On December 8, 1977, the Mets were one of four teams involved in one of the most complex deals in the history of baseball. This was it :
- The Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets.
- The Texas Rangers sent Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves.
- The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets.
- The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers.
- The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers.
- The Texas Rangers sent Ken Henderson (March 15, 1978) to the New York Mets to complete the trade.
I wish I could tell you who conceived this deal and how it fell into place, but frankly, I have no idea. For the Mets’ part, they replaced John Milner with Willie Montanez and sent Matlack away for Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson.
Montanez was considered a better all-around player and certainly flashier than Milner, but I think that Met fans were disappointed with Willie’s production and expected a major upgrade from Milner. Actually, the one full year Willie spent with the Mets wasn’t bad statistically (.256, 32 2B, 17 HR, 96 RBI), but he seemed to fail a lot in big spots and hit his best in one-sided games. Ironically, the following season, the Mets sent Montanez to Texas, another of the parties in the original deal, in exchange for Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen and a couple of years later, the Pirates traded Milner even-up to Montreal for Montanez.
As for the other part of the trade for the Mets, it turned out to be a lot less than either side expected. Matlack had one solid year for the Rangers, but that was about it. Neither Grieve nor Henderson was anything other than a part-time player, though the Mets were expecting more, I’m sure.
The big names in the deal were Blyleven and Oliver, so maybe the deal started out as a one-for-one and other general managers just joined the party. I suppose after giving up Blyleven, the Rangers needed another pitcher and that’s how Matlack got involved, but it looks to me like the Mets were a pawn in this trade, and they were probably fortunate it didn’t turn out any worse than it did for them.