Astros History

Astros: Reviewing the 1982 Mike Scott trade with Mets

ST. LOUIS, MO - CIRCA 1987: Mike Scott #33 of the Houston Astros pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during an Major League Baseball game circa 1987 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. Scott played for the Astros from 1983-91. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - CIRCA 1987: Mike Scott #33 of the Houston Astros pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during an Major League Baseball game circa 1987 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. Scott played for the Astros from 1983-91. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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We take a look back at the trade bringing Mike Scott to the Houston Astros.

In the annals of the Houston Astros, the Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen trade will probably never be surpassed as the greatest trade in franchise history. But the trade in which they acquired pitcher Mike Scott might go down as the second-best.

On Dec. 10, 1982, then-Astros GM Al Rosen sent first baseman/outfielder Danny Heep to the Mets in exchange for Scott. It might have seemed like a minor trade at the time, as neither player was coming off a particularly strong season. But that would certainly change on Scott’s end.

What the Astros Got

Scott had been a second round pick by the Mets in 1976, but his first four seasons in the majors hadn’t gone that well. He made 60 starts and 24 relief appearances for New York and was 14-27 with a 4.64 ERA in 364.2 innings, striking out only 3.7 batters per nine innings while allowing 10.2 hits per nine. He was coming off his age-27 season, so the Mets clearly thought he didn’t have much development left.

His first couple of years in Houston were unspectacular as well, as he worked to a combined 4.21 ERA in 53 starts and two relief appearances. He knew he needed to make a change, as he had a good fastball but no worthy secondary offering. So prior to the 1985 season, he learned to throw the splitter.

The pitch quickly became one of the game’s greatest weapons, and so did Scott. Over the next five seasons, he won 86 games with a 2.93 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He had three seasons of 18 or more wins, including a 20-win campaign in 1989, and made three All-Star teams.

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His 1986 season was the stuff of legend. He won the Cy Young Award, leading the league in ERA (2.22), shutouts (five), innings (275.1), strikeouts (306), adjusted ERA (161), FIP (2.16), WHIP (0.923), hits per nine (5.9), strikeouts per nine (10) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.25). He threw a no-hitter to clinch the division title, which made our top five moments in club history. In the postseason, he was unbeatable, winning the NLCS MVP award despite the Astros losing the series.

In all, Scott worked to a 110-81 record with a 3.30 ERA in nine seasons with the Astros before a rotator cuff injury forced him to retire at age 36. His number 33 is retired by the team, and for a period of time, he was simply the best pitcher on the planet. If the team could’ve won that heartbreaking Game Six of the 1986 NLCS, Scott could’ve pitched them to the World Series.

What the Astros Gave Up

Heep, 25 at the time of the trade, was the Astros second round pick in 1978. In parts of four seasons in Houston, he combined to hit .246/.314/.344 with four homers in 442 plate appearances. He didn’t have much power or steal any bases, and he wasn’t a spectacular defender.

Heep was better for the Mets, hitting .263/.340/.390 in four seasons, mostly as a part-time player and pinch hitter. He had his best season for the 1986 World Series team, hitting .282/.379/.421 in 86 games. He played five additional seasons split between the Dodgers, Red Sox and Braves.

The Final Verdict

This is a no-brainer. Heep was a useful player, but far from being a star. He totaled 1.0 WAR in four seasons with the Mets, while Scott totaled 24.8 WAR in nine seasons in Houston. That’s a pretty lopsided deal.

In fairness, there’s probably no way the Mets could have foreseen what Scott would become, and the Astros probably couldn’t have either. It was only when Scott put his career in the hands of the splitter that he blossomed into an ace, and it took two mediocre seasons in Houston for him to do that.

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But the Astros gave up an expendable player and got a soon-to-be legend in return. Scott didn’t have the longevity with Houston that Bagwell did, and his peak wasn’t long enough to get him to the Hall of Fame. But this could very well be the second-best trade in franchise history.

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