Trades, Free Agency, Waiver Wire – There are lots of ways to move from team to team on a player’s major league journey. In this post, BBRT will take a look at a handful of players who could be considered the kings of that journey. I’m talking about the MLB record holders for teams played for in a career, a season and a single day.
Octavio Dotel – 13 MLB Teams Played For in His MLB Career
Dominican-born Octavio Dotel traveled a long way to get to the major leagues. And, after spending four of his first five MLB seasons with the Houston Astros, his travels were just beginning. The 6-foot, 230-pound right-handed pitcher would take the mound for 11 more teams over the next ten seasons – and holds the record for the most MLB franchises played for in a career at 13. Dotel, who retired at the age of 40, appeared in 758 games; put up a 59-50 record, with 109 saves; and struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings (1,143 whiffs in 951 innings pitched).
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the career of major league baseball’s “King of the Road.”
Dotel signed with the Mets in 1995 (at the age of 21). Between 1995 and 1999, he worked his way through the Mets’ minor league system, pitching in 102 games (92 starts), with a 44-23 record, a 3.27 ERA and 613 strikeouts in 560 2/3 innings.
Dotel’s work earned him a promotion to the Mets in June of 1999 and he appeared in 19 games for New York (14 starts). He managed an 8-3 record, despite a 5.38 ERA – helped no doubt by his 85 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings pitched. In December of 1999, Dotel was traded (along with minor league pitcher Kyle Kessel) to the Astros for OF Roger Cedeno and LHP Mike Hampton. It would be the first of many moves for Dotel. It was also probably the most fortuitous, because it ultimately led to another move – from the starting rotation to the bullpen.
In 2000, Dotel began the season in the Astros’ rotation and, in 16 starts, went 1-5 with a 5.84 ERA. An injury to Astros’ closer Billy Wagner, however, sent Dotel to the bullpen, where he notched two wins and 16 saves in 34 appearances (4.24 ERA). Dotel’s days as a starter were basically over. (During the next 13 seasons, Dotel would make only four starts in 689 appearances.) Over the next three-and-a-half seasons, Dotel was a fixture in a solid Astros’ pen – going 19-17, with 26 saves, a 2.42 ERA and 410 strikeouts in 324 innings.
Then, on June 24, 2004, Dotel began his “MLB Journey” in earnest. On that day, as part of a three-team trade, Dotel moved from the Astros to the A’s (where he added six wins and 22 more saves in 45 appearances) Over the next eight seasons, Dotel (as a result of four trades and six signings as a free agent) would pitch for the Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Tigers. In 2010 alone, he would take the mound for three MLB teams – the Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies.
Dotel also pitched in the post season for the Mets (1999), Astros (2001), White Sox (2008), Cardinals (2011) and Tigers (2012). In 26 post-season appearances, he went 3-1, with a 3.86 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Dotel – traveling MLB’s “Long and Winding Road” was a valuable addition to a dozen bullpens – as he racked up innings and strikeouts for a record 13 MLB teams.
MOST MLB FRANCHISES PLAYED FOR IN A CAREER
Octavio Dotel (RHP) – 13 franchises in 15 seasons (1999-2013)
Mike Morgan (RHP) – 12 franchises in 22 seasons (1978-2002)
Matt Stairs (OF/1B) – 12 franchises in 19 seasons (1992-2011)
Ron Villone (LHP) – 12 franchises in 15 seasons (1995-2009)
Jose Bautista – Four MLB Teams Played for in a Single Season
While Octavio Dotel currently holds sole possession of the record for most franchise played for in a career, the record for MLB teams played for in a season (four) is shared by thirteen players. I’ll provide the whole list, but let’s look in more detail at the most recent (and, arguably, best known) player to accomplish this feat. In 2000, 19-year-old Jose Baustista was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round of the MLB draft. He played in the Pirates’ minor league system until 2003. In those three seasons, Bautista took the field in 349 games, hitting .287, with 24 home runs and 100 RBI – never rising above High A ball. The Pirates left Bautista unprotected in the 2003 Rule Five Draft – and thus began his record-tying odyssey.
Picked up by the Orioles, Bautista started the 2003 season on the Baltimore roster, but seldom left the bench. In fact, by early June, he had only 11 at bats – and the Orioles placed him on waivers. Bautista was claimed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 3, but got only 12 at bats with the Rays between then and June 28, when his contract was purchased by the Kansas City Royals. Within a month (and 25 at bats), the Royals traded Bautista to the Mets, who put him on their major league roster and then (on the same day) included him in a trade with the Pirates (Remember them – Bautista’s original team). The Pirates kept him on the major league roster for the remainder of the season (40 more at bats). So, Bautista took the field that season for the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals and Pirates.
Remember that brief stint with the Mets (no games played, traded on the same day he was acquired)? While he didn’t play for the Mets, his brief time on the Mets’ roster means Bautista was on a record five different major league rosters in one season. (There may be a second player to appear on five MLB rosters in a season; although he only played on three teams. BBRT is working to confirm this. See the statistical note at the end of this post. )
How did Joey Bats do in his four-team/five-roster season? He played in 64 games, had 88 at bats, a .205 average, zero home runs and two RBI. From that highly traveled and inauspicious start, Bautista HAS gone on to make a name for himself as a Toronto Blue Jay and one of the AL’s most feared power hitters.
MOST MLB TEAMS PLAYED FOR IN A SINGLE SEASON … FOUR
Jose Bautista (OF/3B) – 2004 (Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates)
Dan Miceli (RHP) – 2003 (Rockies, Indians, Yankees, Astros)
Dave Martinez (OF/1B) – 2000 (Devil Rays, Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays)
Dave Kingman (1B/OF/3B) – 1977 (Mets, Padres, Angels, Yankees)
Mike Kilkenny (LHP) – 1972 (Tigers, A’s, Padres, Indians)
Wes Covington (OF) – 1961 (Braves, White Sox, Athletics, Phillies)
Ted Gray (LHP) – 1955 (White Sox, Indians, Yankees, Orioles)
Paul Lehner (OF/1B) – 1951 (Athletics, White Sox, Browns, Indians)
Willis Hudlin (RHP) – 1940 (Indians, Senators, Browns, Giants)
Frank Huelsman (OF) – 1904 (White Sox, Tigers, Browns, Senators)
Tom Dowse (C) – 1892 (Louisville Colonels, Senators, Reds, Phillies)
Harry Wheeler (OF/RHP) – 1884 (Browns, Kansas City Cowboys, Chicago/Pittsburgh, Baltimore Monumentals)
George Strief (2B/SS/3B/OF) – 1884 (Browns, Chicago/Pittsburgh, Cleveland Blues, Athletics)
A Triple Play – Taking the Field for Two Teams in a Single Day
Three players share the record for the most franchises played for in a single day at two. The first two to accomplish this feat were Max Flack and Cliff Heathcote, who were traded for each other between games of a Memorial Day 1922 Cubs/Cardinals doubleheader. The two outfielders each suited up against their previous team for Game Two. Both went hitless in game one of the doubleheader and both collected hits for their new teams in the second game (Flack a single in four at bats, Heathcote a pair of singles in four trips to the plate).
Joel Youngblood tied the record for teams played for in a single day in 1982, adding a twist – he played for and recorded hits for two different teams in two different cities on the same day. Let’s look at Youngblood’s unique achievement.
On August 4, 1982, Youngblood started his day as a member of the New York Mets, who were playing an afternoon game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Youngblood opened the game in center field, batting third. After striking out in the first inning, Youngblood drove in two runs with a single in the top of the third. Youngblood was unexpectedly replaced in center field by Mookie Wilson in the bottom of the fourth – and told by Mets’ manager George Bamberger that he had been traded to the Expos (for a player to be named later).
The Expos were scheduled to play in Philadelphia in Philadelphia that night, and Youngblood immediately set out to join his new team. He managed to catch a 6:05 p.m. flight to Philadelphia – eventually arriving at Veterans Stadium with the game in progress. To his surprise, there was an Expos uniform, with his name already sewn on the back, waiting for him. The Expos wasted no time getting there newest player into the game. Manager Jim Fanning sent Youngblood into right field and the number-two spot in the batting order (replacing Jerry White) in the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, Youngblood singled in his first Expos’ at bat. Thus, Youngblood collected base hits for two different teams in two different cities in one day.
Youngblood’s feat is even more startling when you consider the pitchers he touched for his two safeties. In Chicago, it was future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins; while in Philadelphia, it was future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.
MOST MLB TEAMS PLAYED FOR IN A SINGLE DAY
Max Flack – May 30, 1922: Cubs (RF); Cardinals (RF).
Cliff Heathcote – May 30, 1922: Cardinals (CF); Cubs (RF).
Joel Youngblood – August 4, 1982: Mets (CF); Expos (RF).
BBRT STATISTICAL NOTE: There may be a second player (besides Jose Bautista) to appear on a record five MLB rosters in a single season (although he played for just three teams). I am still working to confirm this one. Casper Wells finished the 2012 season with the Mariners. Wells was designated for assignment on March 31, 2013 by the Mariners. He was picked up by the Blue Jays (off waivers) on August 10. On August 22, the A’s purchased his contract from the Blue Jays. Then, on August 29, the White Sox purchased Wells from the A’s. Finally, on August 8, the Phillies picked him up (off waivers from the White Sox.). During the season, Well actually played for only three teams – the A’s, White Sox and Phillies. But depending on timing, he could have been on a record-tying five MLB rosters during the course of the season. When a player is designated to assignment, they are dropped from the team‘s 40-man MLB roster. Now, the Mariners designate Wells for assignment on March 31 (opening day of the 2013 season). The question is: Was he dropped from the roster before the season officially opened? I have a query into the Mariners to find out the specifics and determine if Wells matches Bautista’s five-roster, single-season record.
I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT
Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.
Interested in a great baseball trip – a chance to see independent, A, AA, AAA and major league ball on a single trip, click here. I understand there are a few seats left.