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2018 may be the last season for some of these players

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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: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights. The Orioles-Indians one is last and is really, really long, but I suspect a lot of you will appreciate it.

Pirates 2, Cubs 1: Adam Frazier socked a two-out, pinch-hit, 11th inning walkoff homer to earn a split for the Buccos. That it was a split was a minor miracle, really, given that the Cubs scored exactly four runs in the series. One run each game, in fact. They just happened to win 1-0 on both Thursday and Friday.

Rockies 4, Braves 2: Atlanta won five in a row last week and claimed first place and then went and got swept in a four-game series at home this weekend. Not that beating good teams is new to the Rockies. Colorado is 30-16 since June 26 and all 46 of those games have been played against winning teams. Or, at the very least, teams which were winning teams at the time. DJ LeMahieu was a killer this weekend. He hit a tie-breaking homer in extra innings on Saturday night and then he homered again here. Braves manager Brian Snitker, commenting on four straight losses on the heels of a five-game winning streak:

“In this business, every time you think you have something figured out, you get kicked right in the teeth”

If he’d have changed “this business” to “life” and then he’d really be dropping truth bombs. Lucky for him sometimes, even when you get kicked in the teeth, things don’t go as bad as they could, though. Such as the Phillies losing two in a row to the Mets and missing out on an excellent chance to make up more ground.

Marlins 12, Nationals 1: The Nats, meanwhile, dropped their seventh game in their last ten. They could do nothing against Jose Urena — and lucky they didn’t, or else maybe he’d try to hurt injure them — who tossed a complete game, allowing just the one run on only two hits. Starlin Castro had five hits and scored three times. JT Riddle and J.T. Realmuto each homered and drove in three, proving once and for all that the periods, or lack thereof, in their first names have no bearing on their baseball ability. That’s just science.

Rangers 4, Angels 2: Rougned Odor hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh to give the Rangers their third win in the four-game series. Bartolo Colon was supposed to start this one for Texas but didn’t because of back stiffness. This is how, all the jokes about his size and his age aside, you know that Colon is a legit athlete. For all normal 45 year-olds — and I speak from personal experience here — back stiffness is more or less the default status, not the rare anomaly which interrupts one’s normal routine.

Rays 2, Red Sox 0: Five Rays pitchers combined to shut out the Sox, Joey Wendle and C.J. Cron went deep and Tampa Bay avoided the sweep. In related news, over the weekend some Rays fans on Twitter decided to take me to task for not thinking the Rays would be good this year. Even the Tampa Bay Times got into the act yesterday, citing yours truly by name.

On the one hand I will totally cop to thinking the Rays would be far worse than they are. Like a lot of predictions, I blew that one. Kudos to the Rays for beating mine and everyone’s expectations for them.

On the other hand, the level of aggression I got from the Rays folks over the weekend was pretty hilarious given that, overachieving notwithstanding, we’re still talking about a team that has hovered around .500 all year and is around 25 games out of first place and 11 back in the Wild Card race. The Oakland A’s they are not. It also doesn’t take into account that most of my criticism was about the Rays front office making financial moves, not baseball moves, and doing it pretty cynically and pretty transparently. That those moves have happened to turn out far better for them than expected does not change the fact that they were financial moves that were and remain pretty hostile to casual fans, most of whom are looking for a connection to their team and some continuity to that end, and who do not give a flying frick about how many prospects are playing in Princeton or wherever and are not as jazzed by a three-year plan as they might be by, you know, having a front office who has as at least part of its mission to put an entertaining product on the field. There’s a certain swath of Rays fandom who does not understand that and, in fact, seems aggressively opposed to even trying to understand it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not appreciating the glory of their accomplishment in 2018. Rather than merely receiving a respectful nod for doing far better than anyone expected and a mea culpa from those of us who got it wrong, maybe the Rays should hoist a “Most wins per dollars spent” banner to go with the Wild Card banner they put up a couple of years back to show the haters exactly what they’re dealing with.

Yankees 10, Blue Jays 2: Greg Bird hit a grand slam in the first inning and everything after that was cream cheese. J.A. Happ won for the fourth time in four starts as a Yankee, this one against his old mates. It wasn’t all good news, though: Didi Gregorius hurt his left heel in a collision at first base and left the game with a deep bruise that could land him on the disabled list. New York sweeps the three-game series.

Reds 11, Giants 4: Cincy put up a seven-run third inning ending this one before it even got going. Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza each hit two-run homers and Billy Hamilton tripled twice and drove in three. The Reds sweep the Giants, who fall eight games back in the west and three games under .500. They scored six runs in the whole series.

White Sox 7, Royals 6: Kansas City took a 6-0 lead into the fourth inning but the Chisox put up a tying six-spot that inning and added a decisive seventh run in the fifth. Omar Narvaez tied it up at six with a homer and then knocked in that decisive run I mentioned with an RBI single. Avasail Garcia hit a three-run bomb.

Twins 5, Tigers 4: Eddie RosarioMax Kepler and Jake Cave all went deep as the Twinkies won their fifth of six. Does anyone call them the Twinkies anymore? I haven’t heard that one for a long time. Then again, I don’t really watch a lot of Twinkies games and never watch sports network highlight shows so maybe I’m just missing it.

Brewers 2, Cardinals 1: Mike Moustakas‘ two-run double in the third held up thanks to Jhoulys Chacin‘s six shutout innings. The win puts the Brewers back ahead of St. Louis for the second Wild Card and ends Milwaukee’s three-game losing streak.

Astros 9, Athletics 4: Houston salvages one and in so doing regains their lead in the AL West. Justin Verlander got the W, earning the 200th win of his career. It wasn’t a pretty win — he didn’t make it out of the sixth and gave up four runs in the process, with three of those runs coming on Khris Davis homers — but as we so often note around here, wins are team-dependent and here his team picked him up. Most of that picking up came via the longball, with Yuli Gurriel, Evan Gattis, Martin Maldonado, Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez going deep.

Dodgers 12, Mariners 1: Clayton Kershaw hasn’t gotten a lot of that team support this year but he got five runs before he even had to throw a pitch here and then cruised to his 150th career win. Maybe the Dodgers’ batters were pissed over losing in extra innings on a walkoff balk the night before. I know I would be. Difference with me is that, when I’m mad, I don’t usually do better work. Justin Turner hit a three-run homer and drove in five. Kershaw allowed one run on four hits in seven innings. L.A. did not gain any ground in the West though, thanks in part to that Rockies win over the Braves and thanks in part to . . .

Diamondbacks 4, Padres 3: . . . the Snakes beating the Friars. A.J. Pollock‘s ninth inning homer was the difference. Arizona had tied it at 3 thanks to Daniel Descalso‘s solo homer in the eighth. The Diamondbacks have won four of five. They retain a half-game lead over Colorado.

Mets 8, Phillies 2Amed Rosario had three hits and drove in three runs, Jeff McNeil had a two-run single and Jason Vargas was effective into the sixth inning as the Mets beat the Phillies in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the Little League Classic. The Phillies have lost seven of 11 and drop a half game behind Atlanta in the East.

Indians 8, Orioles 0: Melky Cabrera hit a grand slam in Cleveland’s six-run fourth inning, Mike Clevinger shut the O’s out for six and three relievers finished it off as the Tribe takes two of three from the O’s.

In related news, I took my kids to the first game of this series on Friday night. They’re not really big baseball fans, but they like going to games. Partially because it’s fun and there’s junk food, but mostly because it provides them a new venue for the sort of savage and absurdist commentary for which Gen-Z kids are quickly becoming famous.

I’ve watched this from a front row seat for a couple of years now. Anyone who follows me on Twitter is familiar with how brutally my daughter Anna, 14, owns me via text messages (and some old timers around here may remember her greatest hits from WAY back in the day). Others who follow me know how deeply into absurdist and envelope-pushing meme culture my son, Carlo, 13, happens to be. Every day is a new, eye-opening adventure. I’m impressed by the level of savagery they’re capable of in their early teens and terrified at what they’re going to capable of once they reach adulthood.

I’m likewise suffering from no small amount of whiplash. I mean, I once thought my fellow Gen-Xers and I had perfected ironic emotional detachment and that whole “whatever, nothing matters anyway” stance. I also thought that a decade’s worth of Millennials restoring an earnestness and emotional honesty to the lexicon of our nation’s youth — the likes of which we haven’t seen for probably 60 or 70 years — had all but buried that jaded sentiment once and for all.

Nope. The Gen-Z kids are going to stomp on the Millennials’ throats and pour acid all over their hopes, dreams and pretensions of an earnest and hopeful world. Then they’ll laugh mockingly at the Gen-Xers as we’re exposed for the amateurs that we are, and will rhetorically kill us, like some warrior coming back to vanquish their sensei. The only saving grace is that whatever Boomers are still left as this happens will just die of shock and outrage. Gen-Z will not be attending their funerals either unless they need some pics of dead grandpa for a devastating meme or two (Carlo has already told my father that he’s going to meme him once he passes away; my father does not quite know what to make of that, mostly because he’s 74 and does not know what a meme is).

Anyway, I’ve blocked out most of what they had to say during the game as a means of psychological self-defense, but trust me when I say that it was three straight hours of running commentary at turns hilarious, frightening and truly disturbing in ways that are hard to pin down. I do, however, remember or have documentation of a few things that went down in between the hot dogs and bon mottes:

  • My son is well aware of my Chief Wahoo stance and, thankfully, agrees with it. Nevertheless, he kept threatening to say “my dad said you’re a racist” to everyone who was wearing Wahoo gear because he said it’d be fun to see what happened. Which, given that he’s basically an agent of chaos — here’s a video of him in action — was a fairly plausible threat. Thankfully he did not do it;
  • My daughter said to my son that Orioles’ outfielder Joey Rickard looked like “that kid Kyle, in your grade.” My son agreed. For the rest of the game, every time Rickard came up, they yelled “don’t mess up, Kyle!” Rickard went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and all the way home they would fill silences with “Dammit, Kyle” and shake their heads after which they’d laugh hysterically. They then said that, at school today, they were going to tell Kyle he sucked but not tell him why. I think it’s 50/50 that they do it;
  • Slider, the Indians’ mascot came up to our section. This is a screencap from my daughter’s Snapchat:

All of that being said, I don’t want you to get the impression that Anna and Carlo’s entire existence is savage owns and joking and ironic detachment. They are actually smart, sweet and sensitive kids who, when they’re not joking around, possess more empathy for their fellow humans than most adults who have seen and experienced far more than they have do. I am proud of my kids for that. Truly proud. Indeed I worry that the jaded exterior I’ve been describing is a defensive perimeter they and their generation have been forced to erect because the generations which came before them have thrown so much fear into their world and, perhaps, are even ruining it before my kids get a chance to live in it as adults. That’s a lot to put on anyone, but the fact that we’ve put that sort of weight on our children is a tragedy. Knowing that the’ll have to cope with what we have done to make their lives harder and, quite possibly, shorter, breaks my heart.

Those thoughts were swirling around my head as the game neared its end Friday evening. As they did, I looked over to Carlo and Anna sitting next to me. They were watching the game intently. And, even though it had started raining, quite contently. They seemed happy. The cynicism and the wiseguy routines had been left back in the middle innings somewhere. When Cody Allen struck out Kyle, er, I mean Joey Rickard, for the game’s final out, they both stood up and cheered a genuine and exuberant cheer. When they did, I figured it was a good opportunity for some rare heartfelt sincerity.

“So, Baseball. You like it, eh?” I said in my proudest dad voice, thinking that, just maybe, we had bonded over something near and dear to my heart. Anna looked at me and smiled. Then she said something I’ll never forget.

“Not really. But I guess I sort of have to respect it because if it wasn’t for baseball you’d be unemployed and I’d probably be homeless.”