Wednesday night, on the UCB Radio Hour, Dan and I talked a little bit about Jim Edmonds’ potential return to the majors. I said I found the idea intriguing. Currently the Cardinals have Tyler Greene, Julio Lugo, and Jason LaRue as their bench. Not a lot of pop there, and nary a left-handed bat among them. Daryl Jones and Daniel Desalsco, ranked in the top ten of Cardinal prospects by Derrick Goold, both hit left-handed, but probably aren’t major league ready, and also probably would be better served by playing every day in the minors vice sitting on the bench in St Louis.
So Edmonds is an intriguing, low-cost option, that the Cardinals know, that LaRussa will vouch for, and that could mentor Colby Rasmus on how to play CF. Should they sign Edmonds for the league minimum?
I went back 60 years to see if anyone else had missed their age 39 season, then come back to play at age 40, just to see how well they played in that age 40 season. I did the search on Baseball Reference by looking at position players only, and sorting the data by games played. Some interesting (at least to me) facts about the data:
- Between 1989-2009, 50 position players appeared in at least one game at age 40. Between 1969-1989 only 28 forty-year olds did it; go back another 20 years, and it’s only 15.
- In those three periods, 27, 12, and 5 players, respectively, appeared in 100 games or more. Davey Lopes just missed, appearing in 99 games (1985). The players who did play 100 games reads like a who’s who list:
- 1989-2009: Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Omar Vizquel, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, George Brett, Jeff Conine, Luis Gonzalez, Kenny Lofton, Harold Baines, Paul Molitor, Willie McGee, Dave Parker, Cal Ripken Jr, Wade Boggs, Brian Downing, Matt Stairs, Jeff Kent, Andres Galarraga, Rickey Henderson, Gary Gaetti, Steve Finley, Barry Larkin, Rafael Palmerio, Tony Phillips, Brett Butler, Gary Sheffield
- 1969-1989: Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Bob Boone, Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Hal McRae, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose, Carl Yastremski
- 1949-1969: Ted Williams, Enos Slaughter, Mickey Vernon, Stan Musial, Hank Sauer.
But I digress. In all those seasons, only two players played at age 38, missed the next year, and came back to play the following season: Julio Franco and J. T. Snow. Franco appeared in only one game at age 40 (1999). He’s something of an anomaly, because after getting one AB in 1999 he missed the 2000 season and THEN played for another 7 years. Snow’s page indicates he started one game (27 Sep 08) against LA, but he never batted, and he hasn’t played since.
Vic Davalillo also missed the season when he was 39, but he’s more unique because he hadn’t played the year before either. Vic came back at age 40 (1977) to play for the Dodgers. He played 24 games for Los Angeles that year (313/313/354, OPS+ 79). Vic hung them up after the 1980 season.
Of the other 93 position players who played at 40, did anyone else miss a season late in their career? The answer is yes.
- Andres Galarraga missed his age 38 season (1999), then played 141 games in 2000 with Atlanta (.302/.369/.526, OPS+ 122). He continued to play until he was 43.
- Dave Winfield missed his age 37 season (1989), then played 138 games with the Yankees and Angels (267/338/491, OPS+ 122). He also played his last season at age 43.
And that’s it in the last 60 years.
Jim Edmonds did finish strong in 2008 with the Cubs (OPS+ 134). However, the track record for 40-year-old position players who missed the entire season the year before isn’t good – it isn’t good at all.
I said on Wednesday I thought it’d be great to bring Edmonds back for 2010. Now I don’t think that’s such a great idea. The Cardinals should look elsewhere for a left-handed bat off the bench.