I’ve always felt the rivalry between the Mets and Yankees is a little overstated, but the behavior of the respective franchises may take it more seriously. In the 60+ years the Mets have been in operation, the two teams have made just 16 trades, and none of them the eye-popping variety. Still, there’s a few trades with featuring a few interesting names to break down.
December 7, 2001: The Yankees trade David Justice to the Mets for Robin Ventura.
This trade is great for a couple reasons. Straight up, one-for-one veteran swaps alone are a lot of fun, as neither player involved was in baseball after 2004. George Steinbrenner wanted Justice off the team after a disappointing 2001 season, offloading him to Queens while paying $3 million of his salary. Normally. these Boss-driven decisions turned out poorly for the team, but Ventura was a notably better player than Justice that season.
The slick-fielding third baseman posted an .826 OPS, 40-odd points higher than Justice in 2002, and Joe Torre named him to the American League All-Star team. Ventura also personally burned the Mets for sending him away in the Subway Series to boot:
Ventura was later dealt to LA at the 2003 Trade Deadline for bench outfielder Bubba Crosby and reliever Scott Proctor, which was another sneaky good deal even if Torre didn’t exactly use Proctor wisely.
Not to be outdone, Justice was flipped to the A’s, where he became a focus of Moneyball.
He was damn right about the soda money.
April 3, 2022: The Mets trade Miguel Castro to the Yankees for Joely Rodríguez.
The most recent trade between clubs, this one doomed us all to one more round of the Miguel Castro Experiment. The Yankees loved them some Miguel Castro, so much so that they sent away the best part of the Joey Gallo trade, lefty Rodríguez, for the right-handed reliever. Rodríguez had a 154 ERA+ after being sent to the Yanks in 2021, and while Castro actually did outpitch Joely in 2022, I’ll chalk that up to the Yankees being able to turn a Parmesan rind into a league-average reliever.
Most Overlooked Trade
June 9, 1992: The Mets trade Tim Burke to the Yankees for Lee Guetterman.
Most of those pre-strike ‘90s teams are pretty overlooked, but this was a nifty little deal. Burke was in the last year of his career, after a season and a half where he really began to show his age. Some of that Yankee Magic seemed to work, as Burke notched a 122 ERA+ down the stretch in what otherwise was a rebuilding campaign for the Bombers. Those early ‘90s clubs were in the process of resetting ahead of the dynasty years, but in the closing months of an MLB career, Tim Burke was a bright spot.
July 1972: The Yankees sent Tommie Sheppard to the Montreal Expos. The Montreal Expos sent Dave McDonald to the New York Mets.
With all due (dis)respect to the brief-but-not-brief-enough Armando Benítez Experience, this forgotten move is by definition the weirdest trade because I can’t quite figure out who came to the Bronx in this deal. The logic dictates that each team swapped out a guy, except there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding move. The best guess is probably cash, but it’s strange that the normally detailed transactions logs don’t mention it. The Yankees didn’t lose anything in the deal, a three-way exchange of minor leaguers, but it still stands out as a bit of a mystery.
We would normally talk about other notable trades in this section, but I think it’s more interesting to delve into why there’s such a chill between franchises in the same city. The Mets and Yankees have made 16 deals, and the Dodgers and Angels in the same timespan have made just 15. The Cubs and White Sox have split Chicago for more than 100 years, a little more than double the time NY and LA have been shared markets and have completed 30 trades — none before World War II.
There seems to be a certain amount of fear in these relationships. Like a politician guarding against a “gotcha” question, franchises are likely cautious about “losing” a trade when the results would be so obvious and accessible to their fanbase. We tend to think of the trade market as more or less an auction process — teams know more or less who is available and are free to offer up the best return they can muster. The team putting the player on the market then has their choice about what package they value the most.
When teams share a city (or whatever it is the Angels and Dodgers share), we see the impact of a non market factor. What we don’t really know is whether this is an issue on the buyer or seller’s side — are the Yankees reluctant to offer up their players in the event they succeed in Queens, or are the Mets more cautious about sending a prospect to the Bronx that blossoms into a star? George Steinbrenner detested the Mets perhaps more than any Yankees fan actually did and wouldn’t hated eating crow on trading a player there, so that was almost certainly a factor.
It’s been over a decade since Steinbrenner’s passing and the Mets have a new owner as well. Yet the Castro/Rodríguez swap stands as the only real trade between the two teams in the last 19 years.