There is an air of euphoria settling over CitiField after the New York Mets pulled off a blockbuster trade, acquiring shortstop Francisco Lindor from Cleveland.
Lindor arrives in New York with impeccable credentials: He is a four-time All-Star, winner of two Gold Gloves, equipped with a .285 career batting average. He has an average of 29 home runs, 86 runs batted in and 21 steals over six major league seasons.
He would seem to check all the boxes as one of MLB’s very best players. It’s hard to find any flaws in his resume.
And yet …
The Mets have a troubling history when it comes to trading for middle infielders. They have imported some big names before only to have them turn into major disappointments.
The trend started in 1989 when they traded for Juan Samuel. They shipped fan favorites Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to Philadelphia. It was a high price but Samuel was considered one of baseball’s best second basemen, the first player in major league history to reach double figures in doubles, triple, home runs and steals in each of his first four major league seasons. He fell a triple short of extending that record to his first five seasons.
Samuel was a star but something changed on the trip up I-95 from Philadelphia to New York. Suddenly, he became very ordinary. He batted .228 in 86 games and the Mets dumped him after half a season.
Next, we have Carlos Baerga. Like Samuel, he arrived in New York with some impressive accomplishments including becoming the first second baseman since Rogers Hornsby in 1922 to assemble consecutive seasons of over 200 hits, a .300-plus batting average, more than 20 home runs and over 100 RBIs in consecutive seasons and one of just three players to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning.
The Mets traded for him in mid-season of 1996, surrendering Jeff Kent in the deal and he batted .193 for the remainder of the season. After two more sub-par seasons, he left town as a free agent while Kent went on to flourish after moving on to San Francisco.
Then, there is Roberto Alomar. You can find his plaque in the Hall of Fame but it has nothing to do with his work in New York.
He was a 12-time All-Star with four Silver Slugger Awards. Considered the finest second baseman of his generation, he enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2001 when he batted .336 with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs.
It seemed like a steal of a deal when the Mets acquired him from Cleveland for three prospects before the 2002 season but suddenly, Alomar went south, struggling at bat and in the field. He batted a career-low .266 that season and was at .262 when he was shipped to Chicago White Sox midway through the next season.
So that is the Mets middle infielder legacy that Lindor steps into. They hope the pattern changes with him.