If you’ve been a Mets fan for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt heard about how the team’s been involved in some horrible trades. There is no shortage of articles online with titles like “Top 10 worst trades in Mets history.” It’s tough to lose talent. So, it may comes as a surprise to know that there is a decided lack of articles talking about the talent that the Mets lost to free agency since the beast was created in the mid-1970s. But we’re here to rectify that today.

Every year, there are multiple impact free agents to switch teams. So, it’s a bit surprising that closing in on 50 years of free agency that there aren’t more than a handful that jump to mind who left the Mets for greener pastures. Maybe that’s because they traded them. Or perhaps they’ve done a better than average job of locking up guys so they don’t leave when they have the chance. A malcontent might suggest that they have fewer good players so it makes sense they have fewer leave.

So, as we face the prospect of potentially losing Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, Brandon Nimmo and Taijuan Walker to free agency, here are the top 10 tughest free agent losses suffered by the Mets.

10. Dave Magadan – The owner of a lifetime 122 OPS+ as a Met, Magadan left after the 1992 season to sign with the Marlins. His career in Miami didn’t last long, as he was traded mid-season to the Mariners. Magadan played nine more years in the majors, including several above-average seasons. But he never approached his 1990 season with the Mets. He was replaced in Queens by Eddie Murray, who drove in 100 runs for the Mets in 1993.

9. Dwight Gooden – The bloom was pretty much completely gone by the time Gooden left for free agency. But there was still some decent pitching left, including a no-hitter and appearances in three more postseasons. Gooden and his 127 ERA+ in 1998 would have been more useful for the Mets than Hideo Nomo.

8. Noah Syndergaard – From afar, it seemed like the Mets wanted him back and Syndergaard himself gave quotes to indicate he wanted back, too. But he left for Anaheim and there was definitely bitterness from the fanbase over the fact he didn’t come back. And it’s that bitterness that gets him this high on the list.

7. Frank Viola – The Mets gave up a lot to get Viola and he didn’t bring them back to the World Series. But he was a strong pitcher in his time in New York, with two All-Star appearances. In his first two seasons after leaving the Mets and signing with the Red Sox, Viola made 64 starts and had a 133 ERA+. An elbow injury ruined his third season in Boston and he was never the same after that.

6. Michael Conforto – There was plenty of teeth-gnashing after the Mets were unable to sign Conforto to an extension. But he was lousy for most of 2021 and then he remained unsigned all of 2022, due partially to a right shoulder injury. He’s still young enough to bounce back and seems to have greater upside at this point than Syndergaard.

5. Edgardo Alfonzo – In his final season in New York, the 28-year-old Alfonzo put up a 128 OPS+. He was a fan favorite, a two-way star who could play both 2B and 3B. He seemed one of the safer, most attractive free agents on the market. But after leaving the Mets, Alfonzo was a shell of his former self. He never posted another triple-digit OPS+ and in his post-Mets career, he had just an 83 OPS+ and his MLB career was over after his age-32 season. It still hurt to lose him.

4. Jose Reyes – Most Mets fans were resigned to losing Reyes to free agency. Their anger was more directed at the club for not trading him during his career-best 2011 season. Mets fans thought Reyes was a superstar and while he was in 2011, he wasn’t one for the vast majority of his career. Thru the 2011 season, Reyes had a lifetime 107 OPS+. His next five seasons, Reyes posted a combined 103 OPS+.

3. John Olerud – He was terrific in his three seasons with the Mets and the club wanted to re-sign him. But Olerud chose to go home to the Pacific Northwest and few criticized him for that decision. The next three years in Seattle, Olerud put up a 131 OPS+, which certainly would have been useful for the Mets. But it wasn’t a completely happy ending, as he fell off the next year and in the following season he was traded back to the East Coast. Olerud finished his career with the Yankees and then Red Sox.

2. Mike Hampton – He only played one season with the Mets but he was terrific and a big reason why they made it to the World Series. The Mets very much wanted him back but allegedly, his wife preferred the school systems in Denver so Hampton gave his career the kiss of death by willingly pitching in Colorado. After posting a 142 ERA+ with the Mets in 2000, Hampton posted marks of 99 and 78 in Colorado before they gave up on him and traded him to the Braves. Hampton rebounded to go 32-20 the next three years until an elbow injury cut short his 2005 season and cost him the next two years, as well. Hampton came back to pitch parts of three seasons but he was never the same. Meanwhile, even with getting David Wright as one of the compensation picks when Hampton left as a free agent, any Mets fan’s blood pressure will rise if you mention the Denver school system.

1. Darryl Strawberry – The Mets had never developed a home-grown hitter like Strawberry, so losing him was a real blow. And losing him to the Dodgers, who had just beaten the Mets in the NLCS a few years earlier, felt particularly cruel. Strawberry’s first year in L.A. was just as good as what he did his last year with the Mets but then he fell off considerably, as personal problems continued to mount. Strawberry made it back to be an effective part-time player, first with the Giants and then with the Yankees.


This was a surprisingly hard list to create and you can have a vastly different order and you’d get no argument from me. In my opinion, there are two tiers. You can probably list the top five in just about any order. And then there’s a dropoff to the bottom five, who could probably be listed in about 100 different ways, too.

Honorable mention to Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez, Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Al Leiter, Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza. Most of these guys were done when they left the Mets and wanting them back was more of a case of sentimentality than anything else.

If any and all of the four remaining current free agents listed at the beginning of this article leave, they would all make this list and be in the top tier.

9 comments on “Top 10 toughest free agent losses for the Mets

  • Foxdenizen

    No Daniel Murphy? I would have put him at number 1. He was second in MVP voting with Washington the year after leaving the Mets, and he had a few more good years after that.

    • Brian Joura

      Yep – definite brain fart on my part. I wouldn’t have him #1 but he would definitely slot in the top tier. Thanks for the addition

  • ChrisF

    Nice job Brian. Makes me think the pain outside really only a few players sticks. I suppose thats a good thing. Id guess Straw was the big blow, but the drama was just so bad.

    So interesting about Murphy. I mean this was a guy that whose OPS took off for 2 years after leaving NY for Washington, only to fall back to earth and a bit over 100 OPS+. Even the thin air in CO couldnt resurrect his career. I understand Murph was special in the DS and CS (MLB Hall of Fame even displayed his CS jersey for some time), but not so much in the WS and I just dont think you can predict a 40 point jump in OPS+

    I see d’Arnaud a little the same. He basically was a bit better than Nido as a Met, then ends up in ATL and is a world-beater.

    In these cases you just gotta wonder if the chang eof scenery and random kismet made the difference.

    • Brian Joura

      My opinion is that neither one of these were change of scenery boosts.

      Murphy made a conscious decision to pull the ball more and the results paid off the final two months of the 2015 season and the playoffs and beyond.

      “Murphy did what we had been asking him to do for years – stop going up to the plate looking for a ball he could flick to left field for a hit and instead look for a ball he could drive for extra bases. Baseball-Reference shows 63 of Murphy’s hits last year were pulled, compared to 18 that went to the opposite field. Compare that to 2014, when 37 of his hits were pulled and 41 went to the opposite field.”

      What changes can Neil Walker make à la Daniel Murphy?

      We’re at the same point now with Jeff McNeil. He needs to stop being happy with a bloop to LF and instead he should be looking to drive the ball into the gap in RC for a double and a few more homers.

      As for TDA – it’s never been a question of talent, it’s about staying healthy. His 119 OPS+ last year is in the same ballpark as the 126 OPS+ he had for the Mets in 2015. The difference was that it was 426 PA (a career high) last year compared to the 268 he had in 2015.

      • ChrisF

        Yikes. Im 100% anti your comment on McNeil. He went pull happy last year and ended woth a shit ops+ of 87.

        I dont want anyone with 600 AB AB and a 140 OPS+ to change one thing.

        If McNeil is Tony Gwynn light then Im all for it. And he clearly has self identified as a hit getter. He got 39 doubles which is top 20 with FFF landing at 47 leading the MLB. Last thing in the world McNeil needs is to do is pretend hes Giancarlo Stanton. Weve seen the results, and it aint good.

        • Brian Joura

          Have you looked at the numbers behind that statement? Because they show the exact opposite happened.

          In 2021, McNeil had 85 PA where he pulled the ball
          In 2022, McNeil had 140 PA where he pulled the ball


          And look at McNeil’s numbers last year when he pulled the ball – .449/.443/.761

          People kept repeating over and over again how McNeil had such a good year because he stopped trying to pull the ball and it’s simply not true. McNeil had such a good year because he did pull the ball significantly more than he did in 2021 and was incredibly productive when he did.

  • Woodrow

    Dumpster diving again! It might not seem like an efficient way to build a roster but you know what? Every once in a while you find A perfectly good potato or carrot.

  • MikeW

    This was a really fun article to read. We have to make some hard choices to replenish this team. It could be the time to sell high on our batting champion McNeill. It looks like he has been hitting with a badminton racket. Maybe we could get a good young arm for him with a package deal.

  • T.J.

    A little late to the comment board, but nice write up, especially given the difficulty in assembling. Straw was a big loss, and he regretted it, but at the time it seemed like it just needed to happen for both sides. Murphy to me was the biggest gaffe, given his post departure production vs cost. The overall theme here for me is that outside of sentiment, overall they won out by not overpaying for past performance. That leads me directly to Jake…hmmm…he is an all-time great but I’d prefer to let Texas overpay, and ditto for Verlander. One Scherzer contract is ok, but going real big on more 35+ starters scares me barring a tolerance for a $400 million payroll.

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