Reese Kaplan -- Players Past Their Expiration Date

Ventriloquist and comedian Jeff Dunham has a crotchety old man character named Walter who, in response to Dunham waxing poetic about “women aging like fine wine” replied, “My wife is aging like milk!” 

From time to time we’ve all played the gastrointestinal version of Russian Roulette, consuming things that we know are likely going to cause us more harm than good, yet rather than do the smart thing and cast them aside, we decide to keep giving it one more try until we wind up spending copious amounts of time alone with the porcelain throne or perhaps in the ER. 

These scenarios came to mind during the post-Tejada ruminations about players the Mets have had that were toxic when they played, yet who managed to linger far past their expiration dates with the corresponding disastrous results.  Only twice that I can recall during the current regime did the team prematurely bail on players who turned out to have more capability than they showed in Queens – Justin Turner and Collin McHugh.  The list of players who wore out their welcome yet remained on the roster is unfortunately quite a bit longer:

Bobby Abreu – perhaps it was a favor to a former All-Star attempting a comeback or once again an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, but it was clear that Abreu was a shell of his former self when he came up to the Mets
Rick Ankiel – this ill-fated attempt to put the converted pitcher into an everyday centerfield role had predictable results and he demonstrated why he’d been cut loose by five other teams already
Jason Bay – Enough said
Mike Baxter – no one can really say why they kept coming back to offer him at-bats.  In 345 Mets ABs he delivered just 4/25/.232
Ike Davis – like many before and since, he had one outlier year that everyone hoped was sustainable.  It wasn’t
Dillon Gee – For four years he was serviceable, but it was clear by 2015 he was no longer in the team’s plans.  His limited play in 2015 resulted in an ugly 5.92 ERA
John Mayberry, Jr. – At least they mercifully pulled the plug on this platoon experiment after acquiring the mid-season reinforcements in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – the human fan is doing in spring training for the Brewers what he’s done throughout his major and minor league career – striking out at a prodigious rate, but displaying occasional power
Mike Pelfrey – the hand licker was regularly trotted out to start games for the Mets despite three times posting seasons with an ERA above 5.00
Omar Quintanilla – A slicker fielding version of Ruben Tejada, he couldn’t hit for power, run or hit for average (even with the PEDs he was taking).  For his Mets career he was 3/28/.227
Anthony Recker – a rival in the K department to Captain Kirk, he spent his entire Mets career below the Mendoza line.  In 389 ABs he did hit 15 HRs and drove in 51 but batted just .190 while striking out in 1/3 of his plate appearances
Josh Satin – a guy still in search of a position, a so-so fielder, he also showed no power and no speed, finishing his 250 AB Mets career batting .243
Alex Torres – after Jerry Blevins broke his arm, the lefty was given a longer leash and he promptly tripped over it.  The 3.15 ERA looks respectable, but walks killed him as he was putting on over 1.5 baserunners per inning pitched
Andres Torres – a career journeyman who had one respectable season for the Giants, Torres came to New York and did poorly, though his 3/35/.230 season was actually an improvement over his 4/19/.221 he delivered the year prior in San Francisco
Chris Young (OF) – a more expensive lesson learned in the mold of John Mayberry, he’s revived himself across town with the Yankees posting 17/52/.257 over two seasons
Eric Young, Jr. – a one trick pony, he personified the old adage that you can’t steal first base.  If you could, he might have been useful as he could definitely run.  However, the rest of his game was pretty subpar both with the bat in his hands and defensively (particularly when asked to throw the ball)

Right now Eric Campbell is on the cusp of making this list as well, particularly after turning in a sub-Mendoza 2015 season, yet the Mets seem to feel he may be an answer to the roster spot left open by Ruben Tejada’s release.

Michael Cuddyer gets a pass due to injury and the fact he realized it was over and took a buyout rather than collect his full pay for underperforming this past year.    

As this list seems to demonstrate, the Mets are often slow learners.  


Tom Brennan said...

Call them the Four As, for their AAAA aura, or the 4Fs, as they have no place in today's Mets army. If Campbell makes it, may his playing time be minimal - unless he decides to actually hit.

Reese Kaplan said...

Well, in some cases like Recker and Nieuwenhuis they were definitely the AAAA variety. Others like Ankiel and Abreu were simply done yet the Mets didn't realize it. My point is that the team stuck with these guys way too long instead of trying alternatives who likely couldn't be much worse and could possibly be better. It's this stubbornness that's led to guys like Darrell Ceciliani getting a chance elsewhere while we create roster spots for the likes of Eric Campbell.

Hobie said...


I was following your essay with interest (and whatever the antonym of nostalgia is) until the last sentence: "... the Mets are often slow learners."

The cohort you describe probably identifies the lower 25% of ballplayers who have ever made it the the major leagues--hardly a Met phenomenon. The 2016 past-expiration date MLB cohort has yet to be identified, but i would guess that for every Justin Turner there are 4 or 5 Omar Quintinilliae in this group.

And if you're willing, as I am, to give Cuddyer a pass, I suggest that Jason Bay with his two concussions is more Hamlet than Ronsencrantz or Guildenstern (Ankel. EYJr).

Reese Kaplan said...

Before the concussion he had 6 HRs and 47 RBIs. Extrapolated over 550 ABs and you're looking at around 11 and 75 while hitting .259. That's not awful but not worth the money he was being paid. From the injury point forward, you are likely right that he never fully recovered even before suffering the second one.

Regarding the bottom 25%...I'd venture even lower -- the bottom 5 to 10%. What galls me, however, is a case like a Mike Pelfrey who THREE TIMES posted an ERA over 5.00 for the year yet they kept handing him the ball. Then there was the obsession on giving starts to guys like EY and Andres Torres. In fact, I opined when they obtained Torres it was simply to relieve themselves of the salary obligation that would have been due Angel Pagan. I thought they were going to dump him before he even played a single game for them much like they did when they obtained catcher Johnny Estrada in a salary dump of Guillermo Mota.

Tom Brennan said...

Bay took the money from owners who foolishly built fences designed to neuter power hitters. It would have been interesting to see him with normal fences and no concussions. I bet they still have a bad deal, but not so awfully bad.

Tom Brennan said...

Bay took the money from owners who foolishly built fences designed to neuter power hitters. It would have been interesting to see him with normal fences and no concussions. I bet they still have a bad deal, but not so awfully bad.

Stubby said...

This just sounds to me like so much bitter whine, especially after last year. I agree with almost none of your evaluations. Ruben was a steady guy for several years when there just wasn't anybody else better on the roster. At his age, I don't really think you can say he's past his expiration date. As Chris Young has excelled crosstown, you can't say he was past his expiration date. Recker was a fabulous backup catcher who did exactly what a backup catcher is supposed to do. To this day, he's a better catcher than d'Arnaud. Not as a hitter--certainly not as a part time player--but that was never his role and its generally not the role of a backup catcher. Frankly, I'd still rather have Recker than Plawecki as our backup. Plaw may be a backup catcher someday but, at this stage of his development, you would want him groomed as a starter.

Most of the rest are either guys who had done all they could in the minors, so you had to see if they could do anything in the majors, or players picked up off the scrap heap for cheap in the hopes of catching lightening in a bottle as we did with RA Dickey. Every team does this. You're not putting your top prospect or paying somebody $7 million a year as the 25th guy on the bench. Quintanilla was a serviceable infield glove. Josh Satin has a career minor league batting average of .296, and, in the one season he got a decent number of ABs, he hit .279. Generally speaking, Capt. Kirk's minor league record shows a guy who contributes across the board--some power, some average, some defense, some speed--while not excelling at anything especially; that's pretty much a solid profile of the 25th man you want. Soup's career minor league average is .288 and he looked alright last year when he was playing everyday at third. Not starter good, but 25th man good. Eric Young might be a one trick pony, but its a pretty good trick. Baxter was a kid who hustled. I actually miss Baxter. Mayberry was never supposed to be a platoon guy; he was supposed to be a bat off the bench (not that he's ever exvelled in that role before). And Alex Torres? Please. There is not a team in the majors that doesn't fill out their bullpen by throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks...especially left-handed spaghetti.

The 23rd, 24th and 25th guy on the roster are almost always going to be these types of players. Young kids who haven't produced in the majors yet, old guys who've adjusted to coming in cold, guys who can play multiple positions, pitchers who eat innings in a blowout, players with one specific tool. This isn't about tight purse strings or poor player evaluation; its baked into the game. Even if you were willing to pay a starter's salary to have an All-Star sitting at the end of your bench, why would an All-Star ever want to be your 25th man? If you've got a kid that fits prominently into your future plans, why would you want to bring him up and stick him on the end of the bench where he'll never play? And then there are going to be the guys like Justin Turner--who are better than that, but not so good that you'd want to pay them a starter's salary to be the18th guy on the roster.

I don't think the Mets have been stubborn at all (except with Bay, and that was because they'd invested so much). For the required roles, these were the best they had at the time. You can look in the system and see a guy with good numbers, but that doesn't automatically make him a better major leaguer than the guy with the 5.00 ERA.