Earlier this month, I noted how troubling it was that just about all of the Dodger shopping spree so far this winter has focused on older players on the backside of their careers:
Worse, the age trend here is terrifying. Adam Kennedy is 36 in January. Matt Treanor is 36 in March. Jerry Hairston turns 36 in May, which is also when Aaron Harang is 34. Mark Ellis is 35 in June. Juan Rivera will be 34 in July. Chris Capuano is 34 in August. That’s seven signings (assuming Harang arrives), and not a single one younger than Capuano.
Add them to Ted Lilly (36 in two weeks) & Matt Guerrier (34 in August) and the 2012 Dodgers will start off with nine players who are 33 or older by June 30, which is when Baseball Reference marks as the cut-off for determining a player’s age during a season. Assume that Mike MacDougal returns (35 in March) and that would make it ten, a full 40% of the active roster, and it would be eleven if not for the fact that Juan Uribe (33 on July 22) misses the deadline by just three weeks.
So that got me thinking – how might this compare to previous Dodger squads in terms of going to battle with players coming dangerously near their expiration date? As it turns out, we don’t have to go too far, since the club record for a season with most players 33 or older on June 30 came all the way back in… 2010, with 19 graybeards ranging from Garret Anderson to Jeff Weaver. Unsurprisingly, three of the top four Dodger clubs on this ranking, and four of the top six, have come under the leadership of Ned Colletti; all of the top eight have come since the turn of the century. That 2010 club actually had the fourth-highest amount of 33+ players of all time, though I think topping the memorably aged 2005 Yankees’ count of 25 such players is probably just a bit out of reach.
Ten isn’t nineteen, but remember that no team – and particularly one depending on so many older players – gets through the year with the same 25 players. When injuries strike, it’s almost certain that a few of your standard Triple-A non-roster types like Josh Bard (34 in March), Alberto Castillo (37 in July), and others we don’t know about yet pick up at least a few token appearances during the season. Beyond that, it’s still not out of the question that they will end up signing someone like Hideki Matsui (38 in June) and push Jerry Sands to the minors – plus whatever other questionable acquisitions pop up during the season.
Can they get nine more 33+ players into games over the season to tie the 2010 “record”? I think they can, especially if someone says Juan Castro‘s name three times in a row so he can make his yearly appearance. It’s okay, though; of the ten plus Uribe I listed at the start of the piece, all but Rivera, Treanor, Kennedy and (for the moment, at least) MacDougal are under contract for 2013 as well. So look for this piece next December, except then we can bump up the limit to 34 years of age – that record is only 15, set back in 2007. Fun times ahead!