While it seemed unlikely six months ago, Major League Baseball was able to see their creative 2020 season to its conclusion. And for these guys, it’s a good thing it did. Let’s look at 20 veterans who may decide to hang ’em up this winter.
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Markakis originally opted out of the abbreviated 2020 campaign before later changing his mind. As it turns out, that 130 at-bat cameo may turn out to be his swan song. In 37 games following his return, Markakis hit just .254–the lowest mark of his career–while crushing only one home run. His contract is up and in a Braves outfield that already features superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., hot shot youngster Cristian Pache, and if Atlanta is successful in re-signing him, Marcell Ozuna, there isn’t much room at the inn. Turning 37 next month, Markakis might decide to call it quits instead of starting over somewhere new.
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Morton spent the majority of his career as a good not great middle of the rotation starter in Pittsburgh, but after joining the Astros in 2017 his reputation changed dramatically. The righty simply became one of the best pitchers in the AL, and he’s sustained that success in Tampa Bay. Which is where this gets interesting. When Morton signed with the Rays prior to the ’19 campaign, he exclaimed that he fully expected the two year pact to be the final contract in his career. Now that that is concluded, let’s see if he was telling the truth. In all honesty though, it would be hard to blame the veteran if he wants to come back for one more *hopefully* normal season, and not go out under the circumstances required in 2020.
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Zimmermann is almost certain to call it quits this winter. During the first half of his career the righty was a dynamic hurler for the Washington Nationals, but the five year deal he signed in Detroit following the ’15 season turned out to be an absolute disaster for the Tigers. Zimmermann turned in a 5.63 ERA in 99 outings for Detroit, and now that they’re finally free of the financial burden they’ll assuredly move on. It would be difficult for the righty to find himself another big league opportunity elsewhere.
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Bailey has done quite well for himself across 11 Major League seasons. The #7 overall pick from the 2004 draft owns a lifetime ERA of just 4.56 with a pedestrian career WHIP of 1.37. And for that, he’s collected just shy of $120 million in earnings over the past decade plus. The right hander appeared in only two contests for the Twins this past year, and now that he’s a free-agent again he’ll have to seriously weigh signing what will probably be a minor league deal somewhere against riding off into the sunset.
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Oliver Perez has remarkably been pitching in the Major Leagues since 2002. He’s arguably never been better than he was in Cleveland the past three years, but the veteran is also 39-years-old and his current contract recently expired. It would not be shocking if the Indians (or someone else) wanted to bring him in to serve as their left handed specialist for a year in ’21, but it’s also seriously worth considering the alternative outcome that would see the southpaw hanging them up.
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Nova enjoyed sporadic success in both the Bronx and Pittsburgh, but unfortunately for him he hasn’t been all that good in a while. In four starts for the Tigers in 2020 the righty finished with an ugly 8.53 ERA in 19 innings, which certainly won’t help his chances of finding employment in 2021. Nova will be 34 by opening day next spring, and it remains to be seen if he intends to continue pitching or not.
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In all honesty, Reddick may be the least likely to actually retire on this list. But a trio of things make it at least a possibility. The veteran left handed hitting outfielder will be 34 next February, and his contract with the Astros has just expired. We’re also about to see just how much being associated with Houston’s sign stealing scandal is going to affect some of the players involved. Their star center fielder George Springer will surely do well in free-agency this winter–but will his price take a hit? Reddick on the other hand slashed only .245/.316/.378 in 2020 and may struggle just to find a job.
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Frazier has been a reasonably productive right handed power hitter since 2011, but his time in the big leagues may be coming to a close. The veteran’s .302 OBP in 2020 was his lowest mark since his rookie campaign, and his .382 SLG% was the worst mark of his career. Frazier still has value as a solid defensive third baseman and an extraordinary glue guy, but he’ll have to be willing to take an extremely low contract guarantee to find a role with a big league team in ’21.
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The Buffalo was once one of the better two way backstops in the big leagues, but those days are long behind him now. With the Mets a year ago the veteran struggled miserably, hitting just .239 with only 11 extra-base hits in 142 at-bats. Defensively he was equally inept, surrendering four passed balls and throwing out only 17% of would be base-stealers. New York will assuredly buy out the option on his contract for 2021, and finding another starting gig will not be an easy task. It will be curious to see if Ramos’ ego would allow him to willingly sign somewhere to be a back-up as opposed to simply calling it quits after wearing the tools of ignorance for over a decade.
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After completely bottoming out in Detroit, Sanchez impressively rallied to give the Braves and Nationals tremendous campaigns in both ’18 and ’19 respectively. Unfortunately in the truncated 2020 campaign, he regressed to his Tigers form. In 11 starts the righty posted an unsightly 6.62 ERA, which all but guarantees Washington won’t pick up the $12 million option on his contract. Sanchez will turn 37 later this winter, and it’s reasonable to envision him retiring before spring training camps open.
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Sanchez’ former teammate in D.C. is even more likely to hang ’em up than him. Washington’s longtime closer has been steadily regressing for several seasons, but 2020 was easily the most frustrating campaign of his career. Limited to only 11 outings thanks to injuries to his knee and oblique, Doolittle finished with an ERA barely under six. For his part, the lefty has not indicated a particular interest in walking away from the game, but at 34-years-old it’s at least something he has to consider.
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The Phillies hold a $20 million option on the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, but they will almost definitely decline that. The veteran’s time in the City of Brotherly Love has not gone the way he or the team had hoped when they inked a lucrative agreement in 2018, and his future now is murky at best. Arrieta turns 35 in March and he’s coming off a season that saw him finish with a 5.08 ERA. He’ll have to be willing to take a massive salary reduction to find a team willing to plug him into the back of their rotation moving forward.
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Bruce has hit 318 home runs at the big league level, but will he hit any more? With the Phillies last season the left handed slugger slashed a paltry .198/.252/.469, and for the 3rd straight year he spent considerable time on the injured list. Bruce still has power and when healthy his bat is obviously big league caliber, it just remains to be seen how much more punishment his body is willing to take.
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Kintzler is probably coming off the most successful season of anybody on this list. In 24 games pitching out of the Miami bullpen the right hander turned in a 2.22 ERA in 24.1 innings while converting 12 of 14 save opportunities. The Marlins own a $4 million option on him for ’21 that they’d be crazy not to pick up, but even if they don’t other teams will be interested. At 36-years-old though it remains to be seen how much further the veteran wants to push his career.
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Braun has been hinting at retirement for some time now, and this winter may be the time he actually sees those threats through. The veteran will turn 37 next month and he’s coming off probably the worst season of his career. In 129 at-bats Braun hit only .233 with 16 extra-base hits. Milwaukee owns a $15 million option on him for 2021, but they can get out of $11 million of that by buying him out shortly after the World Series concludes. If they do, Braun may well decide to call it quits and finish as one of the rare star players that can start and end with one organization.
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The longtime Cardinals’ ace had been mediocre for four consecutive years prior to the coronavirus shortened 2020 season. But despite the extraordinary circumstances required of everyone involved these past few months, the right hander found a way to turn back the clock. In 10 starts he delivered a 3.15 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP, while even tossing his first two complete games since 2016. St. Louis will more than likely try to welcome him back in ’21, but at 39-years-old will Waino choose to instead go out on a high note?
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Sticking with NL Central aces, Lester delivered big time on the long term deal he signed with the Cubs prior to 2015. The veteran lefty played a lead role in snapping the famous curse and bringing a well deserved championship to the Windy City. He will, however, turn 37 over the winter and he’s coming off a 5.16 ERA season. While his resume speaks for itself, his future is more murky than ever.
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Davis won a championship with the Royals in 2015 and then was probably the best relief pitcher in the sport in a brief one year stint with the Cubs in ’17. He was able to parlay that campaign into an incredibly lucrative three year contract in Colorado, but unfortunately for both he and the Rockies that deal turned into an unmitigated disaster. Last season the veteran bombed out comically, finishing with a 20.77 ERA in a small five outing sample size. Colorado is finally free from his contract, and at 35-years-old will someone else give him a chance?
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It’s kind of hard to believe Sandoval was still playing in the big leagues this past season. Splitting the year between San Francisco and Atlanta, the Panda slashed just .214/.287/.262 and in all honesty he hasn’t been that productive in half a decade. Entering free-agency again it’s kind of hard to envision another club bringing him in.
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For a long time the switch-hitting Walker was one of the most productive two way second basemen in baseball while he was with the Pirates and Mets. But in recent years he’s transitioned into nothing more than a utility infielder. In Philadelphia last season the veteran disappointingly hit just .231 without a single home run. He can play a variety of positions and is a strong leader, but does Walker really want to hang on much longer as a bench player?
Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears.