Can Carlos Delgado Still Be Productive?
The Mets, Rangers, and Marlins are heavily interested in bringing Carlos Delgado onto one of their teams. At this point, Carlos looks like he is going to receive a four year contract which would bring him to the age of 36/37 when the season ends in 2008. Since I'm not smart enough to do any Bill James type statistical analysis to project a player's future performance, I decided to take a look at some different players who I think would be in Delgado's class at their respective positions. I took at look at some offensive first baseman of recent years as well Gary Sheffield and Jeff Kent because I think they are comparable players in terms of being the right age and some of the best at what they do. Obviously it can be expected that 99% of the players will not see improvement like Barry Bonds has into his 40's, but top tier players can still be effective well into their mid 30's and beyond. I took each players five seasons from the age of 28 to 32 and compared them with their 33 to 36 year old seasons. In Sheffield's and Thome's case, they have not played four seasons after they turned 32 yet so I just used however many they did play.
* I took out Andres' '91 and '92 season since he was injured and used his '88, '89, '90, '93, '94, '95, '96, and '97 seasons.
In some of the cases players benefited from certain ballparks or lineups and there were some other variables involved, but overall it gives a pretty good picture of how production after 32 is common for the stars of today. Steve Finley had set career highs in homers three times after turning 33 and no one expects Manny Ramirez to slow down after turning 33 in the 2005 season. Elite players are a bit different than the average major leaguer and even in their decline are still going to put out top production. It is completely reasonable to assume that Carlos Delgado can continue to produce for whatever team signs him for the next three to four years. He does not play a demanding position and has stated that he does not want to be a DH and wants to primarily play first base if he signs with an American League team. Between 1998 and 2004, Delgado has played 1018 games at first compared to 31 games at DH. I am not concerned whatsoever about having Delgado play on a National League team without a DH. He has been very healthy in his career and he has played an average of 156 games per season in the five seasons leading up to 2004 when he landed on the DL for a substantial amount of games. His injury seems to be behind him judging by his .330/.432/.600 with 36 runs, 66 hits, 15 doubles, 17 homers, and 54 RBIs in 200 at-bats in August, September, and October. It can be expected that moving into Shea would impact anyone's offensive numbers, but as Piazza had showed us back in '99 through '02 players can perform there.
The Mets need his bat in the cleanup spot and he can still give the Mets some monster years at this stage of his career. However Omar needs to work him into the mix, it has to be done. The dimension he would add to the team with protecting Beltran and getting on base for Piazza and Floyd would ignite the offense tremendously. Over the past few years I've watch Piazza and Floyd come up to bat countless times without RBI chances and Delgado can help create runs for this club and make Beltran's life at Shea infinitely easier.