The Orioles hold an $8 million club option on Melvin Mora for 2010, but are in no way expected to exercise it.
The third baseman turns 38 in February and hit just .260/.321/.358 this season in 450 plate appearances. He’s a shadow of the player who compiled a .340 batting average back in 2004, on top of 27 home runs, 104 RBI, and 111 runs scored. That season, his best by far, Mora posted a wOBA of .420, which ranked 10th in the league at the time and would have put him among the top three hitters in the majors this season.
Mora’s walk rate has fallen from 11.7% in 2004, to 9.1% in 2007, to 7.0% in 2009. He’s not hitting the ball with much force these days and he’s never really been considered a disciplined hitter. His Isolated Power hit a career low in 2009 at .098. It was .143 in 2007 and a career-high .222 in 2004. He’s also hitting more groundballs than he ever has with a 42.9% GB rate this year compared to where it sat — 36.1% — in 2005. That’s not a positive for an aging veteran that lacks speed.
So, what can we make of it all? And what can teams who might bid on his services this winter expect from the aging infielder in 2010?
It’s normal to see drops in production with age, especially when players near 40. And Mora, for all his faults, was among the unluckiest hitters in baseball last season with a .285 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). He’s also remained rather healthy over the course of his career and plays a fine third base. There’s no doubt he’s capable of serving as a quality utility infielder in another locale, but he may finally be off the fantasy map.
Mora will likely have to settle for a one-year contract in the $1.5 million to $3 million range, and he probably won’t find that in Baltimore, where they’re building for the future and attempting to trim some of their proverbial “fat.”
Mora played 1,256 games for the Orioles, which ranks 10th in the history of the franchise. His 252 doubles in an O’s uniform rank 7th in franchise history, his 662 RBI rank 8th and his 158 home runs rank 9th. “He’s been here for a long time. He’s been consistent,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said earlier this month. “He’s been the anchor at third base here for nine years. That should say it all. … He will go down as one of the top Oriole third basemen of all time and he has the numbers to back it up.”
“Is it going to hurt a lot? Of course,” Mora said in October, with the realization that he’s probably going to have to leave Camden Yards behind this winter. “I’m always going to a part of the Orioles. There’s no doubt about it.”
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