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.