Retirement Rumors


Athletics Release Joe Blanton

TUESDAY: Blanton has been released by the Athletics, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. 

SUNDAY, 9:57pm: Fletcher now clarifies that Blanton has left the Athletics' Triple-A team, but it's unclear whether he's actually retiring.

USATSI_73481628:56pm: Longtime starting pitcher Joe Blanton has retired, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Fletcher notes that the Angels are still on the hook for the remainder of Blanton's $7.5MM salary for 2014, plus a $1MM buyout for 2015, even though Blanton has started two games for the Athletics' Triple-A team in Sacramento this year. The Angels released Blanton in March.

The Athletics drafted Blanton out of the University of Kentucky with the 24th pick in the first round in 2002, making him the second selection in their "Moneyball" draft class, after Nick Swisher. Blanton made his big-league debut in 2004, then became a regular in the A's rotation in 2005. After several years eating innings in Oakland, Blanton headed to Philadelphia for Josh Outman and two other prospects in 2008. Blanton pitched in the World Series for the Phillies in both 2008 and 2009, and the Phils signed Blanton to a three-year extension prior to the 2010 season. He stuck with the Phillies until 2012 before they traded him to the Dodgers for the stretch run that year.

Blanton then signed an ill-fated two-year, $15MM deal with the Angels, struggling while posting a 6.04 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 132 2/3 innings last season. Blanton, 33, finishes his career with a 4.51 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 1,567 1/3 innings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Darnell McDonald Retires

Veteran outfielder Darnell McDonald announced his retirement from baseball late last night via Instagram.  McDonald re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league deal in December, but he has instead decided to call it a career.

"After playing [15 years] professionally I'm humbled to announce that I'm hanging up my spikes. When one dream ends a new one begins. BIG thanks to everyone that has helped me fulfill my dream of playing in the show," the 35-year-old wrote.

McDonald posted a career .285/.353/.453 slash line against left-handed pitchers at the Major League level. The Colorado native spent the bulk of 2013 at Triple-A Iowa, where he slashed .236/.307/.346 in 294 plate appearances with four homers. He was solid in the bigs as well, however, hitting .302/.351/.434 with a homer in 57 PAs.  McDonald will be remembered mostly for his time with the Red Sox, but he also saw big league action with the Orioles, Twins, Reds, Yankees, and Cubs.



Henry Blanco Joins Diamondbacks' Coaching Staff

5:28pm: Blanco has not officially retired, reports Jack Magruder of FOXSportsArizona.com (via Twitter).

5:17pm: Veteran catcher Henry Blanco has officially retired and accepted an unspecified position with the Diamondbacks' Major League coaching staff, the D'Backs announced via press release.

A veteran of parts of 16 Major League seasons, Blanco split the 2013 season between the Diamondbacks and Mariners, batting .142/.228/.246. Though his overall numbers weren't much to look at, Blanco clubbed a grand slam in his first game with the Mariners and chipped in another slam later in the season with Seattle. He had signed a minor league deal to return to the D'Backs this winter but did not win the backup catcher's role in Spring Training.

Blanco's lengthy professional career began in the 1980s, when the Dodgers inked him as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela. He would make his big league debut with Los Angeles nine years later in 1997 and go on to also don the uniforms of the Rockies, Brewers, Braves, Twins, Cubs, Padres, Mets, D'Backs and Mariners. Blanco finishes his career with a .223/.288/.361 batting line to go along with 72 homers in 3097 big league plate appearances. Always known for his defense behind the plate, Blanco gunned down a highly impressive 43 percent of attempted baserunners in more than 7000 career innings behind the plate.

Blanco earned just shy of $17MM in his playing career, per Baseball-Reference.com, and should have a wealth of knowledge to instill upon younger players as he begins his coaching career in Arizona. MLBTR wishes Blanco the best of luck in his coaching career.



Bill Bray Retires

Former Nationals and Reds reliever Bill Bray tweets that he has retired. He notes that he has a labrum tear, which made the decision simpler for him.

Bray was a first-round pick of the Expos in 2004 out of William & Mary, and he made it to the Majors with the Nationals in 2006 before heading to the Reds in the Austin Kearns trade a month later. He eventually settled in as a semi-regular member of the Reds' bullpen, piling up 197 1/3 career innings with a 3.74 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2012, and spent the 2013 season back in the Nationals organization, dealing with shoulder troubles.



Livan Hernandez To Officially Retire

Though it was largely a foregone conclusion at this point, longtime starting pitcher Livan Hernandez will file his official retirement papers tomorrow, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. As he continues to discuss his future with the Nationals in a non-playing capacity, Hernandez said that he had been waiting for "the right time" to make his final decision.

Now 39 years old, the Cuban-born righty saw action in 17 different MLB seasons, starting with the Marlins and ending with the Brewers. In between, he spent time with seven other clubs, including seven seasons with the Expos/Nationals. Hernandez's best stretch came in 2003-05, straddling the move from Montreal to D.C. Over those three seasons, Livo threw 734 2/3 innings of 3.60 ERA ball, leading the bigs in innings pitched in each season.

Throwing one of the slowest fastballs in the game towards the end of his career, Hernandez nevertheless logged outs with a variety of crafty offspeed offerings. He finished his MLB career with a 4.44 ERA in 3,189 innings. 



Rick Ankiel To Retire

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.



Guillermo Mota Retires

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.



Carl Pavano To Retire

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.



Jake Westbrook Retires

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.



Quick Hits: Bailey, Burnett, Twins, Samardzija

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.









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