As we are nearly done with 2023, let’s look back on the best December free agent signings and trade deals in Met history.

On December 14, 2013, the Mets inked Bartolo Colon to a 2-year deal worth $20 million. He made at least 31 starts and exceed 191 innings each year. He was paid an additional $7.25 million to stay for one more season, and at the end of the day, he picked up 44 wins to go with a 3.90 ERA.  He was always entertaining to watch, was a great mentor to the young guns headlined by Matt Harvey and Jake deGrom, and the flip of the ball behind his back to get a runner out at first was a classic.

Four days prior to signing Colon, the Mets took a shot at Curtis Granderson, giving him a 4-year deal worth $60 million.  Remember when that was considered a lot of money? He started off slowly in his first year but came back to life the following season.  He crashed 95 home runs, drove in 247 runs, and played in more than 150 games in each of his three full seasons with the team helping the Mets to two consecutive post season appearances.  He was a great teammate and solid citizen off the field, and was awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, and lastly, the Roberto Clemente Award.  Not sure if any other player was ever awarded all three.

On December 5, 2002, Tom Glavine signed a 4-year $42.5 million deal. In his first year away from Atlanta, this 37 year old pitcher was far from a success having his worst season in more than 15 years recording a 9-14 record and a 4.52 ERA. He did bounce back to earn two all-star selections, record 52 wins, and pitch to a 3.82 ERA or lower in his last three years with the team.  He pitched well in the 2006 post season winning a game in the NLDS against the LA Dodgers, and in the NLCS, he picked up a win and a loss against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up just three earned runs and pitching to a 2.45 ERA over 11 innings.  What we probably remember most about Glavine was giving him the ball in the final game of the 2007 season, one in which to that point the Mets had lost 12 of their last 16 games.  This final game ended up being a win and get in, or lose to the Florida Marlins, and go home.  Glavine, in the worst start of his career, was charged with seven runs and departed after tossing just one-third of an inning.

On December 1, 1998, the Mets signed Robin Ventura to a 3-year $23 million contract.  He started with a bang, crashing 32 home runs to go along with 120 RBI, a .301 batting average, won a gold glove at the hot corner, and even finished 6th in the MVP voting.  His next few years were not up to this level, but he still managed to hit 45 home runs and knock in 145 runs while continuing to be a strong defender at 3B.  Ventura was a key player in back to back playoff appearances in 1999, where they were eliminated in game six of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, and in 2000 when the Mets made it to the series only to be embarrassed by the NY Yankees in five games.

The Mets gave knuckleballer R.A. Dickey a shot on December 21, 2009, signing him to a minor league deal.  He was called up to the big leagues during that first season, started 26 games and recorded an 11-9 record with an ERA of 2.84.  In his second year he slumped to an 8-13 record but recorded a more than respectable 3.28 ERA over 208.2 innings.  Dickey’s last year in orange and blue was a classic.  He went 20-6 over 233.2 innings, with a 2.73 ERA, 230 strike outs, five complete games and three shutouts.  He was not only selected as an all-star but won the Cy Young Award that year.  At the top of his game the Mets shipped him off to Toronto for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud.  While never duplicating this special 2012 season, Dickey went on to record double digit wins in each of his four years with the Blue Jays, and one more finishing out his career with the Braves.   For a player that cost them about $10 million in total, Dickey goes down as one of the best ever December acquisitions.

Now let’s look at the top five December trades in Met history.

On December 20, 1996, the Mets acquired John Olerud and $5 million from the Toronto Blue Jays, in exchange for right-handed pitcher Robert Person. In his three years in Queens, Olerud set franchise records in 1998 with the highest single-season batting average BA of .354 and a .447 on-base percentage. He then set a franchise record in 1999 by walking 125 times, which was also nearly twice as many as his 66 strikeouts that same season. His defense was second to none at first base. Person did not amount to much.

On December 8, 1978, the Mets traded iconic, but fading lefty starter, Jerry Koosman to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Greg Field and a player to be named later.  On February 7, 1979, the player to be named turned out to be pitching prospect Jesse Orosco.  Orosco was the main man in the bullpen for eight seasons, pitching to a 2.73 ERA during his Met years. His best season was in 1983 where he pitched to a 1.47 ERA in 62 games, earned 17 saves and allowing only 18 earned runs in 110 innings. That year he was an All-Star and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. He is likely best remembered for his glove toss after striking out Marty Barrett swinging as the last out of the 1986 World Series.

On December 8, 1983, the Mets sent Bob Bailor and Carlos Diaz to the Dodgers in exchange for Sid Fernandez.  Fernandez was considered by many to be the left handed anchor of the Met teams in the mid 1980’s.  In his nine seasons with the team his ERA never exceeded a 3.81 and for his career in New York, “El Sid” ended up sixth in pitcher WAR, fifth in wins, fourth in WHIP, fourth in strikeouts, and fifth in innings pitched.  Much like Orosco, he is frequently remembered for his throwing 2.1 scoreless innings of relief in game 7 of the 1986 world series starter Ron Darling was clipped for three runs over the first three innings.

On December 7, 1984, the Mets traded righty starting pitcher Walt Terrell to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Howard Johnson. From 1985 through 1993, “HoJo” put up three 30/30 seasons with at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Johnson hit 157 home runs from 1987-1991 (fourth in MLB during that time span), and his 160 stolen bases in those years was 13th in all of baseball.

How could we even talk about December trades without mention of the top trade ever – the deal that brought star catcher Gary Carter to Shea stadium on December 10, 1984. It cost the Mets a variety of known players in Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans, and as the story goes almost, but thankfully, did not include Mookie Wilson.

Carter became an instant icon starting with his 10th inning walk off home run on opening day in 1985 and is also remembered for stroking a single to start the two out 10th inning winning rally in game six of the of the 1986 World Series.  Often chided for his clean living and strong faith, “Kid” gets credit for both his great handling of the Met pitching staff and for the clutch way he played the game.

This will be published the week of December 18, 2023, and we are all awaiting some type of big deal to move our team back in to competition.  Will that include inking free agent Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, two-time CY Award winner Blake Snell or the resurgent Cody Bellinger. With Tyler Glasnow off the board, and pitching being the biggest need, are the Mets looking to trade for Corbin Burnes of the Brewers, Shane Bieber of the Guardians or Dylan Cease of the White Sox?

Met fans don’t ask for much, but we would feel a lot better if they would start picking up players that are not just semi-talented bull pen and bench pieces.  To use a phrase from a popular luxury car maker, we all need a December to remember.

4 comments on “December is a Mets’ transaction month to remember

  • Dan Capwell

    I always snicker when I read about Robert Person.

    He was the “forgotten person,” the # 4 starter on the Binghamton Mets team that featured the ill-fated Generation K trio of Pulse, Izzy, and Wilson. Person went on the play 10 years, logging 897 innings and putting up a 4.6 WAR. He had a better career as a starter than any of the three ballyhooed prospects, with more innings, strikeouts and wins.

    Of course, Isringhausen was reinvented as a closer five years into his career and became an All Star, but his career course coming out the minors was top-of-the-rotation starter. Just goes to show that prospect rankings are mostly guesses, successful teams have non-uniformed personnel that can spot talent, something the Mets have lacked for decades.

    Also, the December 20, 1996 Olerud for Person trade was the first bit of Mets news I ever read on the Internet. Before that it was always WFAN or the early edition of the NY Post.

  • Woodrow

    Mike Hampton?

    • NYM6986

      Hampton, who we got in December 19, 1999 was a key to the World Series run. The big names traded for him were Roger Cedano and Octavio Dotel. It was the deferred money still being paid to Bobby Bonilla that made signing Hampton possible. Would not put him ahead of the trades I noted, but good catch Woodrow!

  • Mike W

    Steven, thanks for the good memories. Here are a few more December acquisitions.
    Tommy Agee
    Al Weiss
    Kevin McReynolds
    Bobby Bonilla
    Steve Trachsel

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