5:57pm: Willingham says that he has yet to decide whether or not he will play next year, as Berardino tweets.
3:30pm: Right-handed slugger Josh Willingham has decided to retire following the conclusion of the 2014 campaign, according to a report from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. According to Berardino, the 35-year-old Willingham has told people close to him that he is “100 percent retiring,” although agent Matt Sosnick tells MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (Twitter link) that “Josh and [his wife] Ginger haven’t made a definitive decision.”
Willingham has been slowed by a groin injury for much of September, which comes just months after he missed nearly two months with a fractured wrist (suffered when he was hit by a pitch) and a year after he missed a large chunk of the 2013 season with a torn meniscus.
Willingham inked a three-year, $21MM contract with the Twins in the 2011-12 offseason and proceeded to have a career year, mashing 35 homers and posting a very strong .260/.366/.524 batting line in 2012, despite playing in the pitcher-friendly confines of Minneapolis’ Target Field. However, since that time he’s batted .212/.345/.382 as he’s battled those injuries. Minnesota flipped him to the division-rival Royals in exchange for pitching prospect Jason Adam in August.
A late bloomer, Willingham didn’t make his Major League debut until age 25 and didn’t see more than 29 plate appearances in a season until his age-27 campaign with the Marlins. However, he quickly established himself as an on-base machine and a power threat, as he posted an OPS+ and wRC+ of at least 100 (league average) or better in each season from 2006-14 (with the exception of an OPS+ of 96 last year).
In total, Willingham has put together a .253/.359/.465 batting line with 195 home runs in his Major League career. As Berardino notes, his 35-homer campaign in 2012 makes him one of just three players in Twins franchise history with a 35-homer season, joining late Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and 1959 Rookie of the Year Bob Allison. With the Royals almost certainly ticketed for the playoffs, Willingham is set to make the first postseason appearance of his 11-year big league career in October. He’s earned $35.6MM as a Major Leaguer, per Baseball-Reference.com.