This week the 2021 MLB Lockout completes its third week, and on Monday officially becomes the fourth-longest work stoppage in the league’s history. Only the 1994-95 strike (232 days), 1981 strike (52 days) and 1990 lockout (32 days) stretched on for longer. When things are said and done, this lockout may end up looking up only at the 94-95 strike for duration.

During the lockout rosters are frozen and teams are not able to make moves, but that is not the case during a strike. During the 94-95 offseason, teams made trades and signed free agents like everything was somewhat normal. In December 1994, owners imposed a salary cap – opposed only by three teams, including the Mets – so many GMs were scurrying to re-organize their rosters to get under the new cap (which was eventually scrapped in February after the MLBPA filed an unfair business practices suit).

The most notable trade during the ’94 strike was a 12-player deal between the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres which sent Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley and others to San Diego for Derek Bell and others. However, what we’ll re-visit here are the four trades made by Mets GM Joe McIlvaine from Nov. 18 through Nov. 30, 1994.

Trade #1 – 11/18/1994 with Cleveland Guardians

Mets receive: Paul Byrd, Jerry Dipoto, Dave Mlicki and a player to be named later (Jesus Azuaje)

Cleveland receives: Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Roa

Cleveland was a team on the rise, and would come into full blossom in 1995, going 100-44 during the shortened season. This, however, was not a move that helped them. Burnitz played nine games with Cleveland in 1995, and 71 in 1996 before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Kevin Seitzer and developing into a perennial 30 home run a year bat in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Roa spent two years in the Cleveland minor league system before being traded to San Francisco as part of the deal that netted the Guardians Matt Williams.

Byrd posted a 3.54 ERA in 55 games out of the bullpen in two years as a Met before being sent to Atlanta for Greg McMichael after the 1996 season. He made the 1999 NL All-Star team with the Philadelphia Phillies, and was eventually listed in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user. Dipoto also spent two years with the Mets, faring slightly better (3.98 ERA in 115 games) before being traded to Colorado for Armando Reynoso. Mlicki pitched three and a half seasons with the Mets, posting a 4.15 ERA before he was traded with Greg McMichael to the Dodgers for Hideo Nomo and Brad Clontz in 1998. His crowning achievement with the Mets was shutting out the Yankees in the first regular season Subway Series game in 1997, which is a staple of Mets Classics on SNY.

Winner: Mets

Trade #2 – 11/28/1994 with Houston Astros

Mets receive: Pete Harnisch

Houston receives: Two players to be named later (Andy Beckerman and Juan Castillo).

Harnisch went just 10-21 in parts of three seasons with the Mets, though he dealt with injuries that curtailed his effectiveness in 1997 and posted a 4.33 ERA, good for a modest 93 ERA+ in his tenure. He was traded to Milwaukee for Donnie Moore (not the tragic Angels closer, but a minor leaguer who never made it higher than Class A) in August 1997.

Neither Beckerman nor Castillo ever played in the majors for Houston, and combined to play a total of 25 games in the Astros minor league system. However, the Astros did shed $3 million off their salary cap payroll with the trade.

Winner: Mets

Trade #3 – 11/29/1994 with Florida Marlins

Mets receive: Carl Everett

Marlins receive: Quilvio Veras

Everett was a late bloomer playing in an era where we should all be naturally suspicious of late bloomers. After hitting .250/.326/.402 in three seasons with the Mets (amazingly his longest tenure with any one team), he was traded to Houston for John Hudek after the 1997 season, where he broke out and hit .310/.387/.526 while playing half of his games in the Astrodome over two years.

Veras played two years with the Marlins, stealing 56 bases to lead the majors in 1995, but also led the majors with 21 times caught stealing. Florida traded him to the Padres after the 1996 season for Dustin Hermanson. An on-base machine at a time where that was probably still a little undervalued, Veras finished with a career .270/.372/.362 batting line in 767 games.

Winner: Marlins

Trade #4 – 11/30/1994 with Milwaukee Brewers

Mets receive: Doug Henry

Brewers receive: Two players to be named later (Javier Gonzalez and Fernando Vina)

Henry was good in 1995 (2.96 ERA in 51 games) and less so in 1996 (4.68 ERA, 9 blown saves in 58 games) in his two years in New York. Such is the volatility of middle relievers. Vina meanwhile put together a nice career as a glove-first, no-hit second baseman with Milwaukee and later St. Louis. He only posted an OPS that was league average or better twice, but he hit .300 three times, and from 1996 through 2002, posted a .290/.354/.389, won two gold gloves and was an All-Star. Gonzalez never appeared in the majors.

Winner: Narrowly Brewers

Joe McIlvaine made four trades in 12 days, including three in consecutive days and they are all fairly hard to criticize. They shored up the pitching staff of a team that had taken a big step forward in 1994, but it didn’t all come together for a few more years.

Even the trades the Mets lost in hindsight they either acquired a really good player who hadn’t hit his stride yet (Everett) or a veteran reliever to stabilize the bullpen (Henry). Both Veras and Vina were expendable as at the time the Mets had Jeff Kent, Jose Vizcaino and Edgardo Alfonzo in the majors and the highly-touted Rey Ordonez coming down the line.

Unfortunately, with player transactions frozen during the current lockout, we have to wait and see what moves the Mets still have up their sleeves for 2022.

3 comments on “Revisiting the four Mets trades from the 1994 strike offseason

  • BrianJ

    My memory was of Everett being better than that as a Met.

    I didn’t remember Dustin Hermanson on the Marlins. That’s because they traded him for future Met Cliff Floyd before he ever played a game for them.

  • JimmyP

    Wait, what?

    How do the Mets “win” trade #1 when they get four crappy bodies in exchange for, in your words, “a perennial 30 home run a year bat in the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

    Dallas Green did everything he could to destroy Burnitz. A real shame.

  • JimmyP

    Carl Everett — an extremely talented player, very fast whiplike bat — ranks very high on my list of most loathed & reviled players in Mets history. He was beating his child with a belt before the Mets had to step in and do something. And did he not believe in dinosaurs? Something like that.

    God, I hate that guy.

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