And I think we’re ready to call it. With both Jorge Velandia’s career and Nelson Cruz’s career reporting, LoHud Mets Blog is ready to project the winner of the trade between the Mets and Athletics back on August 30, 2000 for… Billy Beane and the Athletics.
What a surprise.
Let’s take you back, shall we? The Mets in 2000 were contenders. But on May 29, Rey Ordonez suffered a fractured left arm in a game against the Dodgers. (What is it about playing in Los Angeles that hurts Met shortstops?!?) He missed the remainder of the season.
Springing into action, Steve Phillips determined that stopgap shortstop Melvin Mora couldn’t handle the position. So he traded the talented youngster along with three other prospects for Mike Bordick, a player who’d played good defense while providing below-average hitting for years at the position. But Bordick was 34- his defense simply wasn’t what it had been, while his offense didn’t make up for his glove. The Mets also had Kurt Abbott as a backup plan at the position.
Ah, but why stop there? If two poor solutions to a problem won’t cut it, why not get three? So the Mets traded Cruz, a player with a ton of ability, but so raw he’d yet to play in a minor league game, for Velandia. Jorge Velandia was already 25, with a sub-.700 OPS as a minor leaguer. In the Casey Stengel parlance, in five years he had a good chance to be 30. His die was cast.
The point isn’t that Steve Phillips, or anyone else, should have known Nelson Cruz would become a star. The point is that no one knows. So what you don’t do is trade a Nelson Cruz for a known, mediocre commodity. You collect the Nelson Cruz/Jason Bays of the world (Bay, remember, was traded by the Mets for Steve Reed in 2002), and the ones who pan out become low-cost options for your team, if not stars in your lineup.
So yes, I hold Steve Phillips responsible for trading away Nelson Cruz. If he had done so for some kind of certainty at a position of need, fine. But wasting a prospect for a third, unpalatable alternative at a position? No, that’s not what a good GM does.