Josh Willingham officially announced his retirement at age 35, following 11 seasons in the majors for the Marlins, Twins, Nationals, A’s, and Royals.
Willingham signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins in 2012 and had a career-year that season, hitting .260 with 35 homers and an .890 OPS in 145 games.
He struggled to stay healthy in the final two seasons of the contract, playing a total of just 203 games in 2013/2014 while hitting .211 with a .724 OPS.
Willingham perhaps could have struck around for another season as a bench bat or platoon designated hitter versus left-handers, but he ceased being a serviceable defensive left fielder.
He finishes with 195 career homers and an .823 OPS in 1,147 games–including an OPS above .800 every season from 2006-2012–which is fantastic production considering Willingham didn’t get his first extended action in the majors until age 27 despite topping a .900 OPS at Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.