While the New York Mets are more famous for bonehead trades and signings, that doesn’t mean they haven’t ever had a savvy transaction. To their credit, throughout Mets history, there have been some moves that have propelled the Mets from mediocrity to playoff and even World Series contention. “Amazin’ Moves” will be an on-going series that will explore these finer moments. Today, I will examine when the Mets signed reliever Darren Oliver in 2006.
Before the Mets signed Oliver, the left-handed pitcher had notched 1,407 innings in the Major Leagues from 1993 to 2004. Most of those innings were as a starter, and all of them, arguably, were pretty mediocre.
The Texas Rangers drafted Darren Oliver in the third round of the 1988 draft, and after about six full, dominant seasons in the minors, the left-handed starter finally got a chance to showcase his stuff in the bigs. In his first 12 seasons in the majors, the veteran owned a career 5.07 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and a 1.43 K/BB ratio. After 2004, he was granted free agency, and failed to make any major league club. Subsequently, Oliver spent all of 2005 in the minors for two franchises.
At age 35, it was pretty apparent that his forgettable career was over. But that didn’t stop Mets General Manager Omar Minaya from inviting the aged lefty to Spring Training. The Mets had Oliver try-out for their mop-up, occasional lefty-specialist role–but he proved to be a whole lot more. The vet surprised doubters with a 3.44 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 2.86 K/BB ratio in 2006 for the Mets. More importantly, Oliver also pitched 6 scoreless innings in the playoffs against the Cardinals, almost helping the Mets advance to the World Series.
Thanks to his terrific season, Oliver garnered much interest on the free agent market, and signed a two-year pact with the Los Angeles Angels worth upwards of $3.5 million. Considering he made just $600,000 the year before off a Spring Training invite, Oliver had done quite well. One can’t necessarily blame the Mets for letting Oliver go due to his age and lack of track record, but since leaving the Mets, the lefty has posted 16 Wins, 1 Save, 2.96 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 3.01 K/BB ratio. In 2010, Oliver signed a two-year, $6.25 million deal with the Texas Rangers, the very franchise that drafted him over 20 years ago. In retrospect, the Mets would have been better off to keep Oliver past 2006, but you still won’t find a fan who’ll claim signing Darren Oliver to a minor league deal wasn’t an amazin’ move.