In theory, this really shouldn’t matter as much as it matters. A Yankees-Mets trade? A Giants-Jets deal? A Rangers-Islanders swap? A Knicks-Nets exchange? At the end of the day — in theory — they’re all just opponents. Same as Mets-Dodgers, same as Giants-Cowboys, same as Rangers-Canucks, same as Knicks-Bulls.
But in practice, of course …
“When you’re a general manager, there’s sort of an unwritten truth,” Ernie Accorsi once told me. He was GM of the Giants at the time, but he is a sports fan in the know of all sports, so if there’s one man who can simply speak about The Job it’s Accorsi.
“And this is it: You can make terrible trades and survive. You can send a kid off who becomes an All-Star in Chicago or Pittsburgh or Miami. You’ll be criticized for it, and you’d better get a few other moves right, but you can survive it. But if you’re on the wrong end of a trade with a team you share a city with?”
He shook his head ruefully and extended his thumb, the universal umpire’s signal for “out.”
It’s why we see it so infrequently around here. The Jets and Giants shared the city for 59 years before they consummated the deal in 2019 that sent Leonard Williams from Florham Park to East Rutherford in exchange for a pair of draft picks. The Rangers sent Ron Stewart to the Islanders for cash in November 1972 and the teams didn’t make another deal until 2010, when they made a minor exchange of prospects and draft picks, none of whom panned out.
There have been four Knicks-Nets trades in the 47 years they have shared space in the NBA, and the most significant one was the first: the Knicks sending Phil Jackson to New Jersey on June 8, 1978, for a draft picks that became Micheal Ray Richardson.
The Mets and Yankees have done business together 16 times since the Yankees sold pitcher Bob Friend to the Mets on June 15, 1966. The first 15 were all nondescript, low-impact, and easy to forget. No. 16 occurred just before the teams broke spring training in April, an exchange of relievers: lefty Joely Rodriguez going from The Bronx to Queens, righty Miguel Castro going the other way.
And in some ways, it has been exactly the kind of trade a GM with the fortitude to make an intramural swap hopes it will be: Both have been solid; neither is going to win a Cy Young. Rodriguez gave the Mets a much-needed southpaw arm in their pen and in 17 games (before Wednesday) is pitching to a 3.86 ERA, with 18 strikeouts. Castro has been almost identically reliable, also in 17 games before Wednesday: 3.38 ERA, 13 whiffs.
So the natural next question is this: Can we make this a regular thing?
And look: Castro-for-Rodriguez is never going to be confused in the realm of transactions with the Joe DiMaggio-for-Ted Williams deal that almost happened one fabled night when Larry MacPhail and Tom Yawkey were both overserved and chatty. This wasn’t Aaron Judge-for-Pete Alonso, or Gerrit Cole-for-Jacob deGrom.
Still, it’s a fun exercise, especially if you think of it in two ways: the Trade That Won’t Happen In A Million Years, and the Deal That Kind Of Makes Sense. We already know the sensible one for the baseball clubs: Rodriguez-for-Castro. And we just offered up two million-to-one shots, too.
In the others?
Won’t Happen: What the heck: Daniel Jones for Zach Wilson. If only because if the Giants and Jets ever traded quarterbacks, no matter their level of accomplishment, the seismic repercussions would last for decades. And how much fun would that be?
Kind of Makes Sense: Wide receiver Denzel Mims could probably use a change of scenery, and Jones could certainly use a guy who, if he blossoms, could be a trusty wingman. The Jets, who need bodies on defense, could take back two young pass rushers, Oshane Ximines and Elerson Smith.
Outlook: The teams traded picks on draft night. It could well be another 59 years before they call each other again.
Won’t Happen: The Knicks need a point guard. Ben Simmons can do that. And who knows what makes Simmons tick (and who knows about his back), but could a season-long revenge tour of the Atlantic Division get his blood boiling? Julius Randle and Alec Burks make the salaries line up; Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Randle could be a nice Big 2¹/₂.
Kind of Makes Sense: Joe Harris was missed this year, but with Seth Curry a Nets fixture now, Harris’ value is redundant. And what Evan Fournier does well is probably better served on the Nets than the Knicks, where an off-night won’t be cataclysmic and his ability to move without the ball will be rewarded. Their salaries are an almost exact wash.
Outlook: Trading Fournier would be a Leon Rose concession speech. Unlikely.
Won’t Happen: Chris Kreider-for-Mathew Barzal. Which would’ve made a lot more sense last year before Kreider’s 52-goal resurgence, but whenever you swap charismatic players, the back-and-forth can be delicious.
Kind of Make Sense: Barzal for K’Andre Miller and a draft pick. Barzal has had many fine moments as an Islander, but can also be frustrating. Would a shift to the big city carry him to stardom? Miller, meanwhile, would be an instant boost to the Islanders’ blue line and is still just 22 years old.
Outlook: There’s a reason they don’t take each other’s calls.