Signed as a non-drafted free agent at 17 years old, Javier was traded twice before the age of 21 and before he had even logged more than seven at-bats in the majors. Once he made it to the big leagues, Javier became a dependable fourth outfielder and was cherished as a defensive replacement and pinch-hitter in late innings.
Javier’s reliability in the field was certainly one of his strong suits. In 1995 he led the league in outfield fielding percentage when he recorded 332 putouts, three assists, and no errors. His other forte was his efficiency on the basepaths. Though he never led the league or was mentioned in the same breath as Rickey Henderson or Kenny Lofton, Javier had compiled 235 stolen bases by the end of 2000, with a fantastic 82% success rate.
Javier had baseball in his blood long before he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals as a 17-year-old. His father Julian was an infielder for the Cards and Reds and named his baby boy for a certain teammate of his — Stan Musial. Javier signed with St. Louis in 1981, but was traded in December 1982 to the New York Yankees as part of a deal with infielder Bobby Meacham.
With the Yanks, Javier saw a grand total of seven at-bats before being included in a deal with the Oakland Athletics that brought Rickey Henderson to New York in December 1984. After bouncing between Triple-A and Oakland for a couple of seasons, Javier became a semi-regular in the A’s 1988 American League pennant-winning season when they became dissatisfied with Luis Polonia‘s fielding.
Javier responded well to the promotion, hitting .257 with 20 steals and 49 runs in 397 at-bats. In Game Five of the 1988 World Series, he drove in the only two runs the A’s scored against Orel Hershiser in the whole Series. When Oakland made it back to the Series the following year, Javier played a lesser role, appearing in just one game as a defensive replacement.
He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in May 1990 for Willie Randolph, where he performed in the same capacity, offering speed and reliable defense. That year he slapped six triples, a career-best. Changing addresses for the fourth time in his major-league career, Javier was then shipped to the Philadelphia Phillies for two minor-leaguers in July 1992 when the team of Brotherly Love was running short of outfielders due to injuries. Javier filled in admirably for Lenny Dykstra, who would be on the bench for the rest of the season with a hamstring strain and a hand injury.
As the year ended and Dykstra healed, Javier signed with the California Angels in January 1993, filling vacant spots in both the outfield and the infield for them. He batted .291 over 92 games with the Angels, but left in the offseason to rejoin the A’s. With the departure of veteran Dave Henderson, manager Tony LaRussa offered Javier an everyday spot in centerfield. He made the most of his increased playing time, stealing 60 bases over 239 games with Oakland from 1994-5.
Javier signed a two-year contract for $2.1 million with the San Francisco Giants in December 1995 with an opportunity to be the regular centerfielder, but as luck would have it, spent much of 1996 on the disabled list. From 1997-99, Javier did an adequate job as a semi-regular outfielder, showing no power, but compiling a fairly good average and his typically good stolen base success rate.
Javier was traded to the Houston Astros in August 1999, as Houston began to stockpile possible outfielders for its postseason run with four of their outfielders, including Moises Alou and Richard Hidalgo, on the DL. Javier ended up tallying 11 at-bats in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, but the Astros lost in four games.
That offseason, with the departure of Ken Griffey Jr. imminent, the Seattle Mariners signed Javier to compete for an outfield job. As usual, he did his graceful job of backing up the three regulars in the three outfield spots. When Jay Buhner went on the disabled list for much of 2001, Javier platooned in leftfield with Mark McLemore.