It’s one thing to see a player you trade away thriving with his new ball club. It’s a different thing if that ball club shares the same hometown as yours.
And it’s a completely different thing if that hometown is New York City.
That’s the most logical reason why the Yankees and Mets haven’t made an impactful trade in over a decade when veteran relievers Mike Stanton and Felix Heredia swapped boroughs. The two franchises did make two minor transactions in 2014 (Yankees purchase minor leaguer Gonzalez German) and 2018 (L.J. Mazzilli for Kendall Coleman).
In the 58 years since the Yankees and Mets have called Gotham home, the organizations have worked together on just 15 occasions, one of which included the now-defunct Montreal Expos in a three-team international affair. Of that short list, notable moves are scarce at best.
Pitcher Hal Reniff pitched to a 3.26 ERA in seven seasons with the Yankees before winning three games for the Mets in 1967. With Wayne Tolleson struggling at shortstop for the ’87 Yankees, then Bombers GM Lou Piniella called Amazins’ counterpart Frank Cashen, procuring Rafael Santana (.248 career average with Mets, .240 career average with Yankees). The highest profile trade? A swap of David Justice and Robin Ventura back in the 2001 hot stove; Ventura earned an All-Star nod in his lone season in the Bronx while Justice lasted just 10 days in Queens.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon was reportedly “irate” when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton last winter and is said to, “care a lot about the Yankees.” Late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner “didn’t tolerate” his team losing to the Mets.
Despite competing in different divisions and playing just two series per year, the teams are like oil and water — they just don’t go together.
They should; and this summer is the perfect time.
The Yankees have what the Mets want.
The Mets, of course, entered this season expecting to compete for a NL East crown. The decision to add veterans — most notably Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie — has backfired. The team currently sits in third place with a 34-38 record and, with major issues to the bullpen and defense, no turnaround in sight.
Electric outfielder Clint Frazier was surprisingly demoted on Sunday with his days in pinstripes appearing numbered. The 24-year-old slashed an impressive .283/.330/.513 with 22 extra base hits and 34 RBI and was a key reason behind his team’s success despite a rash of injuries. The front office claims to remain loyal to Frazier but he can be had for the right price. The Mets would love to plug a player of Frazier’s potential and service time into left field while moving McNeil back to the infield.
The Mets could take a flier on talented, oft-injured starting pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga. The Nicaraguan native has impressive ability in his brief time with the Yankees but continues to be plagued with shoulder problems. His upside alone would warrant a spot in the Mets rotation when healthy and has the chance to be a top of the rotation option if everything falls into place.
And they can get any of these four if they truly want to. They’d just have to give to get, which can risk the chance of a current players turns into a Darryl Strawberry or David Cone, someone who can be the missing ingredient to a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
The Yankees have been linked to former standout Noah Syndergaard as recently as December, but the superhero powers are starting to wear on the man they call Thor, as evidenced by a decrease in strikeouts and uptick in walks while injuries persist.
Zack Wheeler is a different story.
To the untrained eye, Wheeler’s 4.94 ERA would have Yankees fans laughing at giving up Frazier in a New York minute. But the 29-year-old possess qualities the organization covets.
Wheeler has pitched 94.2 innings over 15 starts and is sporting an FIP of 3.84 with 104 strikeouts and a fWAR of 1.8. His ground ball percentage of nearly 44% would translate well from spacious Citi Field to the comfy confines of Yankee Stadium. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild covets working with starters who have a deep arsenal (five pitches) with plus velocity (96th percentile) and spin rate (70th percentile), all things Wheeler possesses, joined with a penchant for pitching deep into games. Out of Wheeler’s 15 starts, he’s pitched in six or more innings 12 times, including eight games where he’s gone into the seventh inning or later. The Yankees’ entire starting staff has combined for just 27 starts of six or more innings.
A pitcher like Wheeler would be a welcomed addition to the Yankees’ rotation. The Aaron Boone-led ball club has had inconsistent performance out of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ and Domingo German. Both Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are expected to return to the team at some point in 2019, but relying on two hurlers who are recovering from shoulder issues and Tommy John, respectively, is far from an ideal plan for an organization with championship aspirations. Wheeler isn’t of the ilk of Madison Bumgarner or Trevor Bauer — two pitchers the Yankees have had internal discussions about, per a source close to Bronx to Bushville — but he has the advanced metrics the Yankees cherish.
If history is any indicator, the likelihood of a trade happening between these two teams is unlikely at best.
The Mets would hate to give up a player who ends up a cult hero in the Bronx, helping capture the franchise’s 28th Commissioner’s Trophy. The Yankees would hate to give up a young, emerging talent that can be a cornerstone player for the next decade. Imagine the headlines in the tabloids. They can’t be much worse than they are now.
But these two teams match up extremely well. And they can help themselves by working together.
Why not now?
Dan Federico is a co-founder and senior writer for Bronx to Bushville.