Injury forces should-be Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds to retire

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Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jim Edmonds has decided to retire rather than attempt a comeback with the Cardinals because the Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered late last season “has not come around.”

It’s a shame too, because Edmonds remained a very productive player last season even after sitting out all of 2009. He hit .276 with a .342 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage in 272 plate appearances for the Brewers and Reds, and was set to compete for a bench spot with the Cardinals after signing a minor-league contract last month.

My sense is that Edmonds has little chance to actually convince the voters that he’s deserving of a place in Cooperstown, but to me he’s a pretty clear Hall of Famer. He finishes as a career .286/.376/.526 hitter with 393 homers and his relatively modest total of 1,949 hits is due in part to his outstanding total of 998 walks. Those numbers are impressive in any context–he has a higher OPS and more homers than recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Rice, for instance–but they really stand out among fellow center fielders.

Edmonds is one of just seven center fielders in baseball history with more than 350 homers and the others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. He also ranks among the top 10 center fielders of all time in RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS, and extra-base hits. Oh, and he’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner (for whatever that’s worth).

Add it all up and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) on Baseball-Reference.com pegs Edmonds as 68.3 wins better than a replacement-level center fielder for his career, which is the seventh-highest total of all time sandwiched in between Griffey (78.5 WAR) and Snider (67.5). If you think the Hall of Fame should probably include the 10 best center fielders in baseball history, then Edmonds belongs.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.