LaTroy Hawkins Climbs to Rockies

If you haven’t already heard, LaTroy Hawkins has moved on to Colorado, signing a one-year, $2.5M contract with the Rockies, including a 2015 option.

According to various reports, the Rockies will pencil in Hawkins as their 2014 closer.

Sandy Alderson responded to the news by stating the following:

LaTroy had a great season for us last year. He stepped in and did a very nice job for us as a closer. He’s 41 years old. We weren’t necessarily counting on him to fulfill the same role for us next year. We certainly would have liked to have had him in the pen. But going into spring, I think given the vagaries of relief pitching anyway, and his age, and what we have coming — it wasn’t clear what his role would be — I think we made an offer consistent with that.

I hate to keep emphasizing he’s 41, but at that age, in this game, I think the financial issue becomes not paramount in every case, but I think important. Because Colorado saw him in a particular role, they went to that level that they did.

These statements make cause human resource professionals in the audience to cringe. But in MLB, it’s OK to refuse employment to someone due to age. Go figure.

Would I have bent over backward to bring back Hawkins? I’m not sure — from my perspective, Hawkins seemed to over-achieve. I can’t figure out how/where that 95-MPH fastball reappeared from. Further, it still looked as straight as an arrow as it always did, and I wonder how much of the surprise / unexpected velocity had to do with retiring hitters. Can he do it again? Maybe?

What did appeal to me about Hawkins were his mechanics, which were simple, solid, and seemed to me to be clean and safe — as they’ve always been. Which is why I take issue with Alderson’s comments regarding Hawkins’ age — it doesn’t matter that he’s 41, so long as he continues to pitch with safe mechanics. Hawkins has been in MLB for 19 years in part because he’s been able to remain relatively healthy. His most recent health issue was in 2010, when he suffered a shoulder injury that resulted in labrum and rotator cuff surgery. I haven’t done enough before and after analysis to know whether Hawkins made corrective mechanical adjustments after the surgery; if he did, then there’s every reason to believe he has at least another 2-3+ years of MLB service time. If he didn’t, his shoulder may well give out very soon. The increased velocity as the season progressed is a sign that MIGHT suggest he made a positive correction — though not a guarantee. Only a scientist’s qualitative analysis would know for sure.

What’s more baffling to me beyond the age issue is the price point. Paying $2.5M in this day and age for a middle reliever coming off of a fairly decent, injury-free season seems to me to be pretty damn cheap. Adding to the amazement is that Alderson suggested that Hawkins received that much money because the Rockies envision him as a potential closer. Um … what? So, in other words, because the Mets didn’t see Hawkins as a closer (despite his finishing 28 games and notching 13 saves in 2013), he wasn’t worth $2.5M? If someone can please show me another closer on the market who will sign for as little as one year and $2.5M — other than a completely washed-up Jose Valverde or Frank Francisco type — I’d love to see him.

What say you? Should the Mets have tried a little harder to retain Hawkins, who — like Marlon Byrd — had mentioned many times that he’d like to return to Flushing? Or are you happy to see him moving on, perhaps to make room for younger pitchers? (Personally, I think every MLB team needs to stockpile as many pitchers as possible, regardless of where they are in terms of rebuilding / development.) Sound off in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies November 20, 2013 at 2:41 am
    Based on how well he pitched for the final 2/3 of 2013, I would have been happy to see Hawkins return. Based on the preceding decade of mediocrity, choking, and being toast vs lefties, I’m okay seeing him leave.

    If the determining factor was $2.5 mil, though, that’s a very sad comment on the Mets in an industry where other teams routinely pay twice that much for the off-chance of adding an extra win or so.

    Given that Alderson’s public statements seem crafted to deflect blame and avoid panic without actually offering information, who knows whether “$2.5 mil for old non-closer” was really the Mets’ rationale. Maybe not! Or… maybe Alderson actually is as bad a decision-maker as he sounds. I guess we’ll see if that $2.5 mil is better invested elsewhere or not.

    Tangentially related rant:
    Remember when every time Minaya opened his mouth something embarrassing came out? That was more palatable than what we have now, because everyone knew what was going on. Alderson’s constant spin is worse, because no one in the media seems to be catching it. He says “we have 3 or 4 players above the line for a championship caliber team” and then a month later responds to a question about contention with “we may not be super active, but the team isn’t actually in dire straits” — and Lupica doesn’t point out the inconsistency? Gah. Sandy, please, if you have any respect for Mets fans at all, just shut up. Or go on the Daily Show and take your comeuppance for the lies.

  2. Vilos November 20, 2013 at 8:57 am
    The obvious answer is the front office doesnt think Latroy is worth 2,5 and that they think they think they can get more for their money down the road.
    I ask the following question, how should SA answer the question: straight forward, should he always answer straight forward, or should be fiddle a rime or a story?
  3. DaveSchneck November 20, 2013 at 9:37 am
    Argon made some good points above, and I agree with what he says. While I don’t think Omar embarrassed himself every time he opened his month, I too prefer his communication style, despite its deficits, to Alderson’s.

    As Met fans, we have been conditioned like Pavlov”s dog, that there is a negative connotation to virtually every move and non-move. In fairness, judging from transaction to transaction is useless. It is the end result that matters. It is clear that the Mets have many young arms that can change the bullpen from a weakness to a strength. It is also clear that they need to add a legit, proven MLB arm that can both provide insurance if Parnell or Black can’t cut it, and provide stewardship for the kids throughout the season. In 2013, Hawkins did an excellent job doing both. To get that for $2.5 million against the 2014 payroll would be quite a bargain. If Alderson felt the risk/reward wasn’t worth it, fine. Let’s see what he actually does do. If he doesn’t add a veteran arm, shame on him. If he goes the path of the re-tread/bargain basement, and Parnell/Black falther, it is all on him. If he brings in someone on par with the 2013 Latroy or better, fine. Only the last of the three options will show me that he is serious about putting a playoff caliber team on the field opening day 2014, and that is really all I care about. Do that without depleting the system or committing to contracts beyond 3 years and I’m fine. Anything else and hasta la vista, ring me up when they get a real GM. It’s really all up to them.

  4. crozier November 20, 2013 at 10:03 am
    If you don’t trust what Alderson says, it’s reasonable to think that Hawkins had no intention of returning to New York, despite his kind words for them. That’s what I think, anyway, and it’s why the Mets have to compete via a youth movement — because the available talent (even moderate talent like Hawkins and Byrd) probably won’t choose to play for them.

    When the Mets were playing decently mid-season, I envisioned them acquiring two good bats over the off-season. Now I’m pessimistic about such prospects.

  5. DanB November 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm
    We are missing the obvious. Hawkins picked Denver for the school system. For his grandkids.
    What scares me is how defensive SA sounded. He could of said, “congrats to Hawkins, we enjoyed him here”. It still makes me wonder how 90% of the players are overpaid. How is that even mathematically possible?
    • Joe Janish November 20, 2013 at 10:31 pm
      So Mets were Mike Hamptonized. Curses! Foiled again!
    • Joe Janish November 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm
      I suppose Alderson figures he’ll get another Hawkins the same way he acquired Hawkins — via the scrap heap, on a cheap, non-guaranteed, minor-league deal with a ST invite. But how many of those will he have to bring in to spring training to get another Hawkins? Two? Three? Five? And will that crowd get in the way of evaluating youngsters such as Mejia, Black, et al? Maybe not.

      And then, there’s the possibility that none of the paint sticks.

      I suppose there is still time for the Mets to prove that there is indeed “payroll flexibility.”

      • micalpalin November 27, 2013 at 1:04 am
        ‘I suppose Alderson figures he’ll get another Hawkins the same way he acquired Hawkins — via the scrap heap, on a cheap, non-guaranteed, minor-league deal with a ST invite’

        And conversely…Hawkins used the Mets to re-establish his value.

  6. NormE November 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm
    The negative spins I take from this are:
    Alderson has not adjusted to the reality of the new market.
    The Wilpons are not opening their purse strings.
    The Mets fail to appreciate the value of an Isringhausen/Hawkins impact on young arms.

    Of course it’s still early and Sandy may surprise us, but until he does something other than dumpster dive, I perfectly understand the growing doom and gloom.