With spring training underway, a number of veteran players remain without work, including former All-Stars, Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers, and a one-time Cy Young winner. As the clock ticks, here are five unsigned players who might retire this year if they can’t find work.
The writing’s been on the wall for Jose Reyes for a while. Last June, a report suggested the New York Mets were hoping the veteran infielder would retire so they didn’t have to release him.
Neither of those things happened. Instead, Reyes took up a spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster and authored one of baseball’s worst seasons. Only 12 players in MLB were worth fewer WAR in 2018, according to FanGraphs.
In his prime, Reyes was one of the game’s elite shortstops. From 2005-08, he slashed .287/.342/.442 while recording 127 doubles, 65 triples, and 258 stolen bases over 632 games. But it’s been a long time since the 35-year-old played like an All-Star, and with the market for his services completely silent, it’d be no surprise if he hung them up.
Brandon Phillips could cap his 17-year career as a World Series champion after appearing in nine games with the Boston Red Sox last season. There really isn’t much left for “Dat Dude” to accomplish in baseball, so retirement could be the next step.
If he does call it quits, the 37-year-old would finish fourth all time among Cincinnati Reds second basemen with 31.5 WAR, according to FanGraphs, and second with 851 RBIs.
Jose Bautista may not be the middle-of-the-order threat he once was, but the veteran outfielder did make an impact with three different NL East teams last season, and he seems to want to keep playing.
While slotting into 122 games for the Braves, Mets, and Phillies, Joey Bats recorded a .727 OPS along with a 107 wRC+. He still has a knack for getting on base as well, recording a .348 mark in 2018 that included 67 walks in 399 plate appearances.
A couple of things are working against the six-time All-Star, besides a slow free-agent market for aging players: his career-high 27.8 strikeout percentage and his poor defensive metrics in the outfield (including a minus-6.8 in FanGraphs DEF).
After he couldn’t find work at the beginning of last season, it seemed like Matt Holliday’s career was probably over. In July, however, Holliday reunited with the Colorado Rockies on a minor-league deal and was called up a month later.
In 25 regular-season games, the 15-year veteran showed he could still hit, posting a .283/.415/.434 slash line with two homers. His contributions at the dish even earned him a spot on the Rockies postseason roster.
But now he’s 39 years old, and with plenty of outfielders left unsigned, this is likely curtains for Holliday. If so, it’s been a fantastic career; he’s a seven-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and a World Series champion.
Though Colon said he intends to pitch in 2019, the 21-year veteran hasn’t been effective since his 2016 All-Star campaign with the Mets.
Over the past two seasons, Colon’s been reasonably durable (289 1/3 innings pitched), but his 6.13 ERA is an eyesore and he allowed more than 10 hits per nine innings in both years.
If one of baseball’s most lovable characters decides to retire, he’ll finish with 247 career wins, a Cy Young Award, more than 3,400 innings pitched, and one extremely memorable home run in his 299 at-bats.