The Mets finally did the impossible on Tuesday: they outrighted Eric Campbell off the 40-man roster. Campbell cleared waivers–duh–and was assigned to Las Vegas in a paper move. He’ll declare minor-league free agency in a few days, so this is the functional equivalent of a straight release.
I’m not here to celebrate the end of Eric Campbell’s tenure with the Mets. For starters, it’s entirely possible they bring him back as a non-roster invitee and he makes the team again. These are the Mets, and the Mets love few things more than to bring their own role players back, whether they’re good, bad, or Eric Campbell. Instead, let’s appreciate the Eric Campbell Era with the Mets.
Eric Campbell was the Mets’ eighth-round draft pick in 2008. The Mets had three firsts in 2008, and two—Reese Havens and Brad Holt—retired without making the majors. The guy the Mets selected a round earlier, pitcher Michael Hebert, never made it out of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Only six players from that Mets draft made the majors, and two have already retired. (The others who’re out there: Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Collin McHugh.) Campbell is the last remaining player from the 2008 draft class still in the Mets organization at any level.
Between 2009 and 2012, Campbell played on six full-season Met affiliates. All six had losing records. There were some good players on those teams, too—Campbell was a frequent teammate of Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Jeurys Familia, and Jennry Mejia on the Met farm. He had a longer stint in Binghamton, watching Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler come and go. Eventually he made Triple-A Las Vegas, and Wally Backman’s team won more–not that winning or losing in the minors matters much except to the local faithful.
Campbell’s natural position is, of course, third base. But he only occasionally played third base with any regularity in the minors. Soup was usually a teammate of Flores or Jefry Marte, and those guys as better prospects received playing time priority. Campbell’s most played position in the minors was actually first base, and he played nearly as much left as third. He even pitched an inning in 2013! This sort of versatility would serve him well in the majors; although I’d suggest that most competent third basemen can play left and first, but too few actually have done it.
Campbell never really hit much in the minors, until he made Vegas. Whether it was the stadium or Backman or good luck or advancing skill or some combination of all of them, Campbell really liked Las Vegas, hitting .322 over parts of four seasons there. Eventually, he hit enough to get called up, essentially taking the major-league role of Josh Satin—one of those 2008 Met draftees that’s since retired.
I can’t sugarcoat this: Eric Campbell stunk with the New York Mets of the National League. He hit .221/.312/.311 over 505 plate appearances. He’s been worth -0.4 WARP to the Mets by Baseball Prospectus metrics, suggesting that he was slightly worse than the average Triple-A replacement call-up over the course of his career.
But even he had his moments. He crossed the plate as the winning run twice in walkoffs—one was this year, in the May game against Milwaukee that may be remembered as the last great moment of David Wright’s career. He had a big go-ahead hit in a key July 2015 win over the Nationals. He had three games in which he collected three hits. Sure, this isn’t exactly the resume of a beloved star or anything, but there were times when even Eric Campbell contributed to Met wins. Some of them were even somewhat memorable!
Every major-league player contributes something. Here’s to you, Eric Campbell. Happy trails to you … until we meet again.
Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports