Why Mets were right to let LaTroy Hawkins leave

LaTroy HawkinsLast 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.

Player Year fWAR Re-sign Next fWAR Worth
Jose Valentin 2006 2.9 1/$3.8M 0.2 No
Orlando Hernandez 2006 2.4 2/$12M 1.0 No
Tom Glavine 2007 1.0 No (1/$8M) (-0.5) No
Moises Alou 2007 2.2 1/$7.5 0.2 No
Damion Easley 2007 1.3 1/$950K 0.2 No
Carlos Delgado 2008 2.5 1/$12M 0.4 No
R.A. Dickey 2010 2.6 2/$7.8M 6.7 Yes
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.

19 comments for “Why Mets were right to let LaTroy Hawkins leave

  1. Chris F
    November 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    In both cases here, the players were well known to the Mets, having already been signed as senior citizens. Both, by accounts we read about, were positive forces on a young club. I think that what you are hearing from people is less specifically about Byrd or Hawk (though in my case, I would have been seriously talking to each), and more about the Alderson “let the game come to me” action plan. The NRI route says one thing very loudly: this is a team with considerable financial shortfalls still. I get that that the hot stove (well, cold stove in the Mets case) is young, but it seems very hard to envision a route where FA acquisition of the likes we talk about (Cruz, Peralta, Grandy etc) will come to bear. More than likely we will see some low level trades and a continued trolling through the trash heaps in the hopes of finding more MLB-passable players. If only I could be Rip Van Winkle and find its now 2016, with a new set of owners, FO, field generals, and Choo batting lea-off…

    • November 19, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      All the other players in the chart were well-known to the Mets, too.

      So, it was okay when the “let the game come to me” plan produced Byrd and Hawkins but now that they’re not going to quadruple the amount they pay, the plan will never work again?

      I get that everyone is frustrated and that everything gets rinsed through the “Wilpons/Alderson are cheap” filter. I just think we can all do a better job of looking at moves in isolation and determining whether they are worthwhile are not.

      • Chris F
        November 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        Ok? Well, not really, but its what we got last year and it worked…SA accidentally caught lightning in a bottle. His year-by-year approach has no capacity to build a winning team, and always makes him look good: the players he picks up are either as bad as we think and so can be tallied as a cheap tryout with no big loss, or they produce and SA is a magician for finding them. Hey, the good new is we just signed Brandon Allen according to Adam Rubin:

        “The Mets have signed first baseman/left fielder Brandon Allen to a minor league deal with spring-training invite.

        Allen, 27, has a career .203 average and 12 homers in 116 major league games over four seasons with the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Rays.”

        The Left field problem solved!!!!!!

      • Jerry Grote
        November 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

        I don’t see the connection between LaTroy Hawkins and Glavine/Hernandez (reliever v starters; consistent performer in a role v clearly declining abilities by Gla/Her).

        And the connection between a very, very clearly resurgent Byrd and guys like Delgado and Moises Alou is even more faint. You’ve basically got a group of position players who’s defensive abilities were clearly in the shitter – and I think that’s a fair indication of total future abilities – and then you have Marlon Byrd, who actually had a pretty good year in the field. You could take 2013 and place that year in the best of Byrd’s years and not be completely out of place.

        The one guy that does ring true is Dickey, and of course he was worth it. He played well the year before, played well in the field, was a “contract value” for the two previous years and was actually accelerating his value, not decelerating it as he hit free agency.

        That can’t be said for guys like Delgado, Tommy G, or El Duque.

        I don’t see the comps at all.

  2. Name
    November 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    It’s not that i think that the move to let him go was “right”, but rather i was indifferent to the signing. If the Mets had signed him back for that contract, i wouldnt mind. But i also don’t mind that the Mets didn’t sign him because i know that there are plenty of other relivers who can provide what Hawkins does at a fraction of the price. Plus, the impact of one reliever is minimal(you’re talking about a player pitching 2-4% of a team’s total innings, of which maybe half of which can be described as significant)

  3. Jerseymet
    November 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    The 2014 roster will younger players. Probably a good thing.

  4. November 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Respectfully, Brian, I think you’ve been misguided by some faulty methodology here. You are staring at the wrong numbers. First of all, let’s separate Byrd and Hawkins, two different players, very different contracts. Lumping together a random bunch of 40-year-olds does not speak directly to LeTroy Hawkins or the current situation.

    He pitched well last season, very well, and was widely regarded as a positive influence on a young bullpen. Even with Hawkins coming into 2014, the idea was the pen needed another late-inning guy. Now that job has gotten harder. Bobby Parnell is a question mark. We just don’t know what’s going to happen with him.

    Hawkins is going to earn $2.5 million. Chump change. The question isn’t about how old he is, if he’s got another 60 innings in him, it’s how do you replace him? Or in the case of the Wilpon-Alderson Mets, how do you replace him with a guy who can close in a pinch — for less than $2 million and one year?

    I think Sandy whiffed on this one. And typically, he went down without swinging the bat. At least Hudgens will be happy about that.

    • Chris F
      November 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      And Hudgens is an expert at watching the team swing and miss….Ike, Ike, are you out there somewhere…oops, that was a different article…

    • Name
      November 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Player A: 29 games, 27.2 IP, opposing .319/.350/.460 with .810 OPS and .356 BABIP. aLI of .82
      Player B: 29 games, 34.1 IP, opposing .241/.322/.353 with .676 OPS and .313 BABIP. aLi of .82

      About the same once you take into account the BABIP factor?

      I’m sure you know one of those players has to be Latroy Hawkins. Can anyone guess the other?

      Gonzalez Germen. That’s your replacement for Hawkins.
      Those are the stats of Hawkins and Germen thru the first 29 games they pitched in 2013. Losing LaTroy Hawkins is NOT a major loss guys and he’s easily replaceable.

      • Name
        November 19, 2013 at 6:01 pm

        Missed one stat.
        Player A: 3.90 ERA. 1.51 WHIP
        Player B: 3.93 ERA. 1.40 WHIP

        And I forgot to say Hawkins was Player A and Germen was Player B.

        • Jerry Grote
          November 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm

          another stat missed:

          34.1 ip
          1372 ip

          Oh yeah. Experience/consistency over a dozen years is completely irrelevant.

    • November 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      First off JP, let me say that I chuckled with your last sentence. Well played!

      Also, it’s very possible that I am “staring at the wrong numbers,” and that both Byrd and Hawkins will put up outstanding seasons in 2014. I hope Hawkins more so than Byrd, since he’s once again a member of the Phillies.

      But I am confident that they will be able to replace Hawkins. Just like Jon Rauch replaced Jason Isringhausen and Hawkins replaced Rauch, the Mets will find some veteran with closing experience to help fill innings at the back of the pen. I have no worries about that at all.

  5. Chris F
    November 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Name, the problem is we eat bull pen arms like candy. Hawk was cheap, reliable, and carried a world of baseball knowledge. We have so many pen problems it was cheap insurance. And as you can imagine, TC will overwork the kids, so we can predict a few more TJ surgeries. The news is the Mets are on something like 85M$. Letting a 2.5M$ insurance policy walk out the door says the news is still rotten to the core in Queens. 74 wins is gonna seem like a breath of fresh air.

    • Name
      November 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      2013 was the first time he eclipsed 50 innings since 09. Not exactly what i’d call reliable.
      I’d have to agree with Brian that people are using the Hawkins signing as a chance to vent that the Wilpons are cheap.

      • Jerry Grote
        November 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm

        Not reliable? You mean having a plus 100 ERA+ since 2002 every year (other than 18 IP in one stretch) … that’s not reliable enough for you?

        Wow. High standards. Thank goodness you won’t apply those kinds of standards to Gonzalez German (last three years, ERA in minor leagues: 3.93/4.34/5.52), who was able to put up an ERA+ of 91.

        • Name
          November 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          I thought it was obvious since I mentioned innings that I meant reliability in terms of health. These days, i’d say 55 IP is the standard for non-specialist relievers to be considered to have played a full-season. 2013 was the first year since 09 in which he’s done that and part of the reason is that he has gotten hurt 3 years straight from 2010-2012. I think most of us are overestimating his health. He’s gonna be 41 years old and will be top5 in terms of age?

          The comparison to Germen was to illustrate the fact that Hawkins production was able to be replicated by someone as lowly as Germen, who stunk it up in the minors and who 99% of us didn’t expect to see in the majors before September. Next year we have 3 darts in Familia, Black, and Germen; i’d be surprised if all 3 miss and couldn’t replicate what Hawkins did this year.

  6. TJ
    November 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I am grateful to Hawkins and Byrd for their performances in 2013. Byrd especially, as Alderson turned him into Vic Black and Dilson Hererra. Regarding Hawkins for 2014, the Mets need to add a veteran arm that can close if Parnell and/or Black cannot meet the challenge. I would expect Alderson to invest that $2.5 million plus more $ into an arm more likely to succeed than a 41 year old trying to replicate a tremendous year. If Alderson goes the penny pinching way, I think it will be a mistake.

  7. Jim OMalley
    November 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    You can imbue pitching knowledge through veteran pitchers or veteran catchers. Loved LaTroy but this isn’t in the end of the world. We want to start bringing up pitchers anyway so this opens up some bandwidth. Look out for Cody Satterwhite. I like the Brandon Allen signing too.

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