Free Agent Retrospective: The early Endy Chavez Christmas gift

NLCS Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals v New York Mets
NLCS Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals v New York Mets / Al Bello/GettyImages

Nobody knew Endy Chavez, a light-hitting outfielder with some good speed and defense, would become such a New York Mets legend. He’s not up there with Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, or David Wright. His claim to fame is one dramatic moment in the 2006 NLCS. The catch he met almost helped send the Mets to the World Series. Instead, it’s one of those huge Mets moments remembered fondly but without the full glory of what could have been.

Chavez joined the Mets on December 22, 2005, after spending the season with the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. He had been in the league for several seasons, actually getting a lot of playing time in the final two seasons of the Montreal Expos.

On the 2006 Mets, Chavez would end up seeing 133 games of action and 390 trips to the plate. The results were quite stunning leading up to his famous postseason catch.

The Mets didn’t realize the gift they were getting with the Endy Chavez signing

It didn’t matter which outfield position they needed him to play. Chavez was ready and willing. His 2006 season with the Mets included 46 games in right field, 43 in left field, and 39 in center field. Not all were starts. Chavez was routinely coming in late as a defensive replacement, via double-switch, or moving around due to other changes to the lineup.

All three positions were played to near-perfection. He didn’t make a single error all year in any of his 218 chances. He had other positive stats at each of the three spots which made him a nice weapon to have in case of injury.

Chavez overachieved in his first year with the Mets. Far more known for his small ball ways, Chavez ended up with a very productive .306/.348/.431 slash line. Rather light with only 4 home runs, he did have 22 doubles and 5 triples added into his 108 total hits.

An almost silent weapon of his, Chavez had 11 sacrifice bunts as well. Qualities like this can go unnoticed. Chavez simply showed up and did his job the best way he knew how.

Chavez remained with the Mets for three full seasons, batting .288/.330/.386 in his 853 plate appearances. The 2006 season was, however, his crowning year. His offensive numbers slid the preceding two seasons as did the number of at-bats.

Because the addition occurred so close to the Christmas holiday, I can’t help but think of him as a holiday gift you never really knew you wanted. Players like Chavez don’t often grab the headlines. They don’t swat mammoth home runs. They don’t win batting titles.

His circumstances are a little bit different. A single play captured an icon image in Mets history. It all began with the decision to first bring him to New York just days before stockings went unstuffed and we found out if everything on our wish lists had been sitting under the tree.

Next. The best outfield trios in Mets history. dark