10 MLB Veterans Who Most Need to Hang Up Their Spikes
Deciding when to call it quits and retire is never easy for an athlete, as athletes want to continue playing the game that they love but eventually reach a point where they can no longer do it at the high level they are accustomed to.
This offseason has already seen one superstar call it a career, Braves third baseman and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.
Joining him in retirement following the 2012 season are infielder Omar Vizquel, outfielder Hideki Matsui, starter Kevin Millwood and reliever Brian Fuentes.
Those are far from the only players who should find themselves on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot though, and here is as a look at the 10 veterans who most need to hang up their spikes.
1B Aubrey Huff, Free Agent
A key leader of the 2010 Giants team that went on to win the title, Huff hit .290 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI on a one-year, $3 million deal.
That performance earned him a two-year, $22 million extension from the Giants, but he was unable to find that same success.
Last year, he hit just .192 in 78 total at-bats, as a knee injury and anxiety issues kept him off the field for much of the season. Now the 36-year-old is without a job as spring training kicks off, and he may have no choice but to call it a career.
SP Scott Kazmir, Cleveland Indians
From 2005-2008, Kazmir was among the best young starters in baseball and the ace of the Rays pitching staff.
The two-time All-Star was traded to the Angels in 2009 after struggling to a 5.92 ERA through his first 20 starts with Tampa, and he thrived in posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts in Los Angeles.
He fell off swiftly from there though, going 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in his first full season with the Angels and making just one appearance in 2011 before being released.
That one appearance was his last in the majors, and he spent last season in the Independent League where he was just 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA in 14 starts. As a left-hander with an All-Star past, teams will keep taking a flier on him until he retires, but his chances of making a roster seem slim at this point.
DH/OF Bobby Abreu, Free Agent
After a solid first season with the Angels in 2009, Abreu has fallen off significantly, and the 38-year-old is nothing more than a fourth outfielder at this point.
Last year, the Angels released him after just eight games, and he caught on with an injury-riddled Dodgers team where he hit .246/.361/.344 with three home runs and 19 RBI over 195 at-bats.
He's a shell of the power-speed threat he once was, and his defense is a liability at this point. His only real asset is his terrific on-base skills, as he can still bring a professional at-bat and draw a walk.
Abreu is one of the most dynamic all-around offensive players of the past 20 years, with a .292/.396/.477 slash line, 287 home runs and 399 steals. He doesn't have much left in the tank at this point though.
SP Roy Oswalt, Free Agent
The 35-year-old Oswalt struggled to find a suitable offer last offseason, due in large part to back problems, and didn't sign with the Rangers until late May.
In 17 total appearances (nine starts), he went 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA and struck out 59 batters in 59 innings of work.
The Mets showed interest in bringing the right-hander aboard as a reliever and possible closer (h/t ESPN), but Oswalt is not interested in relieving and will likely either wait until midseason to sign again or simply retire.
If he's 100 percent, he could be an asset for someone come summer, but at this point, it is doubtful he will ever be able to return to his previous level.
3B Scott Rolen, Free Agent
Though his .245/.318/.398 line last season was far from impressive and he was limited to just 92 games due to nagging shoulder problems, Rolen was nonetheless an important veteran leader for the Reds.
After mulling over returning to Cincinnati in a reserve role, it was officially announced (via Twitter) that Rolen would not be joining the Reds for spring training.
That leaves the door open for a return at some point during the season or for him to sign with another team, but at this point it may be time for Rolen to hang it up.
With a .281/.364/.490 slash line, 316 home runs, 1,287 RBI and eight Gold Gloves, Rolen ranks as one of the greatest third basemen of all time, and he has a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame.
SP Derek Lowe, Free Agent
Last offseason, the Braves shipped Derek Lowe and $10 million of the $15 million remaining on his contract to the Indians for a low-level prospect in what was nothing more than a cost-cutting move.
The move looked to be a steal through nine starts, as he was 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA. The falloff from there was a swift one though, as he went 2-8 with a 8.80 ERA over his next 12 starts and was released in August.
He was solid in relief after signing with the Yankees, posting a 3.04 ERA over 17 appearances, but after turning down a minor league deal from the Rockies (h/t Troy Renck on Twitter), he may be headed for retirement.
1B/DH Jason Giambi, Cleveland Indians
Once one of the most prolific sluggers in the league, Giambi has taken on a much smaller role the past few seasons but has remained a viable power option off the bench.
In 307 at-bats over the past two seasons in Colorado, Giambi has hit 19 home runs and posted a solid .854 OPS.
It was an interesting offseason for the 42-year-old Giambi, as he interviewed for the Rockies' vacant manager job and was one of the finalists before the position went to Walt Weiss.
He has all the makings of a future manger and will serve as a useful veteran presence on the Indians while seeing time at DH and first base. Still, he may have been better suited beginning his coaching career at this point.
1B/DH Jim Thome, Free Agent
With 612 career home runs over his 22-year big league career, Thome is one of the most prolific power hitters in the history of the game and a future Hall of Famer.
As recently as 2010, the 42-year-old hit 25 home runs and garnered MVP votes while serving as a key bat for the Twins.
He has continued to produce in a smaller role the past two years, hitting a combined .255/.355/.464 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI in 440 at-bats.
However, back and neck problems landed him on the DL last season, and seeing as he's yet to find a suitor this offseason, it could be the end of the line for one of the all-time greats.
SP Carl Pavano, Free Agent
Set aside for a moment the fact that the 37-year-old Pavano was terrible last season with a 6.00 ERA in 11 starts, as that is not even the biggest reason the right-hander should hang it up.
The veteran pitcher suffered an injury to his spleen while shoveling snow this offseason and nearly died (h/t ESPN), eventually having it removed and spending three weeks in the hospital.
At this point, it is unclear whether he will be able to pitch again, but given how poorly he performed last season and where his career is presently at, he's best suited retiring.
3B Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
He already indicated earlier this offseason that he has no intentions of retiring (h/t Yahoo! Sports), but at this point, hanging it up may be best for everyone involved in the case of Alex Rodriguez.
A week or so ago, fellow B/R writer Zachary Rymer wrote a terrific piece chronicling A-Rod's well documented fall from grace, as his recent involvement in the Biogenesis case is just the latest in a long line of disgraces.
Set to miss at least the first half of the 2013 season following hip surgery, and far from the superstar player he once was, a ride off into the sunset would be a welcome end to his career from the Yankees standpoint. That won't happen though, given the $114 million he is still owed over the next five years.
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