Last year when the Mets signed veterans Marlon Byrd and LaTroy Hawkins, the collective reaction from the fanbase was a giant yawn. Then those two players went out and had nice seasons. Now fans are upset because the Mets let both Byrd and Hawkins sign elsewhere, seemingly without even making a financial offer to bring them back in 2014. It seems strange given the recent history the club has had with retaining and cutting the cord on older players.
Byrd was 35 last year and Hawkins was 40. So, let’s look at all players age 35 and up that the Mets either re-signed, traded or let walk since 2006 and see how those decisions played out. It turns out there were many more of these veterans than I imagined. From 2006 to 2012, the Mets employed 38 different players who were baseball senior citizens.
In an effort to make the list more manageable, let’s only consider those who posted a fWAR of 1.0 or greater. Also, remember we’re only considering those who needed a decision made on their contract. If a player met the age requirement but was in the middle of a multi-year deal, he will not be included on the list.
|Tom Glavine||2007||1.0||No (1/$8M)||(-0.5)||No|
|Hisanori Takahashi||2010||1.5||No (2/$8M)||0.5||No|
Both Alou and Delgado had options that the Mets chose to pick up. Both times injuries kept them from being able to play a full season. Injuries also caught up to Valentin and Hernandez, too. Old people get hurt and in a related story, the sun rises in the east. Six of the eight players in this sample came back to the Mets and only one was worth the contract. And the two that the Mets let walk were not worth their deal, either.
In the long run, it’s a losing proposition to invest seven-figure deals on baseball’s senior citizens. This is not to say that both Byrd and Hawkins are destined to be busts. Rather, it’s that if they do succeed that they will be beating the odds in order to do so.
Byrd and Hawkins were solid contributors to the 2013 team. Now Sandy Alderson should be out looking for similar players he can bring in on NRIs with the chance to duplicate their successes for 2014. He should not be raked over the coals for letting these players walk.
A valid criticism of Omar Minaya is that too often he paid a veteran player for his previous year’s success. It seems like a good thing that Alderson is not repeating this pattern. And while he did not qualify for this study because he was not 35, many people this time last year were critical of Alderson for not re-signing Scott Hairston.
After he posted a 1.6 fWAR for the 2012 Mets, Hairston signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cubs, a move that was generally regarded as a good pickup. One year into the deal, Hairston has already been traded and has a (-0.7) fWAR. If Alderson re-signs Hairston, perhaps he doesn’t sign Byrd. Then instead of Vic Black and Dilson Herrera – the Mets are left hoping for a rebound from Hairston.
There’s a lot of disbelief among Mets fans that Hawkins was allowed to leave when he signed for so little elsewhere. Perhaps those fans would be better served recalling how the Mets have done recently with re-signing senior citizens who did not throw a knuckleball. Here’s hoping that Hawkins has a good year for the Rockies. Meanwhile, let’s not lose any sleep over the loss of a soon-to-be 41 year old with all of one year with the Mets.