Retirement Rumors

Josh Willingham Announces Retirement

Josh Willingham will officially retire after an 11-year Major League career, the outfielder told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Willingham’s decision comes despite receiving what he termed a “substantial” offer from a contending club this offseason, Crasnick writes. Willingham explained his decision process:

“I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to myself, and more importantly to the team that was paying me a lot of money to perform at a high level, if there was a chance my dedication would waver — particularly as the season got longer. I’m honored to have played for as many years as I have, and I feel even luckier to walk away on my own terms instead of having the decision made for me.”

The 35-year-old Willingham (36 in February) was a late bloomer who didn’t become an MLB regular until his age-27 season with the Marlins. However, once he established himself as a presence in their lineup, he quickly became known for his excellent plate discipline and plus right-handed power. He found himself traded to the Nationals and then to the A’s before reaching free agency for the first time, where he ultimately signed a three-year, $21MM contract with the Twins.

Willingham’s best season came in his first year with the Twins, as he batted .260/.366/.524 with a career-high 35 home runs — earning him a Silver Slugger and making him just the third player in Twins franchise history to hit 35 or more homers in a season (along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and former AL Rookie of the Year Bob Allison). In total, Willingham’s career comes to a close with a .253/.358/.465 batting line, 195 homers and 632 RBIs in 1147 games between the Marlins, Nationals, A’s, Twins and Royals. The “Hammer” earned more than $35MM in his playing career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Willingham and his family luck and happiness in his post-playing days and congratulates him on a very nice career.


J.J. Putz Joins Diamondbacks’ Front Office

The Diamondbacks announced that J.J. Putz, who spent the 2011-14 seasons as a member of the team’s bullpen, has been hired as a special assistant to president and CEO Derrick Hall. According to the press release, Putz will assist the team in both a baseball and business capacity. Some of the responsibilities outlined for him include attending community events, meeting with season-ticket holders, working with pitchers in Spring Training and visiting the club’s minor league affiliates throughout the course of the 2015 regular season.

“I am very excited to give back to the game that I love and have been fortunate to be a part of for 14 years,” said Putz in the press release. “To be a part of such a great organization is a blessing. My family and I have been so grateful to be a part of the Arizona community. It is a dream come true to work alongside a great man like Derrick. There are not enough great things to say about this organization.  I am forever thankful.” 

Hall expressed similar excitement about the opportunity to work alongside Putz: “J.J.’s performance on the field and popularity off the field make him a tremendous addition to the front office. His personality is a perfect fit for our culture and we are looking forward to him helping the D-backs in a number of different ways during this next phase of his career.”

While the press release doesn’t specifically state it, this most certainly appears to be the end of the 37-year-old Putz’s playing career. If that’s the case, Putz will cross the finish line with very strong marks. In 566 2/3 career innings, he posted a 3.08 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, a 1.15 WHIP, a 37-33 record and 189 saves. Putz’s best season came with the 2007 Mariners, when he posted an exceptional 1.38 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and recorded 40 saves while finishing a league-high 65 games. He earned $38.875MM over his playing career, per Baseball-Reference.com, and his 189 saves rank 51st all-time. If this is indeed the end of the line for his days on a big league mound, we at MLBTR wish Putz the best of luck in his new career path and congratulate him on a very nice playing career.


Alfonso Soriano Announces Retirement

Longtime big leaguer Alfonso Soriano has annunced his retirement from the game, reports Hector Gomez of Dominican outlet Listin Diario (via Twitter). The 38-year-old played in parts of 16 MLB seasons, including thirteen as a full-time regular.

Soriano was once one of the most consistent power threats in the game. Between 2002 and 2013, Soriano averaged 624 trips to the plate per season, slashing .273/.324/.511. He hit 385 home runs (32 per year) and stole 243 bags (20 a season) over that stretch.

Soriano appeared in seven straight All Star games (2002-08). While generally subpar defensive marks hurt his overall value, Soriano was ultimately worth just under 40 fWAR in his career, though he checked in at less than 30 rWAR.

The Dominican native started and ended his career in pinstripes, joining the Yankees after an early-career stint in Japan. He was later dealt to the Rangers and then on to the Nationals, where he moved from second to the outfield, and ultimately signed an eight-year, $136MM deal with the Cubs.

That massive contract had its ups and downs, but Soriano ultimately swung an above average bat in every year except for a rough 2009. He spent the tail end of the deal back in New York after a deadline deal, delivering an excellent stretch of play late in 2013. But he struggled to get it going last year, and was ultimately cut loose by the Yanks in mid-season.



Kevin Youkilis To Retire

Corner infielder Kevin Youkilis will hang up his spikes after a 14-year professional career, according to a tweet from his representatives at Pro Star Management. The 35-year-old will be remembered most fondly for his time in Boston.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox

With the Red Sox, Youkilis emerged as one of the game’s most consistent on-base threats. His ability to work counts and draw walks was so legendary that it drew him the appellation “the Greek God of Walks,” a name referenced in the famous Moneyball book and film.

Of course, he could do much more than that. Over his six full-time seasons with the Red Sox, Youkilis slashed an outstanding .292/.392/.500 with 121 home runs. With solid defensive marks at third, he was worth 29.5 rWAR and 25.9 fWAR over that stretch, making him one of the very best position players in the game.

That outstanding performance made Youkilis a key figure in the Boston baseball revival. He did not see World Series action in 2004, his rookie year — though he was on the roster — but was a major contributor during the regular and post seasons in 2007. Over 125 career postseason plate appearances, Youkilis slashed a healthy .306/.376/.568 with six long balls.

Youkilis was ultimately dealt from Boston to the White Sox in the summer of 2012 after struggling in the early going. (That led to one of the more memorable mid-game trade acknowledgments; see photo.) He rebounded in Chicago, putting up a strong second half (.236/.346/.425 with 15 home runs in 344 plate appearances) and earning a $12MM free agent contract with the Yankees.

Issues with his back and plantar fasciitis ultimate marred the tail end of Youkilis’s career. He was ineffective when on the field in New York, and did not even make 100 trips to the plate this year after joining Rakuten of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

Nevertheless, Youkilis’s excellence at his peak cannot be ignored. He finished third in the AL MVP vote in 2008, and might have won were it not for teammate Dustin Pedroia. He was named to three All-Star teams over his ten MLB seasons.


Brian Roberts To Retire

Longtime Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who spent last season with the Yankees, will retire after a productive 14-year career. Roberts himself broke the news in an appearance on the Steve Gorman sports show on FOX Sports Radio (audio link; h/t to the BaltimoreSportsReport.com). Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter that Roberts confirmed his intentions to hang up the spikes.

Roberts, who just turned 37, will always be known for his time in Baltimore. After two years as a solid regular, Roberts broke out with a stellar 2005 season in which he posted 7.2 rWAR and 6.6 fWAR on the back of excellent all-around play. Though he never again reached quite those levels, Roberts was an above-average to excellent performer over each of the next four years.

That track record of consistent production led Baltimore to award Roberts with a four-year, $40MM extension that covered the 2010-13 campaigns. Unfortunately, things turned south the moment the contract began to pay out, as a cascade of injuries conspired to wipe out large swaths of each of his next four campaigns. And Roberts never really regained his form when he was on the field, slashing a meager .246/.310/.359 over just 809 plate appearances during that four-year term.

The ending was not, perhaps, quite what Roberts envisioned when he made the difficult decision to join the Yankees on a one-year deal after spending his entire career in one (rival) organization. He logged 348 plate appearances in New York — somewhat remarkably, the highest annual tally he had managed since 2009 — but slashed just .237/.300/.360 with five home runs and seven stolen bases. He was ultimately released to make room for the acquisition of Stephen Drew.

While it is easy to be distracted by his inability to stay on the field after his age-31 season, Roberts was one of the better players in the game at his peak levels of performance. He logged nearly two-thirds of his career 30.3 rWAR and 28.4 fWAR during that 2005-09 run.


Ryan Dempster To Retire

Right-hander Ryan Dempster, who sat out the 2014 season due to physical issues and a desire to spend more time with his family, will not pursue a contract this offseason and will officially retire, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish (on Twitter).

The 37-year-old Dempster was placed on the restricted list by the Red Sox following that decision, meaning that he forewent a sizable $13.25MM salary. At the time, Dempster told FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, “I don’t feel like I am capable of performing to the ability and standard that I am accustomed to. I feel it’s in the best interest of both the club but most importantly myself to step away from playing baseball at this time.” Over the summer, Dempster told the Chicago Tribune that he wasn’t ruling out a return to the playing field, but he didn’t miss playing at that point.

Dempster’s career will come to a close with a 4.35 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 2387 Major League innings. The former third-round pick and British Columbia native experienced success both as a starter and as a reliever in his career. He made 351 big league starts and totaled 132 Major League victories, but he also spent three seasons as the Cubs’ closer and totaled 87 saves in his career.

The final season of Dempster’s career certainly wasn’t his finest, but it may be his fondest memory. Dempster posted a 4.57 ERA in 171 1/3 innings for the Red Sox that season and was rewarded with a 2013 World Series ring when all was said and done.

A two-time All-Star, Dempster also finished sixth in the 2008 National League Cy Young voting in a surprisingly dominant campaign as he transitioned from the bullpen back to the rotation. He totaled 206 2/3 innings that season, posting a 2.96 ERA and averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings along the way.

Baseball-Reference.com values Dempster’s career at 22.6 wins above replacement, while Fangraphs pegs him at 27.5 WAR. In parts of 16 Major League seasons with the Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox, Dempster earned more than $89MM, according to B-Ref. We at MLBTR wish Dempster the best of luck in his post-playing days.


Josh Beckett To Retire

Dodgers righty Josh Beckett said today that he will retire from the game, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. The 34-year-old was slated for surgery on his torn left hip labrum, but will not attempt to work back from the injury.

Beckett was having an excellent season before he was stricken with another significant injury. He owned a 2.88 ERA through 115 2/3 frames, striking out 8.3 and walking 3.0 batters per nine. Though his numbers were propped up somewhat by a .257 BABIP and 85.2% strand rate, Beckett’s stuff was good enough that he managed to record the first and only no-hitter of his career.

It has been a memorable career for Beckett, who won the 2003 World Series MVP with the Marlins at just 23 years of age. By that time, he had already established himself as one of the best young starters in baseball. But by the winter of 2005, he was headed to the Red Sox (along with Mike Lowell) in exchange for a package including future stars Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez.

Beckett had an up-and-down tenure in Boston. Over 2006-11, he averaged 185 innings a year with a 4.04 ERA and 8.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. But he mixed in three All-Star campaigns, including a 2007 effort (3.27 ERA over 204 2/3) in which he was the Cy Young runner-up.

Beckett ultimately signed two extensions with Boston: a three-year, $30MM deal that included a $12MM vesting option and a four-year, $68MM pact that ran through 2014. Of course, the latter contract did not end as might have been hoped at the time. After playing a central role in the public’s dissection of Boston’s 2011 meltdown, Beckett was off to a rough start in 2012 when his contract became part of the massive Red Sox-Dodgers mid-season trade.

Though he may have delivered more value back to Los Angeles than seemed likely at the time of that swap, Beckett continued to be inconsistent. He threw well down the stretch in 2012 before scuffling through an injury-plagued 2013.

Things ended on a high note, of course, and Beckett will leave the game having contributed 35.3 rWAR and 39.0 fWAR to his clubs. For that production, he earned over $116MM. MLBTR wishes Beckett the best of luck in whatever endeavors he chooses to pursue now that his playing days are over.


Fernando Tatis Retires

Fernando Tatis has announced his retirement from baseball, El Deportista reports (link in Spanish). Tatis hadn’t played in the Majors since 2010, but he has played in his native Dominican Republic since then and played in Mexico this year. Tatis last turned up in these pages in early 2013, when he worked out for the Orioles (who ultimately did not sign him).

Tatis’ best season came in 1999, when he hit .298/.404/.553 while hitting 34 home runs (including two grand slams in one inning) as the Cardinals’ starting third baseman. He also played for the Rangers, Expos, Orioles and Mets in a career spanning parts of 11 seasons. He finishes his career with a line of .265/.344/.442 and with career earnings of over $17MM, according to Baseball-Reference.com.


Octavio Dotel Retires

The man who has played for more Major League teams than anyone in history won’t be adding another to his resumé, as right-hander Octavio Dotel has decided to officially retire, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish.

Last we heard on Dotel, the veteran reliever was looking to make a comeback in 2014, though that never wound up coming to be. Cotillo notes that Dotel tried to rehab from his most recent injury (elbow inflammation that cost him nearly all of the 2013 season) in the Dominican Republic in hopes of latching on with a new team, but the rehab was unsuccessful.

Dotel, 40, will finish his career having played for a record 13 teams in the Majors. In parts of 15 big league seasons between the Astros, Athletics, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Mets, Rockies, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Yankees and Blue Jays, Dotel compiled a 3.78 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 32.5 percent ground-ball rate. In his best seasons, Dotel averaged 94+ mph on his fastball, but he lost some of that velocity late in his career and finishes with an average of 93 mph on his heater.

Dotel never earned an All-Star nod, but he did secure a World Series ring after pitching 24 2/3 innings of 3.28 ERA ball during the regular season for the 2011 Cardinals, plus another 10 1/3 postseason frames in which he yielded three earned runs (2.61 ERA). Dotel recorded saves for nine of the 13 teams for which he played, totaling 109 in a career that earned him more than $41MM, per Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Dotel the best of luck in his post-playing career.


Lyle Overbay Likely To Retire

With his 14th big league season in the books, Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay sounds ready to call it a career. The first baseman said on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) that he is “99.9 percent” certain that he will retire this offseason.

If that indeed holds true, he’ll finish as a lifetime .266/.347/.429 hitter with 151 homers. Those numbers were compiled over stretches with the Blue Jays, Brewers, and Diamondbacks along with shorter stints with the Pirates, Yankees, and Braves. Overbay’s best season, perhaps, came in 2006 with Toronto, when he slashed a robust .312/.372/.508 over 640 plate appearances and hit a career-high 22 long balls.

In his second run with the Brewers this year, Overbay served as a platoon mate to Mark Reynolds. On his left-handed side of the ledger, Overbay put up a .233/.328/.333 line in 296 plate appearances. After starting his career as an 18th-round draft pick, the University of Nevada, Reno product has managed to rack up $36MM in career earnings.