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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.