Gil Meche Retires

Gil Meche’s career appears to be over, a casualty of his shoulder injuries. The news comes a decade after Meche first went under the knife for his shoulder, having labrum surgery in 2001. It would take him until 2003 to make it back to the Majors. I bet that today is a rather bittersweet day for Meche, but that he made it back at all was a tremendous success for him. Sticking around for eight seasons and getting to land a giant paycheck is remarkable.

It’s not a surprise that Meche has run into further injury problems. Certainly one can question some of his usage patterns in 2009 as well. He never seemed to be the same after the complete game shutout against Arizona that took him 132 pitches to finish. Not that anyone should point to that as definitive proof of anything. Still, it is a sad way for it to end and only at 32 years old as well.

The ending of Gil Meche’s tenure with the Royals also provides an opportunity to look back on the contract that he signed with them after the 2006 season. At five years and $55 million, it was a stunner of a deal, a huge investment in a notoriously talent fickle pitcher with an extensive injury history. While Meche pitched superbly for Kansas City during the first two years of the deal, he fell apart after 2008 with –who could have guessed?—injuries.

According to our WAR and salary equations, Gil Meche amassed nearly $41 million worth of value in 2007-8. He seemed a lock to prove a great investment for Kansas City. The sad end to the story reminds us all that multi-year contracts require us to think about them over multiple years. The tendency is to remember only the deals signed over the most recent off-season. That is a large blind spot, especially since the likelihood is that due to health and age, a newly signed free agent will have his best season in the one immediately following his signing.

Remember to keep perspective on contracts that span multiple seasons. You never know when they will go off the rails. As for Meche, he ends his career with decidedly average career numbers, but for Mariner and Royal fans, he will not be soon relegated to the dustpan of forgettable players. He will always be present in my mind when I think of frustratingly talented pitchers who can just never seem to put it all together. Whether it’s because of his contract, his many injuries and comebacks, his tantalizing potential or his tragic end, Meche will be remembered.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

30 Responses to “Gil Meche Retires”

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  1. junker23 says:

    You had me until “tragic end.”

    Bit melodramatic, no?

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    • literal says:

      Well, he was ultimately done in by a personal flaw that had plagued him before, but he temporarily overcame.

      It’s a Greek tragic end

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    • shibboleth says:

      Maybe not tragic in the extreme sense, but certainly a shame.

      Meche was one of the good guys (see Posnanski’s piece at SI) , and the fact that he left 11 million sitting there when he could have easily had surgery and collected speaks to his character. You can argue it was poor business sense, but I completely respect his guts. He belonged in the majors for a few more years and to make a tough decision like this, at only 32 years old and due to injury… a light tragedy, perhaps :)

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  2. BillWallace says:

    I think it’s a ‘baseball’ tragedy. It’s not a real life tragedy, like gehrig… but I think we should all be able to maintain the proper perspective to allow us to call something a baseball tragedy.

    Posnanski’s article on Meche is fantastic.

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    • junker23 says:

      Eh, yeah, it’s definitely a bit unfortunate.

      Reading up on the shooting in Arizona right before this might’ve colored my “tragedy meter.”

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  3. Not David says:

    he fell apart after 2008

    Incoming nitpick, he was also very good during the first half of 2009.

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  4. MikeS says:

    Even for a decidedly average guy, decades from now he’ll be able to say “I played in 258 major league baseball games and got 4297 outs. What have you done?”

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  5. Scooby says:

    I don’t feel bad for Gil Meche. He’s already made a boatload and didn’t have a career that inspired many baseball fans.

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  6. CircleChange11 says:

    What I remember about Meche the most is that his contract and the signing og Guillen were signs that the Royals were “going for it”.

    Meche may have “earned his contract”. But looking back, that 40+M could have went into the draft and the farm system, and perhaps they have in 2009 what they may have in 2011, and go from there.

    So, I guess I am saying maybe that contract set them back a few years in terms of basing their future sucess on acquiring and developing young, cost-controlled talent.

    To me, it was timing. They spent 40-50M on a guy as the team was coming off (as Joe stated) 300+ losses over 3 years.

    You sign Meche when your team in the 75-80 win per season range, hoping that Meche and another player help push you to where you may strike at a division title.

    Decent contract/value, poor timing.

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    • Not David says:

      Or maybe they were going to have a payroll in roughly the same range regardless of signing Meche and that money wouldn’t have seen better use.

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  7. Paul says:

    I don’t think most KC fans will complain about having Gil Meche for four years. Besides Grienke, there was no reason whatsoever to look forward to a pitching matchup for three years. He stepped up and threw a lot of innings and pitched through back problems sporadically even in the good years.

    As for the signing being a mistake, Greinke credited the competition with Meche in helping him improve. For a guy who admitted last year that he had problems getting motivated to give his best effort, I’d say that’s no small matter. And if I’m not mistaken, the Royals spent more than any other team in the draft in both of his good years, and have not been cheap since, including in the international market. They have the best farm system in baseball because of it. What is the complaint?

    It’s a shame for Meche, but his retirement is really great news for the Royals. They would not have just released him, and had no reason to since he was pretty effective out of the bullpen last year. But that extra roster spot will help in a year where they have several guys they need to get some service time and take a look at. It will be valuable just being able to run three or four of their relief prospects through that spot and have McClure work with them, go back to Omaha and have things to focus on, etc. Or they could go with Duffy or Lamb and bring them along in the pen.

    In my view, Meche’s timing was perfect.

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  8. theflash141 says:

    Joe P.’s article on Meche’s retirement puts a great perspective on the situation.

    The Retirement of Meche

    The guy walked away from $12.4 million(!). If my calculations are correct that brings the contract down to $42.6 million over four years, which according to this site he pretty much earned ($41 mil) in the first two years of the contract.

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  9. Danny says:

    Classy move to retire and leave money on the table. I’m sure most of us would have tried another comeback just to collect the paycheck.

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      Yep, I would have done it just to deepen my retirements/children’s college funds/other investments that much more.

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  10. Nightrider says:

    He had promise but like so many the money got into his head and it affected
    his physical condition, performance, desire and hunger. It won’t be a great loss,
    like so many like him before him and after him.

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    • hk says:

      Really? The guy signed a five year deal and immediately produced great numbers in the first two years. That does not sound to me like the money went to his head. If you want to blame something or someone for derailing this contract, the 132 pitches he threw in a game in June 2009 (or the manager who left him in to throw that many) seem like more likely culprits.

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    • Telo says:

      Hahahahaha, This is, by far, the most inaccurate thing ever to be written on the Fangraphs website… since 6org.

      I am almost baffled that these words could be used to describe to the Gil Meche, the guy who walked away from 12 million. Are you drunk?

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:


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      • Paul says:

        Not to mention that he pitched through injuries pretty much from the beginning, and demanded to stay in and complete a shutout with 132 pitches, which many have attributed to his shoulder woes.

        Is $40m to play a game too much money? Well, I think so, but the market clearly doesn’t and that’s what counts. In context, Gil Meche is definitely one of the good guys.

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  11. GZ says:

    How do you not even negotiate a buyout? He’s throwing the players overboard in an attempt to suck up to mgmt. in order to land a job down the line.

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    • Paul says:

      He doesn’t need to suck up. One of the big reasons they gave him the money, and why he’s overpaid to other teams, is character. A little reported fact is that Dayton overpaid him for leadership. We can disagree about its value, but that rationale was widely reported at the time, and it certainly produced the intended effect according to Greinke. Gil Meche doesn’t need to suck up, Dayton will find a role for him whenever he’s ready. It was part of the plan from the beginning.

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    • tbr says:

      The Uniform Players Agreement has a clause that states that a player must make himself available to play in order to be paid under his contract. If he’s retiring, then he’s making himself unavailable. I’m not certain, but this may well mean that no buyout is negotiable.

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    • fredsbank says:

      do you hate kittens, too?

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  12. Russell says:

    I can’t remember the all of the specifics but it was a little bit later in his tenure with the M’s and they had a day game against the Giants I’m pretty sure at Safeco. That was the last time I remember seeing him pitch where I had my irrational Mariner fan “man he may have figured it out, what a beauty of a game” thoughts. Something like 8-9 IP with 1 R, just a dominating performance, and the guy had a few of them. I always rooted for him on the Royals too. Anyways good luck in the rest of your endeavours Mr. Meche. I would have loved to see injuries and whatever other factors lead your career a different route, but let it be known you brought a baseball fan some serious enjoyment from watching you work your craft in the games like that one.

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  13. wobatus says:

    I’d have expected Carson to make a pitch for the headline “Thus Ends the Epic of Gil Meche.”

    OK, I stole that line.

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