Sarah Langs, Intern & Special Contributor
There are three players who spent notable time with the Mets franchise and are in Minnesota for the All-Star Game this week, sporting colors other than the orange and blue. The trio consists of the A’s LHP Scott Kazmir and the Brewers OF Carlos Gomez and RHP Francisco Rodriguez.
Would Scott Kazmir have been an All-Star for the Mets?
He never actually threw a pitch for the Mets’ big league club, but spent a year and a half in their minor league system as a top prospect. After being drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft, Kazmir made it up to the Mets’ Double-A level before being the centerpiece in an infamous trade with the Devil Rays. The myth goes that had the Mets retained Kazmir, instead of acquiring Victor Zambrano, the lefty would have anchored the team’s rotation, made the All-Star team and garnered many other accolades.
Kazmir made the All-Star team twice with Tampa Bay, in 2006 and 2008. His ERAs in those two seasons were 3.24 and 3.49, respectively. For comparison, the Mets’ 2006 rotation didn’t feature any starters with an ERA as low as 3.24. John Maine had the lowest, at 3.60, but made only 15 starts. Since that 2008 season, though, Kazmir’s pitching fell off track, and he even spent a year out of the league altogether. This year, he has a 2.38 ERA that earned him the All-Star selection.
No one knows how his development path might have differed, if he’d remained with one organization and retained that familiarity. Given the fact that this is his third All-Star selection, though, it stands to reason he would’ve had at least one such season with the Mets. It’s easy to point to Mets rotations in recent years and see where Kazmir would have fit in, saving the team from overuse of Maine and Oliver Perez and others.
Would Carlos Gomez have been an All-Star for the Mets?
He only played in one major league season with the Mets and didn’t post fabulous numbers, but some saw his potential when he debuted in 2007…
The speedy outfielder was traded to the Twins as part of the Johan Santana deal after that year. Even in Minnesota, Gomez didn’t quite live up to the possible hype. But in the last three years, he’s harnessed his potential.
Last year, he had an 8.9 WAR, bolstered by 40 stolen bases, defensive gems that earned him a Gold Glove at the end of the season and an All-Star selection in the middle. This year is on pace to be his best yet.
Probably not until very recently. He would have needed the opportunity to play through those first few rougher seasons in order to mature into the player he is today. Being on a Minnesota team for two years that was competitive must have taken the pressure off, since they already had hitters expected to produce and he wasn’t necessarily on that list. Expectations are always high in New York, but then again, his defense could have kept him in the lineup. The Mets haven’t had much outfield consistency, other than Carlos Beltran — who wasn’t always healthy. Think about how Juan Lagares’ case initially came from his defense, and through that playing time he’s improved as a hitter. They play the game differently, but Gomez might have followed that path as well, actually paving it for Lagares (though there wouldn’t be room for him in CF with Gomez — hypotheticals can get complicated…).
Would Francisco Rodriguez still have been an All-Star with the Mets?
He is the only member of the bunch to have been an All-Star with the Mets, as he was in 2009, his first year in New York. That appearance marked his third-straight All-Star year, as he was coming off of a 2008 season where he posted 62 saves. He actually posted his worst ERA as a Met in the year he went to the All-Star Game. But, by the time the trade deadline rolled around in 2011, faith in his ability to close out games was wavering, and he’d caused a media firestorm with an arrest the season prior.
Since being traded, Rodriguez spent time with Milwaukee and Baltimore, neither primarily as a closer. This year, he’s back with Milwaukee and has 27 saves so far on a team that dominated through much of the first half.
These days, probably not. The bullpen has not been a strength for the Mets until this year, and it’s hard to believe he would have managed to stick around, or that management would have removed him from the closer role in a manner that would have kept him happy. The bullpen has flourished lately mainly with young arms, and at 32, he would be the second-oldest in the pen right now, only younger than 36-year-old Buddy Carlyle.
The fact that Rodriguez had one All-Star season with the Mets, while Kazmir and Gomez never came close, is also part of why it’s more realistic to think Kazmir and Gomez might have made that leap as Mets if they stayed, while Rodriguez wouldn’t have. Kazmir and Gomez were traded early in their careers, with just a few professional seasons under their belts. There’s always the possibility that a young player, like Kazmir or Gomez, goes on to be a star. Rodriguez, on the other hand, came to the Mets as a high-priced free agent after setting the single-season saves record after multiple years in the bigs.
In a way, this makes Rodriguez’s place on the 2014 All-Star team even more remarkable. He always had the intensity and stuff to be a power closer. But most people wouldn’t have believed it if told after his 2012 season, in which he posted a 4.38 ERA in 78 appearances, that he’d be an All-Star two years later.
If the Mets had known these three would churn out simultaneous All-Star seasons this year, maybe decisions would have gone differently. On the other hand, the last time Kazmir was in the organization was 10 years ago, Gomez in 2007, and Rodriguez in 2011. That’s a long time to wait, especially here, where there has been managerial and front office turnover over the course of those years in between.
Sarah Langs is an intern for SNY.