As the new season approaches, there aren’t many high-profile players heading into their ‘farewell’ seasons. David Ortiz is an exception, and will be stepping away from the game after 2016 as a crucial part of Boston Red Sox lore.
Still, there are at least a handful of players that could very well be lacing up their cleats for the final time in the majors…if they decide to walk away, that is. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Everybody loves Bartolo Colon.
Now 42, Colon signed on with the New York Mets for at least one more season, but he rarely says much of anything in terms of how long he might stay in the game. He’s still mostly effective, even if bouts of inconsistency pop up now and then. Remember, he basically only throws a fastball and at this point in time, it’s not a high-velocity one.
Colon went 14-13 with a 4.19 ERA in 33 appearances for the Mets in ’15 (31 of them starts). Over the course of his 18 seasons in the majors, Colon has racked up just under 2,981 innings of work, amassing 2,237 strikeouts along the way. The thing about him, however, is that he seems able to continue doing what he’s doing until he decides otherwise.
Ever since he resumed his career in 2011 with the Yankees, he’s been the picture of dependability, only totaling less than 25 starts one time in that span (2012 with the A’s). He might not totally dominate hitters the way he once did, but Colon’s mastery of his nearly one-pitch repertoire has allowed him to be a deceptive, wily veteran, befuddling hitters with a dancing fastball that he happens to locate perfectly once in a while.
Those of us who obsess over baseball and its little quirks and celebrate every Bartolo at-bat, helmet- losing home run cut or unexpected defensive gem had better appreciate it during the 2016 season, if he indeed decides to end his now 17-year run in the big leagues upon its conclusion.
Houston Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus isn’t old – he’s still just 29 – but he’s always been a unique spirit on the diamond. While with the St. Louis Cardinals a few years back, he essentially said he was already eyeing retirement and spending time with his family at their cattle ranch. He did say he’d see himself playing a few more seasons before walking away, but in the wake of Adam LaRoche’s abrupt decision to retire on his own terms, who knows if that scenario will play out in that fashion.
Coming off a productive 2015 campaign with Houston (.238/.314/.375 with 25 HR, 61 RBI and a 2.6 WAR) and being a bit of a Postseason hero (a big home run in the Wild Card game and a .429/.600/1.143 line in the Division Series), Rasmus was the first player in MLB history to accept a qualifying offer…but that means he’s only signed through the upcoming season.
Will 2016 be his last year, or will he parlay it into a better deal on the free agent market in order to stick around a bit longer? Only he knows…
It would have made sense for Chase Utley to hang up his cleats after the 2015 season. After being traded from the Phillies (the only organization he has ever known) to the Dodgers midway through the year, Utley didn’t do much with the bat. In fact, he hasn’t done much with the bat for a while now.
Utley, 37, hit a combined .212/.286/.343 with the Phils and Dodgers in 2015. He isn’t the same player that once hit 30+ home runs on a regular basis, as injuries have crept up and limited him to just 107 games a year ago. The .212 average he posted last season was by far the lowest of his career, though he did manage to create the single-most controversial moment of the Postseason when his hard slide/tackle (depending on your viewpoint) in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Mets resulted in Ruben Tejada breaking his leg and the Dodgers temporarily tying up the series at a game apiece.
The Dodgers brought him back as part of their never-ending quest for roster depth this winter, though it doesn’t seem realistic to expect much of a ‘return to form’ for the 13-year veteran. However the year plays out like last season did, he could very well decide to call it quits and assume his place in the Phillies Hall of Fame (if not the overall Baseball Hall of Fame itself).
Utley’s longtime teammate and double play partner, Jimmy Rollins, may also be entering the final year of his lengthy career. Rollins, 37, spent 2015 with the Dodgers after his Phillies era concluded at the end of the 2014 season. He performed somewhat decently in Los Angeles, hitting .224/.285/.358 in 144 games with 13 home runs and 41 RBI, though that stat line was the lowest to date of his career.
It took a while for Rollins to catch on with another team for the upcoming season, and he only did so after signing a minor-league deal with the White Sox. It’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll make the 25-man roster out of spring training and stay there long enough to be a useful veteran presence on the Sox this season, and it’s that uncertainty that makes retiring after the year seem feasible.
In his 16 MLB seasons, Rollins has a cumulative .265/.325/.420 line with 229 home runs, 928 RBI, and 465 stolen bases, with almost all of his output coming with the Phillies.
Knuckleball pitchers can play forever, they say. The lack of wear and tear put on the shoulder of a man who throws a floating knuckleball on a regular basis usually allows pitchers to pitch well into their forties – so R.A. Dickey has options. The 41-year-old will make $12 million as a member of the Blue Jays in 2016, but beyond that? Who knows.
Dickey has battled inconsistency since the 2012 season, when he was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award with the Mets. His past three years in Toronto have been up and down, with Dickey going 11-11 with a 3.91 ERA this past season. He hasn’t necessarily hinted about retiring anytime soon, and famed Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield did his thing until he was 45.
Still, Dickey’s been around a long time now. 2016 will be his 14th big-league season, and once it’s over, he’ll be looking for a new contract with Toronto – or somebody else. Over the course of his career, he’s logged 1,714 innings, posted a 100-93 record, allowed 210 home runs, and accumulated a Cy Young Award, an All-Star Game nod, a Gold Glove, and a 3.97 ERA.
He’ll have a decision to make after 2016 regarding his future on the mound, too.