Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #45, Bobby J. Jones:
Something about Bobby J. Jones: He is the only player in Mets history both to be selected by the team with a compensatory draft pick (in the 1991 draft, from losing Darryl Strawberry) and to bring in a compensatory pick when he left (which was used to select Corey Rangsdale in the 2001 draft). Since the birth of free agency, the Mets have drafted 28 players as compensation for losing 19 free agents, but Bobby J. Jones remains the only one to have been on both sides of the equation.
Interestingly — or perhaps just interestingly to me — both moves involving Bobby Jones worked out well for the Mets. After hopping off the plane at LAX with a dream and his cardigan, Strawberry hit 28 home runs for the Dodgers in the first year of a five year deal, but played just 75 games the next two seasons, hitting .199 with a .355 slugging percentage, and was released midway through the contract. Meanwhile, the Mets used their compensatory pick to take outfielder Al Shirley, who never played in the majors, and their supplementary pick to take pitcher Bobby Jones, who did. Jones broke into the majors in 1993 and proceeded to make more starts and win more games than any other Mets pitcher in the 1990s. He did this with a mid-eighties fastball, a low-seventies curveball, and a 101 adjusted ERA+, which probably tells you all you need to know about the state of Mets pitchers in the mid-1990s.
The Mets let Jones walk after the 2000 season and he signed a two year deal with the Padres. The Mets picked shortstop Corey Rangsdale as compensation for losing the starter, but the real compensation came from simply not resigning Jones, who was terrible for San Diego. He allowed 250 hits, a major league leading 37 of them home runs, in 195 innings in 2001, and then 134 hits, 20 of them home runs, in 108 innings the next season. And he did that playing in a pitcher’s park. All those hits and home runs totaled to a 5.26 ERA with the Padres, a 75 adjusted ERA+. He was really, really bad, and the Mets came out on top by not retaining him.
For no reason at all, here is a rundown of every type A or B free agent the Mets have lost, and what became of the draft picks received in compensation. Who begot whom. For eyeball comparison’s sake, following each player’s name is the Baseball-Reference wins above replacement (WAR) the player earned with either his new club if he was a departing free agent, or with the Mets if they were a draft pick:
Before the 1980 season, the Mets lost Skip Lockwood to the Red Sox (-0.5 WAR); they selected John Gibbons (0.1 WAR) with the pick. Also before the 1980 season, the Mets lost Andy Hassler to the Pirates (3.9 WAR); they selected Michael Lewis’ favorite, Billy Beane (-0.4 WAR). They lost Claudell Washington (4.8 WAR) to the Braves before 1981 and selected John Christensen (-0.6 WAR); Christensen was later flipped to bring in Bobby Ojeda. Pete Falcone (2.4 WAR) jumped to the Braves, and turned into 1983 picks Stan Jefferson, who was traded for Kevin McReynolds, and Calvin Schraldi, who was also in the Ojeda deal. World Series MVP Ray Knight (-1.1 WAR) signed with Baltimore after 1986, and the Mets wound up with Todd Hundley (10.9 WAR). Outfielder Derrick Warren, who never reached the majors, was the compensation pick in the 1988 draft from John Candelaria (2.5 WAR) signing with the Yankees.
As mentioned above, Darryl Stawberry (2.4 WAR) turned into both Al Shirley and Bobby Jones (9.4 WAR) in 1991. That same year Pat Tabler (-1.1 WAR) begot Marc Kroon, who became a player to be named later. Before 1992, Frank Viola (10.6 WAR) shipped up to Boston and left Chris Roberts and John Ward in his wake; neither pitcher made it to the majors. Terrence Long (-0.1 WAR), who was later traded to the A’s for Kenny Rogers, and Jay Payton (3.7 WAR), who shares a birthday with both Sandy Alderson and yours truly, became Mets farmhands in 1994 after Sid Fernandez (0.5 WAR) moved to Baltimore. Also in 1994, Howard Johnson (-1.5 WAR) signed with Colorado, and left the Mets with Kenny Pumphrey, who never played in the majors; and Charlie O’Brien (1.6 WAR) went to Atlanta and the Mets picked Matt LeCroy, who did not sign with the team. 1999 brought in Jake Joseph (no majors) after Armando Reynoso (2.9 WAR) left for Arizona.
Before the 2000 season, John Olerud (8.8 WAR) departed for Seattle, leaving Billy Traber (player to be named later in the Roberto Alomar trade) and Bobby Keppel (who never reached the majors with the Mets) in the draft. The Mets lost two pitchers after the season, with Mike Hampton (3.3 WAR) going to Colorado and our hero Bobby Jones (-1.9 WAR) going to San Diego; Hampton brought in Aaron Heilman (0.6 WAR) and some guy named David Wright (31.1 WAR), while Jones brought in Corey Rangsdale, who did not play in the majors. The Mets gained four picks in the 2007 draft after relievers Chad Bradford (3.2 WAR) and Roberto Hernandez (-0.8 WAR) departed for Baltimore and Cleveland, respectively. Bradford brought in Nathan Vineyard and Eric Niesen, neither of whom have reached the majors (Vineyard has sort of retired), while Hernandez produced Eddie Kunz (-0.2 WAR) and Scott Moviel (minors). Finally, Tom Glavine (-0.5 WAR) returned to Atlanta after 2007, and the Mets used his compensatory picks to select Ike Davis (2.5 WAR) and Brad Holt (minors).
Out of all the above, the biggest and most obvious win for the Mets was letting Mike Hampton go. The Rockies wound up giving Hampton an eight year, $121 million dollar deal; Hampton wound up giving his teams a 96 adjusted ERA+ over the life of the deal, missing all of 2006 and 2007 with injuries. The Mets picked up Aaron Heilman and David Wright with their compensation in the draft. Todd Hundley for Ray Knight was another good pickup, as was Bobby Jones for Strawberry. The Tom Glavine departure is already a win for the Mets, and might prove to be even more of a steal, depending on how Ike Davis contributes.
The biggest losses were Frank Viola and John Olerud, both of who were very good for their new teams, and produced next to nothing for the Mets with their picks.