When David Wright takes the field on Opening Day, he will begin his ninth season as a Met. At age 29, Wright is the veteran of the team, having been with the Mets since July 2004. The Mets' third baseman is also entering the final year of his six-year, $55 million contract, meaning that there is no guarantee that Wright will still be a Met at age 30.
That got me wondering. Do you know which player was the last homegrown Met to still be playing for the team on his 30th birthday? I do, but I'm not going to share the answer just yet. I have to look at some other teams first.
Over the past decade, every team in baseball has had at least one player who was originally drafted and/or signed by that team, came up through their minor league system and was on that team's payroll until after he turned the big three-oh. Let's run down the teams alphabetically, along with that team's last homegrown player who blew out thirty candles without ever knowing another professional franchise.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb - drafted in 2000, was with the team until 2010 (age 31).
- Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones - drafted in 1990, is still with the team (age 39).
- Baltimore Orioles: Brian Roberts - drafted in 1999, is still with the team (age 34).
- Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon - drafted in 2003, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano - signed in 1997, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle - drafted in 1998, was with the team until 2011 (age 32).
- Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Hanigan - signed in 2002, is still with the team (age 31).
- Cleveland Indians: Victor Martinez - signed in 1996, was with the team until 2009 (age 30).
- Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton - drafted in 1995, is still with the team (age 38).
- Detroit Tigers: Brandon Inge - drafted in 1998, is still with the team (age 34).
- Florida Marlins: Luis Castillo - signed in 1992, was with the team until 2005 (age 30).
- Houston Astros: Lance Berkman - drafted in 1997, was with the team until 2010 (age 34).
- Kansas City Royals: David DeJesus - drafted in 2000, was with the team until 2010 (age 30).
- Los Angeles Angels: Reggie Willits - drafted in 2003, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Hong-Chih Kuo - signed in 1999, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- Milwaukee Brewers: Ben Sheets - drafted in 1999, was with the team until 2008 (age 30).
- Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau - drafted in 1999, is still with the team (age 30).
- New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera - signed in 1990, is still with the team (age 42).
- Oakland Athletics: Eric Chavez - drafted in 1996, was with the team until 2010 (age 32).
- Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins - drafted in 1996, is still with the team (age 33).
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Ryan Doumit - drafted in 1999, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- San Diego Padres: Tony Gwynn - drafted in 1981, was with the team until 2001 (age 41).
- San Francisco Giants: Pedro Feliz - signed in 1994, was with the team until 2007 (age 32).
- Seattle Mariners: Willie Bloomquist - drafted in 1999, was with the team until 2008 (age 30).
- St. Louis Cardinals: Skip Schumaker - drafted in 2001, is still with the team (age 32).
- Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields - drafted in 2000, is still with the team (age 30).
- Texas Rangers: C.J. Wilson - drafted in 2001, was with the team until 2011 (age 30).
- Toronto Blue Jays: Casey Janssen - drafted in 2004, is still with the team (age 30).
- Washington Nationals: Brian Schneider - drafted in 1995, was with the team until 2007 (age 30).
As you can see, every team in the majors has had a homegrown player stay with the team until his 30th birthday (and in some cases, well after his 30th birthday) in the 21st century. In addition, there are three players about to turn 30 who are still employed by the team that originally drafted them.
Corey Hart (drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000) will turn 30 on March 24. Brian Wilson (drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2003) will beat Hart to the punch by eight days, as the Giants' closer turns 30 on March 16. If Tim Stauffer (drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2003) is still a Friar on June 2, he will replace Tony Gwynn as the most recent homegrown Padres player to still be with the team at age 30.
Should Stauffer replace Gwynn on this list in June, that would leave the Florida/Miami Marlins as the only team to not have a homegrown player make it to age 30 in the past five years. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. There's one team that hasn't had a homegrown 30-year-old since before Luis Castillo was the last Marlin to accomplish the feat. Of course, I'm talking about the New York Mets.
In 1993, Vance Wilson was drafted by the Mets in the 44th round of the amateur draft. He made his major league debut six years later and remained with the team until 2004, playing his final game for the Mets at the age of 31. As unlikely as it would seem, Vance Wilson was the last homegrown Met to still be with the team on his 30th birthday.
Vance Wilson (shown here as a 31-year-old in 2004) not only tagged opposing baserunners, but he also tagged the title of last homegrown Met to stay with the team into his thirties.
If David Wright is still a Met in 2013, he will be the first Met in almost a decade to be drafted by the team and remain with the club until he turned 30. In recent years, the Mets have had a number of veteran players on the team. Unfortunately, those veterans have been the products of other organizations. The Mets haven't produced many successful major leaguers over the past ten seasons, and when they have, they've either traded them away or allowed them to leave via free agency.
On June 2, San Diego's Tim Stauffer will turn 30 years old. By then, he could be the third new member of the homegrown age 30 club, joining Milwaukee's Corey Hart and San Francisco's Brian Wilson. If David Wright doesn't join this club in December when he turns 30, it could be a long time before the Mets produce another homegrown player to stay with the team until his 30th birthday. (Mike Pelfrey won't turn 30 until 2014. He'll probably be mentioned in 30 trade rumors before then.)
Jose Reyes played his final game for the Mets before the age of 30. So did Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Some people look forward to turning 30. For players originally drafted by the Mets, it's something they can look forward to doing in another team's uniform.