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2018 may be the last season for some of these players


With all of the preview content coming your way as the 2018 regular season approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind this season will be the last for some players. Which players they are remains to be seen, but here’s a list of some who may hang up the spikes. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, just a look at some notable players playing out the back nine of their playing careers.

OF Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners

Ichiro, 44, signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Mariners earlier this month. He was expected to be a backup, but Ben Gamel is dealing with a strained oblique. Ichiro himself is nursing a calf issue, but if he’s healthy enough, he could start in left field  while Gamel recovers.

Suzuki enjoyed a bit of a renaissance with the Marlins in 2016, hitting .291 with a .730 OPS across 143 games. He wasn’t able to repeat the success last year, making it seem like his ’16 performance was a fluke more than anything. Ichiro says he wants to play until he’s 50 years old, but he’ll need teams willing to devote a roster spot to him to do so, which seems highly unlikely beyond this season.

Ichiro has certainly made his mark on the game, debuting in 2001 in the U.S. after coming over from Japan. He won the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards, becoming only the second player in baseball history to have done so, joining Fred Lynn. Ichiro won 10 Gold Glove Awards, made the All-Star team 10 times, won two batting titles (in 2001 and ’04), and won three Silver Slugger Awards. When he’s eligible, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

Beltre enters his 21st major league season and turns 39 years old on April 7, playing out the final year of a two-year, $36 million contract extension he signed with the Rangers in April 2016. While productive last season, batting .312/.383/.532, the third baseman was limited to 94 games as a result of ankle and hamstring injuries. He spent a career-high 28 games at DH and says he’s open to DHing more this season to keep him fresh.

Beltre was worth 3.6 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, in those 94 games. If he’s able to once again be a three- or four-win player (or better) this season while staying relatively healthy, he’ll draw interest on the free agent market next offseason. But will Beltre want to go through another grueling season as a 40-year-old?

If Beltre does decide to call it quits after the 2018 campaign, he’ll have built a Hall of Fame-caliber career for himself. He’s a four-time All-Star with five Gold Glove Awards and two Platinum Gloves as well as four Silver Slugger Awards. Beltre has also accrued 93.5 WAR, which is way above the threshold for which we generally consider a player worthy of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Among current Hall of Famers, Beltre trails only Mike Schmidt (106.8) and Eddie Mathews (96.6) while ranking ahead of Wade Boggs (91.4), Chipper Jones (85.2), Brooks Robinson (78.4), and Ron Santo (70.5).

3B David Wright, New York Mets

Wright, 35, has been limited to 75 games since the start of the 2015 season due to spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. He’s been working hard to get back into playing shape, but the Mets shut him down from baseball activity for eight weeks earlier this month. It seems unlikely he’ll be able to suit up in a game for the Mets this season.

Wright is under contract through 2020, earning $20 million this season, $15 million in 2019, and $12 million in 2020. He can’t retire if he wants to receive the rest of that money, but he’ll also have to continue making an effort to get himself back into playing shape. That’s a lot of grueling rehab that isn’t fun. Wright has already earned over $145 million during his career. Athletes have blown through large sums of cash before, but Wright strikes me as someone who isn’t in dire financial straits and could afford to walk away from the remainder of that contract if he wanted to.

Unlike Ichiro and Beltre, Wright’s Hall of Fame case is debatable. He likely would’ve been another first ballot Hall of Famer if he had been able to stay healthy. Over parts of 13 seasons, the third baseman is a seven-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. Across parts of 13 seasons, he hit .296/.376/.491 with 242 home runs, 970 RBI, and 196 stolen bases while amassing 50.4 WAR.

SP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

Wainwright, 36, will open the 2018 season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, though it’s considered a minor issue. The club expects him back in the rotation by mid-April. The right-hander is entering the final year of his five-year, $97.5 million contract extension signed in March 2013. Wainwright missed some time last season with a right elbow impingement, then went arthroscopic surgery upon completion of the regular season. He finished the 2017 campaign with an ugly 5.11 ERA with a 96/45 K/BB ratio in 123 1/3 innings. He wasn’t much better in 2016, when he posted a 4.62 ERA in 198 2/3 innings.

Just as troubling as the worsening stats is Wainwright’s declining fastball velocity, which fell below 90 MPH on average last season. Pitchers have a limited shelf life and, sadly, it appears that Wainwright is close to his expiration date. He could hang on if he wanted to and likely could find a team willing to take a flier on him for next season at a severely reduced price. It seems more likely that Wainwright will retire.

Wainright helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series, made the All-Star team three times, and won two Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger. He’s come close to winning a Cy Young Award as well, finishing second in balloting twice and third twice. Wainwright added a little extra value with his bat, smacking 10 home runs and knocking in 68 runs during his career, quite good for a pitcher.

SP CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

Sabathia, 37, re-signed with the Yankees in December on a one-year, $10 million contract. The lefty was surprisingly effective last year, going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA with a 120/50 K/BB ratio in 148 2/3 innings. He was even reliable in the postseason, limiting the opposition to five earned runs in 19 innings of work in four starts against the Indians and Astros.

No one would be surprised if Sabathia were to continue having success in 2018, which would likely draw him sustained interest from teams as a free agent next offseason. But he’ll need to have the desire to keep playing. Sabathia turns 38 in July. The February-to-November grind is grueling and it keeps players away from their families for a large portion of the calendar year. It seems reasonable to think 2018 could be Sabathia’s last, especially if the Yankees wind up winning it all.

Sabathia already won a ring with the Yankees in 2009. He also won the 2007 AL Cy Young with the Indians and made the All-star team six times. Though Sabathia does own some hardware, he didn’t reach “elite” levels of pitching for any prolonged period of time. He’ll have a debate for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame based on his 237 wins and 2,846 strikeouts, but he has a career 3.70 ERA.

1B Adrian Gonzalez, New York Mets

Gonzalez, 35, was traded by the Dodgers to the Braves this winter in the Matt Kemp deal. The Braves promptly released him and the Mets signed him to a one-year deal. The Mets only have to pay him the major league minimum of $545,000 as the Braves and Dodgers are on the hook for his $22.3 million salary as guaranteed by the seven-year, $154 million contract extension he signed with the Red Sox back in April 2011. Gonzalez will be the starting first baseman for the Mets but he’s had a lackluster spring, batting .207, and is coming off of a terrible 2017 campaign during which he compiled a meager .642 OPS in 71 games while hampered by a back injury.

The expectations for Gonzalez are pretty low going into the 2018 regular season. Assuming he doesn’t clear those low bars by much, it seems unlikely he would draw any interest as a free agent next offseason. He would almost certainly have to settle for a minor league contract if he were to pursue continuing his career. Retirement seems much more likely.

Across 14 seasons, Gonzalez is a five-time All-Star with four Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He’s had a solid career, mashing 311 homers with 1,176 RBI.

SP Bartolo Colon, Texas Rangers

Colon, 44, extended his playing career by signing a minor league contract with the Rangers in February. The right-hander posted a 3.00 ERA in 18 spring innings. The Rangers released him on Saturday but quickly re-signed him to a minor league deal on Monday. He appears likely to start on April 2 against the Athletics as a rotation fill-in for Martin Perez, who is battling an elbow injury.

Colon made 28 starts last season but was crushed to the tune of a 6.48 ERA with a meager 89/35 K/BB ratio in 143 innings. He’s only one season separated from finishing as an All-Star with a 3.43 ERA, so it’s not exactly unreasonable that he could enjoy more success. But he now calls the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park home as opposed to the pitcher-friendly Citi Field, which will likely make an impact on his numbers. However, we keep thinking Colon will retire and he keeps proving us wrong, so who really knows?

Now entering his 21st season in the majors, Colon is a four-time All-Star and the winner of the 2005 AL Cy Young Award.

OF/DH Jose Bautista, free agent

Recent rumors linked the Braves and Rays to Bautista, but both teams seem to have passed on the 37-year-old. He’s coming off of a horrendous 2017 season in which he hit .203/.308/.366 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI in 686 plate appearances. By adjusted OPS (a.k.a. OPS+), which adjusts for league and park factors, Bautista’s 76 is a far cry from the numbers he put up dating back to 2010. He averaged a 151 OPS+ while the league average is set to 100.

Bautista has never been a great defender and was limited throwing-wise last year due to a shoulder issue, so he is pretty much limited to DH work in the American League. He would otherwise likely have to accept being a bench bat in the NL. If no one else comes calling, Bautista could simply choose to retire.

Bautista is a true rags-to-riches story as he appeared to be nothing more than an average hitter following the 2007 season. He had, to that point, compiled a .724 OPS across 334 games with the Orioles, Rays, Royals, and Pirates. In August 2008, the Pirates traded him to the Blue Jays. Bautista turned in a mediocre 2009 before transforming into one of the game’s best hitters in 2010, mashing an MLB-high 54 home runs. He would amass 272 home runs with an .892 OPS from 2010-17 with the Blue Jays, making the All-Star team six consecutive seasons from 2010-15 while winning three Silver Sluggers.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 8, Astros 7: Charlie Morton and Shohei Ohtani have been two of the most talked about pitchers to start the season and they faced off in this one. Not too stellar a faceoff, unfortunately, as Mike Trout homered off of the first pitch Morton threw him and Andrelton Simmons followed him in the act. The Angels would score two more off of him in the third and he wouldn’t last four. Meanwhile, Ohtani gave up four runs, including a homer to Derek Fisher and would see another run for which he was responsible score on a Brian McCann go-ahead blast. His night would end having given up four runs as well. Anaheim tied it back up on an Albert Pujols single and then Simmons would hit his second homer of the night — a three-run shot — to give the Angels a lead they would not surrender. Fun fact: Mike Scioscia ran out of mound visits in this one. Unless I missed one, he was the first manager to do so in a game since the mound visit rule was established.

Cubs 10, Indians 3🎶Kyle Schwarber came back to Ohio . . . and his city was gone . . . but the guy who wrote about it . . . was a Republican pawn . . . A, oh, way to go O-hi-o . . .🎶 Two homers for the best thing to come out of Middletown, Ohio over the past decade or so. A homer each for Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. Same result as Game 7 in 2016. Pretty much the same weather too. Unfit for man or beast or Josh Tomlin

Yankees 8, Twins 3: Gary Sanchez hit two homers and Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius each went deep as well, with Sanchez and Gregorius each driving in three. Didi has been having such a fantastic year that, eventually, I’m assuming the people who run the ads at Yankee Stadium will spell his name right:

Mets 6, Cardinals 5: Jay Bruce‘s tenth inning homer gave the Mets a lead they’d hold on to for the win. Yoenis Cespedes hit a homer earlier that I’m pretty sure killed (a) a baseball; and (b) Luke Weaver:

463 feet, my man.

In other news, Matt Harvey entered in the top of the fifth inning of this one for his first relief appearance since his demotion to the pen. It didn’t go great. He gave up a run on back-to-back two-out doubles and left after throwing 35 pitches, only 20 of which were strikes. In still other news, the Cardinals initiated a replay challenge after Bruce’s homer, claiming he missed first base. He didn’t miss first base and it wasn’t even particularly close, so I have no idea what the Cardinals were doing there. La Russa may be gone but part of his essence still lingers, I suppose.

Rockies 8, Padres 0: Eight runs in Colorado — seven of them coming in the first two innings — isn’t news, but seven shutout innings from a starting pitcher is. That’s what Kyle Freeland did for the Rockies, striking out eight and grabbing the win. Trevor Story hit a grand slam. There was a scary moment when Freeland was hit by a comebacker, but he stayed in the game. Rockies manager Bud Black said it may have helped: “It smoothed him out. He didn’t overthrow. His focus might have been more heightened, because he was in a little bit of discomfort.” Sources say that Black plans to kick Freeland square in the beans just before he takes the mound for his next start on Sunday.

Giants 4, Nationals 3: Mac Williamson hit his second big homer in as many nights and once again helped the Giants to a win, with his sixth inning solo shot putting San Francisco up for good. The Giants other three runs came via a Brandon Belt two-run homer and a first inning wild pitch from Tanner Roark. Williamson credited the adrenalin from running into a wall the previous half inning for his homer. In light of that, sources say that Bruce Bochy plans to kick Williamson square in the beans just before his first at bat in his next game this afternoon.

Mariners 1, White Sox 0: Marco Gonzales (6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 8K) and four M’s relievers combine for a five-hit shutout and Mitch Haniger‘s RBI single in the fourth was all the scoring. Chris Volstad got the start for the White Sox. He did pretty good considering, you know, he isn’t really a starter. The White Sox are off to their worst start in 68 years. I wonder how they’d be doing if they, you know, tried.

Reds 9, Braves 7: Cincy took a 5-0 lead behind some dominant pitching from Tyler Mahle, no-hitting the Braves until the seventh inning, but the Braves finally figured him out and crushed the first couple of relievers who followed him, eventually tying things up with four runs in the ninth. Scooter Gennett put an end to Atlanta’s comeback-win delusions, however, launching a two-run walkoff homer in the 12th. That was Gennett’s second homer of the night and his third and fourth RBI. Freddie Freeman went deep twice for Atlanta, both solo shots.

Diamondbacks 8, Phillies 4: Alex Avila went deep and had three hits and Daniel Descalso and Jarrod Dyson also homered. Dbacks starter Robbie Ray struck out 11 Philly batters but couldn’t escape the fifth inning. I imagine Philly fans either didn’t care or didn’t notice since the Sixers were playing. This is a good time of year for baseball teams in hockey and basketball towns to fly under the radar for a bit.

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: Curtis Granderson threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the ninth inning and then hit a walk-off homer in the 10th — off of Craig Kimbrel no less — to give the Jays the win in the team’s first game since Monday’s deadly terrorist attack killed ten in the city. The Sox lose their third straight game and suffer their first loss to the Jays in Rogers Centre in their last eight meetups.

Athletics 3, Rangers 2: Andrew Triggs allowed only one run over six innings while scattering for hits and punching out six. Mark Canha homered and Jed Lowrie and Matt Olson each doubled in a run to help Oakland to their fourth straight win. Worse news for Texas than the loss was Adrian Beltre straining his left hamstring. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, but it’s kind of ridiculous that, 25 games into the season, three of the club’s four Opening Day infielders are hurt and the fourth one is playing left field.

Brewers 5, Royals 2: Lorenzo Cain homered against his old team, but that was just late gravy. Earlier Travis Shaw hit a three-run shot that put the game away in the third inning. Sal Perez made his first appearance of 2018 after coming off the disabled list and hit a solo shot. Zach Davies picked up the win after allowing two over six.

Marlins 3, Dodgers 2: L.A. took a 2-1 lead into the eighth but Starlin Castro doubled in the tying run that inning and Cameron Maybin doubled in the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Fish snap their five-game losing streak.

Rays vs. Orioles; Tigers vs. Pirates — POSTPONED: The 27th and 28th rainouts of the year so far. So it seems appropriate . . .

28 days of rain
Flash floods in February
Back in our boats again
Bath water and the baby
What am I gonna do?
There’s been a lot of drinking
Looking at ghosts of you
While all the world is sinking

10.000 miles into the atmosphere
My body shakes
Is there a welcome here?

Closest thing to heaven
How do you do it?
Closest thing to heaven, heaven