So, when I read that the Baltimore Orioles were not going to pick up Melvin Mora‘s $8 million option I thought I’d check out whether or not this was a good decision. I didn’t even have to run the calculations to see that he’s not worth his option. And given his age, he may be done. But, it was his age that caught me off guard. I haven’t followed his career closely, and I had not realized how old he is.
He didn’t make it to the majors until age 27; and once he made it, he wasn’t all that spectacular. But, at 31, he batted .317/.418/.503—his first season with an OPS over .750. From 31–33 he averaged .312/.391/.513. Since then, he’s been a 750 OPS player. It’s an odd career shape—I wouldn’t advise projecting such a large mid-career bump—but it’s not unexpected that someone has a career like this.
What amazes me most is that he was allowed to stick around long enough to have his excellent years from 31–33. In most cases, teams give up on players in their late 20s who are past the development stage. But, for whatever reason, the O’s stuck by him and it paid off. His career path reminds me a little of Matt Diaz, who arrived later than most prospects, but has had a nice career since.
I believe that these types of players are underused by teams. Rather than waiting for a guy to bloom, teams (and players) just give up. But peak age for players is in the 29–30 range—not 27, as is often claimed—so many player leave the game before their time is up. Why not keep a few veterans at Triple-A, maybe even pay them a little more just to hang around? If one does blossom, he’s reserved and cheap through his peak.