Baseball is a young person’s sport, but it’s just as much a veteran’s sport, too. No team has experienced these highs and lows more recently than the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 2017, they had the oldest average age of position players in baseball at 31-years-old. Last year, they had the youngest average age of position players in baseball at 25.9-years-old. On three occasions, the Blue Jays had the oldest active player in baseball (2016, 2015 and 2012).
As much as the youngsters have taken over in Toronto, there’s value in having an elder statesman on the field and inside the clubhouse. I’m reminded of this after it was reported that 39-year-old Jose Bautista is attempting a comeback as a two-way position player.
Joey Bats wasn’t the oldest player to suit up for the Blue Jays, but the team employed several 40-plus baseball players in the past. Out of bizarre curiosity, I looked up the oldest players to wear a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.
10. Dave Parker (40 years, 3 months, 7 days)
Dave Parker finished his 19-year career as a member of the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays. He was released in September 1991 by the California Angels, and the Blue Jays signed him to a deal shortly thereafter. Parker started 10 games at designated hitter in September at the ripe old age of 40.
9. Jason Grilli (40 years, 4 months, 22 days)
The end of the Jason Grilli era in Toronto was a marriage that dissolved in June 2017, but his arrival in June 2016 invigorated a Blue Jays bullpen which desperately needed stability. It wasn’t long before Grilli settled into the setup man role and he posted impressive numbers in the second half of 2016.
8. Dave Winfield (40 years, 6 months, 4 days)
In 1992, Dave Winfield was in search of that elusive World Series ring and he signed with the Blue Jays on a one-year deal as a 40-year-old designated hitter. Not only did Winfield finally get that ring he’d been chasing for the past 19 years, he provided one of the biggest hits in Blue Jays franchise history; the go-ahead double in Game 6, which clinched the 1992 World Series.
7. Dave Stieb (40 years, 10 months, 26 days)
By the late 90s, Dave Stieb had already solidified himself as one of the best pitchers in Blue Jays franchise history. But he gave it one more try as a member of the 1998 Toronto Blue Jays. After the Chicago White Sox released him in 1993, he retired and spent five years away from baseball before re-emerging with the Blue Jays in 1998.
He worked predominantly out of the bullpen and in a weird twist of fate, crossed paths with one of the other franchise fixtures in Blue Jays history: a young Roy Halladay. At the end of the 1998 season, Stieb hung up his cleats for good at 40-years old.
6. R.A. Dickey (41 years, 5 months, 6 days)
Say what you will about R.A. Dickey, but for a man in his late 30s and early 40s, he knew how to amass innings. The acquisition cost for Dickey was high in the form of Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud, but Dickey was a workhorse for the Blue Jays from 2013 to 2017, logging 130 starts and 824.1 innings pitched over four seasons.
In an era where pitchers are throwing harder than they’ve ever thrown and careers are shortened because of catastrophic arm injuries, Dickey was the outlier.
5. Henry Blanco (41 years, 7 months, 17 days)
Speaking of Dickey, Henry Blanco was brought aboard in 2013 as the personal catcher for the Blue Jays’ knuckleballer. Together, the 41-year-old catcher and the 38-year-old pitcher combined to be an average age of 39.5-year-old battery mates, which has to be some kind of record.
4. Darren Oliver (42 years, 5 months, 28 days)
One of the most unheralded signings of Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure with the Blue Jays was the two-year, $7 million deal for veteran left-hander, Darren Oliver. During his age 41 and 42 seasons, Oliver provided the Blue Jays with 60 and 52 appearances, respectively.
Oliver played setup man to Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen in 2012 and 2013, and John Gibbons entrusted Oliver at many crucial points over that two-year span.
3. LaTroy Hawkins (42 years, 7 months, 6 days)
People often forget that LaTroy Hawkins was part of the blockbuster trade that brought Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto in the summer of 2015. At the time, Hawkins was a 21-year veteran in search of his first World Series title. He came close with the Rockies in 2007, but fell just short with the Blue Jays in 2015 at age 42.
2. Omar Vizquel 44 years, 11 months, 12 days
2012 was one of the most painful seasons both on and off the field for the Toronto Blue Jays. Omar Vizquel was signed on a minor league deal and brought in to provide some veteran guidance to a young team hoping to make a postseason run.
Incredibly, the 44-year-old played 55 games in the field (including one in left field), which should tell you everything you need to know about the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2012 season.
1. Phil Niekro 48 years, 4 months, 13 days
Who could forget the legendary three-game Blue Jays era of Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro? With the Blue Jays amid their 1987 tailspin, they grasped at straws and acquired the veteran knuckleballer from the Cleveland Indians.
Niekro made three starts for the Blue Jays and was traded away shortly after couldn’t escape the first inning against the Oakland A’s on August 29, 1987.