One of the most fascinating ballplayers of his generation, Rick Ankiel, has officially retired, Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin announced on the air today (story via MLB.com's AJ Cassavell). Ankiel is hoping to stay in the game by catching on in a front office.
Ankiel is a 34-year-old, power-hitting, free-agent outfielder who was cut loose by two different clubs last year. That seemed an unlikely ending when he cracked the league at age 19 as a big-armed pitcher, announcing himself with a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings for the Cardinals. He followed that up with an outstanding rookie year, throwing 175 innings of 3.50 ERA ball, notching 10.0 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9.
Then, of course, came Ankiel's sudden and stunning meltdown on the mound during the 2000 postseason. He never recovered to regain his former promise, and seemed destined to fade into obscurity.
Things took a second, almost equally startling turn when Ankiel re-emerged as an outfielder. Returning to the bigs in August of 2007, Ankiel swatted a home run in his debut and never looked back. He ultimately logged 2,019 plate appearances, notching 74 home runs and compiling a .242/.304/.427 line. And, of course, he put his powerful arm to good use, unleashing a number of memorable throws that cut down baserunners looking to stretch an extra base.
Though he was reportedly still interested in playing as recently as February, Ankiel had not received any interest at that point. He apparently decided to hang up his spikes now, rather than waiting for another opportunity.
After his time in St. Louis, Ankiel roamed the outfield for several clubs, starting with the Royals and Braves. He played for two seasons with the Nationals before finishing his career in 2013 with the Astros and Mets. Ankiel's overall stat line does not stand out, at least until one notices that it encapsulates two separate careers. Ultimately, his remarkable story, hard-nosed play, and incredible arm ensure that he'll long be remembered as a ballplayer.
Veteran right-hander Guillermo Mota has retired, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter link). Mota signed a minor league deal with the Royals in January but, according to McCullough, wanted to spend more time with his family and left the club's Spring Training camp on Friday.
Mota, 40, originally signed with the Mets in 1990 as an infielder and ended up spending 14 Major League seasons on the mound with the Expos, Dodgers (in two different stints), Marlins, Indians, Mets, Brewers and Giants. That last stop in San Francisco earned Mota his first two World Series rings as part of the Giants' 2010 and 2012 championship teams. The righty was also suspended twice for PED violations, serving a 50-game suspension in 2007 and then 100 games in 2012.
Over 856 2/3 Major League relief innings, Mota posted a 3.94 ERA with a 7.3 K/9 and 2.10 K/BB rate and held right-handed batters to just a .683 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, Mota earned just over $18.2MM in his career.
Longtime MLB starter Carl Pavano will end his comeback bid and retire, agent Dave Pepe tells MLBTR. The 38-year-old threw 1,788 2/3 innings over parts of 14 seasons, posting a career 4.39 ERA.
"Despite my strong desire to compete and hard work in preparing for the upcoming season," said Pavano. "I feel that the amount of time lost from my spleen injury, coupled with the recovery from my complications from that injury, preclude me from continuing to compete at my highest level, which is necessary to perform in the major leagues." He went on to add that "three months of rigorous training have failed to produce the results that I was looking for to allow me to continue my major league career."
Pavano had an injury-shortened 2012 campaign, then suffered a ruptured spleen through a freak accident. After sitting out the 2013 season, Pavano had been working his way back with the hopes of returning to the bigs for 2014.
Though he had many strong seasons, Pavano's best came in 2004, when he threw 222 1/3 innings for the Marlins, posting an even 3.00 ERA. He made his only All-Star game that year, and finished sixth in Cy Young voting.
Never a big strikeout pitcher, Pavano steadily honed his control over his career, going from issuing about 3 free passes per nine in his early days to a miniscule 1.1 BB/9 in his final campaign. After an injury-plagued and ill-fated stint with the Yankees, Pavano returned to delivering 200-inning seasons well into his mid-30's for the Twins. Between 2009-11, his age 33-35 seasons, Pavano put up 199 1/3, 221, and 222 innings, respectively. Though his ERA varied over that stretch (5.10, 3.75, and 4.30), advanced metrics never wavered in valuing his output, with his FIP holding between 4.00 and 4.10, his xFIP staying between 3.86 and 4.14, and his SIERA mark never falling outside of the 3.95 and 4.30 range.
In addition to his time in Florida, New York, and Minnesota, Pavano started his career with the Expos and also saw action with the Indians. Fangraphs values his career contribution at 23.7 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference pegs it at 17 WAR. Pavano earned over $63.5MM over his 14 years.
After 13 seasons in the Major Leagues and 18 years in professional baseball, right-hander Jake Westbrook has decided to retire, he said today in an interview with Rob Rains of STLSportsPage.com. Westbrook says he is looking forward to spending time with his four children and wife Heather:
"I’m excited about the next part of my life and that’s being home with the kids and my wife Heather and spending time with them and going to all of the things I haven’t had a chance to do over the last 18 years in the spring and summertime. Being home is going to be fun."
Westbrook tells Rains that he entered the season preparing to pitch another season but was only 50-50 on whether or not he would actually follow through on that plan. "The interest that I was getting wasn’t significant enough for me to go through the grind of another year and be away from my family," Westbrook said.
Originally selected by the Rockies with the 21st overall pick in the 1996 draft, Westbrook signed with Colorado out of high school but didn't make his big league debut until 2000 with the Yankees. The Rockies traded him to the Expos, who flipped him to the Bombers in a trade that netted Hideki Irabu. Westbrook would appear in just three games with the Yankees before being traded to the Indians, with whom he would spend the next nine seasons of his career.
A 2010 trade to the Cardinals in a three-team deal also involving the Padres propelled Westbrook to a World Series Championship in 2011, which he called the best thing to happen to him in baseball:
"...getting traded to the Cardinals was probably the best thing that happened in my career. It’s such a storied organization and the atmosphere I witnessed there, and being in the playoffs all those years. Getting a chance to pitch in the World Series and winning game six in 2011 was pretty special and something I will always have."
Westbrook's career will come to a close with a 105-103 record, a 4.32 ERA, 965 strikeouts and 571 walks in 1747 2/3 innings at the big league level. Among 147 pitchers to have thrown 1000 innings since 2002, Westbrook (and his sinker) produced a 58.7 percent ground-ball rate that trails only Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe in that time. The 36-year-old has earned more than $71MM in his career (including his signing bonus out of the draft). We at MLBTR extend our best wishes to Westbrook and his family in his post-baseball life.
Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri. Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.
Here are some items from around the baseball world...
- The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said. Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract. This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal. Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
- The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
- The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today. The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
- Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive. The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
- The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
- Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
- Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired. Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career. Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.
Legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced today on his Facebook page that he will retire after the 2014 season (hat tip to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, whose colleague Mark Feinsand tweets that agent Casey Close has confirmed the retirement). Jeter, who turns 40 in June, re-signed with the Yankees -- the only franchise he's ever played for -- earlier in the off-season.
The coming season will be Jeter's 20th MLB campaign (though he saw just 51 plate appearances in his first taste of MLB action at age 21). Taken with the sixth overall pick of the 1992 draft, Jeter performed consistently in his rise through the system, and never looked back upon making the Yankees. Since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 1996, Jeter went 17 straight years with at least 542 trips to the dish. Over that stretch, Jeter posted a composite .313/.382/.448 line with 255 home runs and 348 stolen bases. Needless to say, his standard of consistent excellence has been matched by few others.
That run of good health came to an end last year, which Jeter says is a major reason for his decision today. "Last year was a tough one for me," said Jeter. "As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle."
Indeed, while things always did seem to come easily to the shortstop, he was perhaps better known for his hard work and leadership. The Yanks' emergence from mediocrity and notable run of success aligns quite clearly with his career: the team qualified for the post-season in all but two of Jeter's seasons (2008 and 2013). Over that span, the team won added five World Series victories to New York's tally. And Jeter was even better in the post-season, posting a lifetime .308/.374/.465 triple-slash in a remarkable 734 career post-season plate appearances.
Along the way, of course, Jeter racked up ample amounts of individual hardware, including 13 All-Star appearances, five Silver Sluggers, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year Award, and the 2000 World Series MVP. Somewhat surprisingly, particularly given his high profile, he never took home an American League MVP nod.
He was also awarded five Gold Glove awards, somewhat more controversially. Proponents of advanced metrics argue that Jeter has actually been rather a poor defensive shortstop: though he makes few errors, neither does he have much range. (Jeter has been worth -147 Defensive Runs Saved and a -67.8 UZR.)
Whatever one thinks of Jeter as a defender, he has unquestionably put up a Hall of Fame-worthy career. That inevitability was likely sealed when he notched his 3,000th hit, but is also supported by the numbers. Jeter has racked up a total of 71.6 rWAR and 73.8 fWAR to date, which places him at 58th and 45th, respectively, on the all-time list of position players. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues, Jeter falls short of only Cal Ripken in total production among full-time shortstops since Honus Wagner retired in 1917. (Though, to be fair, Jeter is quite close to several other shortstops in both fWAR and rWAR, and falls behind several of them according to the latter metric.)
Those wins did not come cheap, however. Once his 2014 earnings are in the bag, Jeter will have earned over $265MM over his career. For sake of comparison, Chipper Jones -- who racked up 85.1 rWAR over 1995-2012 -- took down nearly $100MM less in his time in the bigs. And Carlos Beltran, who has been worth 67.5 rWAR since 1998, will reach just under $206MM by the time his new contract expires after 2016.
For the Yankees, Jeter's retirement confirms what had been suspected: the team needs a new shortstop for 2015 and beyond. Though Brendan Ryan will remain under contract, he does not profile as a starter on a team that hopes to win championships. At least one team executive told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he did not know that Jeter planned to retire (Twitter link), so it is at least conceivable that today's announcement could have some impact on whether New York looks to make any more moves before embarking on the 2014 season.
Veteran right-hander and three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt has decided to retire, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Though he's retiring from playing the game, it looks as if Oswalt will join the business side of baseball, as Olney also adds that he will begin working with former agent Bob Garber.
That Oswalt, 36, made "only" three All-Star teams is somewhat surprising (to this writer at least), given his run of dominance in the early 2000s. In 2001, Oswalt finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, fifth in the Cy Young vote and 22nd in the MVP vote on the strength of a 2.73 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 141 2/3 innings (unfortunately for Oswalt, that was also Albert Pujols' rookie year).
Over the next 10 seasons with the Astros, Oswalt turned in a 3.24 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He was flipped to the Phillies in 2010 in exchange for Anthony Gose, J.A. Happ and Jonathan Villar (Gose and Happ have since been traded by Houston -- both are Blue Jays -- while Villar should be their shortstop in 2014). Oswalt was rock-solid in his two seasons with the Phillies when healthy (2.96 ERA in 221 2/3 innings) and helped to compose one of the most intimidating rotation quartets in recent history alongside Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
However, injuries began to pile up quickly for Oswalt, as his already troublesome back worsened and was joined by elbow and hamstring injuries over the next several seasons. Oswalt inked midseason deals with the Rangers and Rockies in 2012 and 2013, respectively, but pitched ineffectively in those hitter-friendly environments and didn't top 60 innings with either club.
Oswalt will retire with a lifetime 163-102 record to go with an outstanding 3.36 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. His 127 ERA+ indicates that even with his struggles in 2012-13, his work, on the whole, was 27 percent better than a league-average starter throughout his career. Though he never took home Cy Young honors, Oswalt had five finishes in the Top 5 and also had a sixth-place finish to his credit as well.
Baseball-Reference pegs Oswalt's career at 49.9 wins above replacement, and Fangraphs' valuation is a near-mirror image at 49.7 WAR. Oswalt earned roughly $97MM in his playing career, according to B-Ref. Looking beyond Major League Baseball, Oswalt twice represented the United States on a global scale, winning a Gold Medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics and also pitching for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
MLBTR wishes him well in his new career path and congratulates Oswalt on an excellent Major League career.
Former Brewers reliever Mitch Stetter announced on Twitter last night that he has retired from baseball and accepted a coaching job with the Royals. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Stetter will be the Double-A bullpen coach. Stetter, 33, hasn't appeared in the bigs since 2011 after his career was cut short by hip surgery and a back injury. From 2009-11 with the Brew Crew, Stetter posted a 3.46 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9 in 75 1/3 innings. While his command was clearly lacking, the southpaw held opposing lefties to just a .194/.310/.335 slash line in his career. Best of luck in your coaching career, Mitch.
Elsewhere in baseball's Central divisions...
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Royals will only be on the hook for about $575K of Emilio Bonifacio's salary if he clears release waivers tomorrow at 2pm ET and becomes a free agent. While a claim is unlikely, a number of teams are interested in Bonifacio, he adds in a second tweet.
- Cotillo tweets that as many as nine teams have interest in Bonifacio. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the Orioles are one of those teams, pointing out that Bonifacio has long been a favorite of manager Buck Showalter. Besides that, the Orioles lack a clear starter at Bonifacio's best position -- second base. However, Kubatko also tweets that Baltimore isn't interested in him at his $3.5MM salary, so a waiver claim isn't likely.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan, who announced yesterday that he has cancer, is among the game's most respected general managers, writes Phil Rogers of MLB.com. Rogers recalls that Ryan displayed the ultimate selflessness a GM could show back in 2001 when, with the Twins facing contraction, Ryan turned down a chance to run the Blue Jays to stay with his club.
- Right-hander Rich Harden wants to pitch in 2014 but won't sign anywhere until he's further along in his throwing, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The Twins wouldn't rule out a return for Harden, even though the former ace never pitched for one of Minnesota's affiliates after signing a minor league deal with the club last offseason.
Relievers Dan Wheeler and Joel Zumaya have officially retired from the game, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links). The pair of 6'3" righties each saw their share of success at the MLB level.
Wheeler, 36, had far the lengthier career of the two. Over 13 big league seasons, Wheeler posted a cumulative 3.98 ERA over 640 2/3 innings, most all of them in relief. He was a sturdy presence in the pen for the Rays and Astros over much of the first decade of the 21st century, and also had stints with the Mets, Red Sox, and Indians. He ended his MLB career with a disappointing run in Cleveland in 2012, and likewise struggled last year with the Royals' Triple-A affiliate.
Zumaya, who just turned 29 in November, showed flashes of excellence in his short career. Over five seasons with the Tigers, the fireballer posted a 3.05 ERA in 209 2/3 innings pitched. (Somewhat oddly, he notched exactly one save in each of those campaigns.) His lifetime rate stats stand at 9.0 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9. Zumaya's best season was his first: in 83 1/3 innings in 2006, he allowed just 1.94 earned runs per nine innings. A series of elbow surgeries led to an untimely end to Zumaya's playing days.
Longtime Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs will retire, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter). The 34-year-old, who will join ROOT Sports as an analyst, wrote about his decision in a blog post.
Spilborghs spent time at all three outfield positions during parts of seven seasons in Colorado, playing an important reserve role in the club's 2007 and 2009 playoff runs. His career line stands at a sturdy .272/.345/.423 in 1,769 trips to the plate. In his best season at the plate, 2008, Spilborghs slashed .313/.407/.468 in 275 plate appearances.
After spending 2012 in the upper minors, Spilborghs headed to Japan last season. He saw 246 plate appearances for the Saitama Seibu Lions, slashing a disappointing .210/.283/.305.