The Mets traded their ace starter to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 27, 1992, when David Cone was sent as the “hired gun” to help the Jays to a pennant and World Championship.
Oh, I’m sorry — did you think this post was going to be about some other trade between the Mets and Blue Jays involving the Mets’ ace starter?
In all seriousness, the looming trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto brought back the Cone memory. Back then, the Mets received rookie infielder Jeff Kent and a player to be named later who turned out to be one of Toronto’s top-ten prospects — Ryan Thompson. Many of us remember how that deal turned out: the highly athletic, motormouth Thompson was a bust, and Kent went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career — after the Mets swapped him away for Carlos Baerga.
Granted, the situation was different from the Dickey deal, but there are some parallels. An in-season, August trade, Cone was essentially a two-month rental for the Jays, so the return package wasn’t quite as juicy as the one we expect to see for R.A. At the time, the Mets were dealing from strength — they had a surplus of starting pitching, with Sid Fernandez and Dwight Gooden heading a strong rotation (on paper). Pitching was all they had, in fact; the team finished 72-90 mainly because their punchless offense underperformed (Bobby Bonilla‘s 19 HR led the club). Further, they had two can’t-miss pitching prospects in their early 20s who appeared to be a year or two away — Pete Schourek and Bobby Jones. Expectations were high for Schourek, in particular, as he jumped up from A ball all the way to MLB in ’91, and was impressive in 21 MLB starts in ’92. Other than those two young hurlers, a questionable outfielder struggling at AAA (Jeromy Burnitz), and another outfielder who just tore up the Florida State League (Butch Huskey), the minor league system was barren. It was assumed that Cone would auction himself off via free agency after the season, so the Mets made the move with the plan of getting back a few young position players — since there was little, if anything, coming from the farm anytime soon.
Looking back, the Cone trade could have worked out OK if the Mets held on to Kent — or at least, traded him for someone that wasn’t on a fast slide downward. Thompson was always iffy, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that he was a bust. Jones eventually turned out to be a reliable back-end starter for the Mets for several years, while Schourek wasn’t able to figure it out until leaving New York for Cincinnati, where he won 18 games in 1995 (the Reds plucked him off waivers in ’94).
What does it all mean? Nothing — it’s just something that came to my mind, since the Mets again appear to be trading an ace starter to the Blue Jays. We’ll see if history repeats itself, or if it will be rewritten.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.