The Odd Career of Melvin Mora

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.

3 Responses “The Odd Career of Melvin Mora”

  1. I think the Orioles didn’t give up on Mora because of his versatility. Early in his career he played shortstop, second base, third base and outfield, including center field. When you can post and OPS+ in the 85-95 range and play all over the diamond, that’s valuable to a club.

  2. Devon says:

    Yeah, I always thought Mora was overrated. Good but overrated because he couldn’t get on base consistent enough.

    Cool idea to keep a few vet’s in AAA a little longer and pay ‘em to stay through 30 to see if they blosom.

  3. Brad says:

    One possible counter-argument is the talent beneath older players. If it looks like a 27-year old infielder is never going to reach the majors, then he’s not going to directly add value to the parent club. In turn, he’s taking up a roster spot a younger player could be filling, potentially developing into a future star. Sure, a team could try to shuffle these Melvin Mora-type players away at a lower level or have them ride the pine, but would they be at their highest levels of ability after facing lesser competition if and when they do get the call?

    I think there definitely needs to be greater patience and balance, but there just may not be enough space (or time) to play with in a lot of these situations. I don’t know, what do you think?