The value of older players has turned into one of several hot-button issues in baseball, as many free agents in their 30s have seen their markets fade or just vanish altogether. Yet in this copycat industry, will clubs look to emulate the Nationals, who fielded the oldest roster (25-man plus the injured list) as of mid-August with an average age of 30.8, as per Major League Baseball’s data?
I don’t think we’ll see an 180-degree turn from the turn toward youth, nor should we. After all, 21-year-old Juan Soto played a huge role in Washington’s success. However, don’t be surprised if more teams trying to win now — and I do think more clubs will be in that mode for 2020 — appreciate that, say, a $4-million veteran (that’s how much Washington’s 36-year-old postseason hero Howie Kendrick made this year) slotted for a specific role might bring more to the table than an untested youngster.
“I think (experience) becomes a factor once the middle of the season starts hitting, when the newness of the season has worn off but now you’re getting into the day-to-day grind of everything,” said DeJong, 26, who has logged three years in the major leagues. “That’s when experience, I think, can find a way to get a hit in your fourth at-bat, or find a way to get on base and work a walk instead of striking out.
“I think it comes down to an accumulation of a bunch of little things over the course of a season. And I think just with more experience, the veteran guys are able to come out ahead in those little moments, those little battles.
“I don’t know what the math says, but it’s probably a hit a week’s difference between .250 and .300,” added DeJong; it’s actually about 1.2 hits a week. “So if you can get (1.2) more hit(s) a week, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but at the end of the season, it’ll add up. So having veteran leadership like that pushes those things in your favor, and you’re able to win those tight games.”
The World Champion Nationals were the oldest team in the major leagues in 2019, and hte American League Champion Astros had the second-oldest