Like the rest of you, I resent leap years. An extra day of winter, an extra day of waiting for Opening Day, an extra day before I can start wearing my "It's March!" shirts without getting strange looks… the whole idea is infuriating.
That must be why, when it comes to baseball transactions on this day, the results are so unimpressive. Sure, many of the marquee free agents have signed by this point in the offseason, but that alone cannot explain the black hole February 29 has been for adding useful talent.
Just within the past few years, teams have added valuable players like Pedro Feliciano and Chan Ho Park on February 28 and Bruce Chen and Chad Durbin on March 1. By contrast, consider: just two players signed on Leap Day since 1980 have provided positive value to their new teams that season.
Infielder Ramon Martinez signed with the Dodgers on February 29, 2008, but he didn't get into a single game before Los Angeles released him in July. He ultimately played a few games with the Mets, but the only addition last Leap Day did not prove fruitful for his team.
No one at all signed on February 29, 2004. Can you blame them?
Back on February 29, 2000, San Diego signed the left-handed reliever Alberto Castillo. Just a month later, the Padres released him. Castillo didn't reach the Major Leagues until 2008.
But back in 1996, Don Slaught broke the mold of failure, as he broke so many molds as a player. Sold by the Angels to the Reds, Slaught didn't let the curse of 29 stop him, posting a .313/.355/.428 line and catching 71 games, first for the Angels, then for the White Sox.
However, it was Alan Mills who truly holds the record for most productive player acquired on February 29, a record that stands alongside accomplishments like Cy Young's 511 wins Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and Matt Franco's single-season record for pinch-hit walks. The New York Yankees sent Mills to Baltimore for pitchers Francisco de la Rosa and Mark Carper.
What did Mills do in Baltimore? He pitched so well, you'd swear he was acquired on February 28. A 10-4 record, 2.61 ERA and a pair of saves in a swingman role makes Alan Mills the king of the February 29s.
Interestingly, Mills tried to recreate this magic by signing with Tampa Bay in February 2004- a leap year. But he did so on the 16th and, unsurprisingly, failed to make the club.
Sadly, recent reports indicate that Ivan Rodriguez will not become the latest high-profile member of this exclusive club. But pay close attention to today's MLBTR stories. Like Haley's Comet, you'll be seeing something that doesn't happen very often in our lifetimes, and works out even less of the time.