oakley. They dealt Oakley for Marcus Camby, who turned into Antonio McDyess. That led to Anfernee Hardaway who became Steve Francis, who morphed into Zach Randolph. Soon that became Tim Thomas who turned into Larry Hughes who yielded Tracy McGrady.

    That’s a continual chain from 1979 to 2010.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      Dang, you’re like an encyclopedia of this stuff. Also I think there’s a roundabout way to do this same thing with Quilvio Veras.

  5. Jim OMalley
    February 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

    That settles it. We need a t shirt which reads, “God bless Tim Bogar”.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      I can look into getting those made up.

  6. NormE
    February 12, 2013 at 9:13 am

    This is much more entertaining than the Mets season promises to be.
    Maybe they can sign Kevin Bacon to play CF.

    • steevy
      February 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      Does he bat right handed?

  7. February 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Hopefully, d’Arnaud stops this train right here!

  8. Jack Made
    February 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Uh, no….

    We got Travis for RA Dickey… The six degrees of desperation thing is cool, but you could’ve sent Toronto a Mike Nickeas bobble head doll along with RA and the Mets still would have gotten D’Anaurd.

  9. February 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Six degrees of Tim Bogar? LOL.

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