It’s no secret that Omar Minaya has preferred to acquire older players during his tenure as GM. The Mets have spent many of the past few seasons with one of the oldest roster in the major leagues, despite the primes of relatively young superstars such as David Wright and Jose Reyes. However, I noticed a trend with many of Minaya’s acquisitions. A good number of players acquired by Minaya were not only old, but were also completely washed up. So washed up, in fact, that these players have never played another game of baseball at the major league level . A high enough number that when I instant messaged Will last week with my idea for this item, he immediately reeled off three different names than I had in mind.
Here is a list of players whose careers have ended wearing the blue and orange. I did set some criteria; players must have held a full-time job in the majors at some point in their career, or at least a long career as a part-time player (eight seasons or more) before coming to the Mets, and then never played in the majors again. I’m not counting spring training retirees like Andres Galarraga or Bret Boone since they never took the field during the regular season as Mets. Finally, I’m not including Julio Franco* because of his 45 plate appearances with the Braves after being dropped by the Mets, even if he belongs on this list in spirit.
* – I was originally going to include Livan Hernandez as “belonging on this list in spirit,” but after he completely shut down the Mets throwing absolute slop Sunday afternoon, that probably isn’t completely fair. Fun season so far.
|Sandy Alomar Jr||2007||-0.2||22|
* – After -0.5 WAR in 151 PA in 2008 that somehow did not warrant a release after the season.
Now, this is not to completely begrudge Omar for all of these transactions. It’s good every once in a while to kick the tires on a veteran and see if he has anything left. I’m sure other general managers have their share of these type of players. But for every Darren Oliver, who inexplicably resurrects his career at 35, there are many, many more players who are really, truly washed up and are wastes of roster spots. This is by and large a group of limited upside players who played down to their expectations. Where are the younger and more athletic players? Consider this group:
- Brian Daubach was 33, and had put up below average wOBAs in his previous two years in Boston (.331, .325) as a 1B/corner outfielder before falling off a cliff as a Met.
- Felix Heredia was hurt pretty much immediately after he was acquired, but he was eight years younger than Mike Stanton (whom he was traded for) at the time, so you can’t blame the Mets for wanting to get younger. Of course, he had pitched only 38.2 innings the season before, so it may have been typical Mets misguided optimism regarding injuries that led to him being acquired.
- Kazuhisa Ishii had under-performed his ERA every year in LA, (-0.67, -0.87, and -0.55 ERA-FIP) so his decline should not have come as a surprise, but his numbers even by traditional metrics were no great shakes in 2004.
- I won’t even dignify 36 year old Jose Offerman or 38 year old Gerald Williams with responses.
- Jose Lima was only 33, but was seven years removed from his last good season, and three years removed from his last league-average season, and pitched terribly as a Met.
- Eli Marrero was acquired to satisfy the Mets’ requirement that they get a baseball player with two arms and two legs in exchange for Kaz Matsui. Yet Matsui was a 3 win player for the Rockies in 2007, and a 2 win player for the Astros in 2008 (outperforming Mets second basemen in both seasons) and all they got in exchange was a replacement level player who never played in the majors again.
- Michael Tucker was 35 and had hovered around replacement level for much of the previous five seasons. The only reason he played at all was because between the Xavier Nady trade and Carlos Gomez injury, the Mets’ organizational depth in the outfield was suddenly quite shallow. Still, organizational depth, that’s Omar Minaya’s job to make sure guys like Michael Tucker aren’t an option at the major league level, right?
- Sandy Alomar Jr spent most of 2007 in the Mets’ minor league system and was only called up to replace Ramon Castro when he missed some time due to injury. But much like Tucker, shouldn’t the Mets have had a better backup catcher options than 41 year old Sandy Alomar?
- Ambiroix Burgos had potential, but was both hurt and batshit crazy, and the Mets gave up a league average pitcher in order to get him. I know by definition, he doesn’t belong on this list, but between ignoring obvious warning signs about being crazy and the organizational depth at starting pitcher since Brian Bannister was traded, I think Burgos needs to be mentioned.
- Jeff Conine was 41 years old and realistically three years away from his last productive season (2004, 1.7 WAR). He was not a solution to anything that ailed this team.
- Shawn Green may have been a justifiable gamble for 2006 (again, Michael Tucker started a bunch of games for the 2006 Mets in right field) but $9.5 million for Green in 2007 is a little tougher to swallow. His last season close to that level was 2004, and he was a complete defensive apocalypse by the time the Mets acquired him. Simply being better than a bunch of lousy options does not make his continued presence justifiable.
- The Mets knew what they were getting in El Duque; ~150 decent innings, and 2-3 trips to the disabled list. Of course, it would have been nice to have some more depth behind him in the rotation, but employing El Duque is in and of itself not a bad thing.
- Acquiring Brian Lawrence was in and of itself a justifiable gamble. However, he had not earned a major league promotion through his performance in Triple-A, and his continued usage during the Mets’ pennant drive is just another reason why Willie Randolph deserved his firing a year later, even if it came at 12:30 AM PST.
- Ricky Ledee had never been much better than replacement level even in his “prime,” and that he was one of the team’s backup options for the inevitable Moises Alou injury is more proof that organizational depth in the outfield has not been this team’s strong suit.
- Aaron Sele was old, but had just put up his own Darren Oliver season for the Dodgers and was signed for a pretty cheap deal. Of course, he completely sucked as a Met.
- Jose Valentin had inexplicably produced a 3 win season in 2006 as a 36 year old, so expecting him to do that again seemed far-fetched at best. That didn’t keep the Mets from signing him to a two year contract anyway, of which he only played the first season.
- Bringing Moises Alou back after his strong 2007 season was not a bad move at all; not having any sort of actual backup plan to protect against the inevitable Alou injury considering his history and age was roster malpractice.
- Tony Armas Jr wasn’t old (only 30 years old in 2008), but had bounced back and forth between being hurt and pitching terribly for much of the previous five seasons. There was nothing in his past demonstrating that he would be worthy of a roster spot for the 2008 Mets.
- Brady Clark wasn’t a bad guy to keep around in Triple-A, but he actually made the Mets’ Opening Day roster thanks to the inevitable Alou injury. His being in the organization isn’t necessarily a problem, but him being the best option to replace an injured starting outfielder is another example of poor organizational depth.
- Damion Easley had been a replacement level player pretty much every year since 2002, and was paid as such. It would have been nice if the Mets had somebody with a little more upside as their utility guy, and even nicer if they had a backup shortstop who could play shortstop capably if Jose Reyes had gotten hurt.
- The Mets actually called a press conference to announce the Trot Nixon trade when they acquired him from the Diamondbacks, which was pretty laughable considering his last good season occurred three seasons ago. It is demonstrative of this front office’s mindset regarding injuries when they acquired an outfielder with a history of injury issues to replace their injured left fielder.
- Abraham Nunez is so bad, Ted Berg named an axiom after him and the Mets’ history of making the wrong decisions regarding roster spots.
- Al Reyes, Ricardo Rincon, and Matt Wise were various answers to the question, “How can Omar Minaya make the 2008 Mets bullpen* even worse than the 2007 version without Guillermo Mota?” The three pitched a total of 11 innings, and Reyes never actually appeared in a game despite spending 18 days on the active roster, so it’s hard to blame any of them entirely for the problems of the 2008 Mets bullpen. But nothing in any of their recent history would make anybody think they could be an answer, either.
- Spiritually, Marlon Anderson belongs with the 2008 Mets, as he only made four plate appearances for the 2009 team before being released. But man, that 2008 season was one for the ages. The Anderson contract may be Omar’s masterpiece; the same exact contract Omar gave Julio Franco in 2006, despite Franco being released midway through the 2007 season, despite both Franco and Anderson profiling similar as positionless professional pinch hitters, basically NL DH’s without, you know, much hitting ability.
- Angel Berroa and Ramon Martinez were among the laughable middle infield options conjured up by the team after Jose Reyes and Alex Cora went down with injuries last spring. Neither had anything in their recent, or even distant past to suggest they would be capable fill-ins on a team with playoff aspirations.
- Carlos Delgado is the most likely player on this list to play again in the majors, although hip injuries aren’t exactly what the doctor ordered for immobile 37 year olds.
- Gary Sheffield was acquired for the league minimum to replace Marlon Anderson as the team’s DH in a league that doesn’t play the DH. Had injuries not called upon Sheffield to play the field as often as he did, he might have been more valuable, but at least he wasn’t Marlon Anderson.
* – It is pretty remarkable that they are the only three pitchers from that bullpen who haven’t pitched in the majors since that season; I think most people who lived through the 2008 season would have thought that number to be higher, and would certainly include Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Ayala.
There seems to be a common theme with these players and that is poor organizational depth. In many cases, these players performed exactly as they would have been expected to perform, which is the problem; most of these guys would have been expected to perform poorly when called upon in a major league role. For a team that fell one game short of the playoffs in consecutive seasons, it is these marginal wins that are given away year after year that keeps an otherwise talented ballclub from playing meaningful October baseball. It is telling that the 2007 and 2008 seasons featured the most end-of-the-line players. A new organizational philosophy is needed, one that moves away from signing players based on name value from many seasons ago, but towards players who have potential to surpass their expectations.