Blinded by competitiveness and high potential salaries, MLB veterans usually don't know when to retire. In reality, every team has a player who should discontinue his playing career immediately or following the 2013 season.
The rationale varies with the individual. In many cases, guys with limited abilities stick around past their primes to pursue the pipe dream of becoming a major league regular. You might not even realize that they are still employed.
Then there are others who have consistently survived on active rosters as reserves. They want to continue in that capacity for as long as possible (e.g. Jose Molina).
Fortunately, the former superstars have more self-awareness. Lance Berkman and Mariano Rivera, for example, understand that it's time for the next phase of their lives.
MLB debut: July 21, 2002.
The journeyman catcher has enjoyed a pleasant uptick in batting average since joining the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Teams aren't fooled. Wil Nieves plays sparingly behind Miguel Montero and—even as the hits pile up—he seldom goes for extra bases (7 HR in 935 PA).
His BABIP will regress as the summer wears on. It's unlikely that Nieves will get any major league contract offers for 2014.
MLB debut: March 31, 2008.
Midway through May of his rookie season, Blake DeWitt was the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner. In hindsight, that attested to the lack of depth among 2008 freshmen in the Senior Circuit.
In 2013, DeWitt has only four forgettable major league plate appearances.
Aside from a contact swing, he doesn't distinguish himself from other not-so-successful utility players.
MLB debut: June 14, 2001.
People might have forgotten how effective Brian Roberts used to be. He was a two-time All-Star and smooth fielder who wholly deserved a $40 million contract extension a few years back.
After a series of unrelated, yet serious, injuries, the Baltimore Orioles have little to show for their investment. Roberts' body has failed him, and upcoming surgery will sideline the second baseman for at least another month.
The O's don't really need him, but patients at the University of Maryland Children's Hospital do. The One For All Fund supports those with chronic and critical injuries.
Roberts can still be a hero in the Baltimore community without putting himself through more pain.
MLB debut: May 10, 2006.
Charlie Haeger's knuckleball intrigues MLB clubs enough to extend his career. Of course, it has failed to establish the right-hander at the highest level.
While with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, Haeger was hammered for 36 hits across 30 innings. He issued 26 walks in that brief time.
In the meantime, Haeger has since been toiling in the high minors.
MLB debut: June 4, 2006.
Carlos Marmol no longer has the filthy repertoire to compensate for his lack of command. As a result, his WHIP is higher than ever.
He still has more remaining ability than the average reliever, but there isn't a front office or fanbase in the majors that can stomach his inconsistency.
Marmol's expiring $20 million contract extension will surely be enough to support his family in retirement.
MLB debut: September 8, 1997.
It's been a nice ride for Paul Konerko. The highlights include team captaincy, a World Series championship, 400-plus home runs and more than 2,000 MLB games.
Now, with all his "tight friends" out of the majors (via Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune), he ought to follow suit.
Konerko would need to accept a significant pay cut to continue his playing career. He obviously struggles to field and run the bases, and even his offensive contributions aren't all that impressive at age 37.
With depth issues and a weak farm system, the Chicago White Sox don't seem particularly close to contending. If Konerko agreed to terms with a more legitimate club, his role would be considerably smaller.
MLB debut: May 22, 2002.
The Chicago Cubs gave up on Mark Prior in December 2007. The Cincinnati Reds are the fifth team to take a flier on him since then.
After constant shoulder issues (including two surgeries), the former National League Cy Young Award candidate works out of the bullpen with diminished stuff. He's currently on the disabled list with yet another muscle strain.
Prior's body is begging him to stop with these comeback attempts. He'll soon be out of opportunities anyway.
Jason Giambi still has the strength and bat speed to go deep against any pitcher.
The hassle for MLB teams, however, is accommodating a 42-year-old with zero defensive aptitude and constant injuries. The frequency of his DL stints is bad enough, but the minor aches can be just as frustrating. Giambi would remain on the active roster while battling several days' worth of back spasms, for example, leaving the bench short-handed.
The slugger contemplated entering the coaching ranks last winter and aspires to be a major league manager. He ought to begin that transition immediately.
MLB debut: August 10, 2002.
After being cut by the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of spring training, Aaron Cook returned to the franchise that originally drafted him in 1997.
The right-hander is coming off back-to-back messy campaigns, particularly in terms of strikeout rate. Even though the Colorado Rockies had pitching concerns in 2012, their staff has dramatically improved.
There's no room for a 34-year-old who has just one quality start in five tries for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (0-3, 7.40 ERA) this season.
MLB debut: September 21, 2006.
The 31-year-old southpaw has made 24 career starts in the majors. His only particularly memorable performance was an eight-inning, 10-strikeout gem in 2010 as a member of the New York Mets.
Unfortunately, there's nothing about Pat Misch's recent pitching to suggest that he's worthy of a call-up...at least not in the near future. Perhaps the Detroit Tigers will run away with the AL Central title and use Misch to eat meaningless innings come late September.
He could hang on to a professional career into 2014 and beyond, but he probably won't be taken seriously as an asset.
MLB debut: August 23, 1999.
What an epic comeback.
To refresh your memories, Rick Ankiel entered 2000 as baseball's top pitching prospect. He lived up to the hype during the regular season (194 SO in 175.0 IP), only to implode in the playoffs. The left-hander uncorked nine wild pitches in two appearances, as the St. Louis Cardinals fell in the NLCS.
Ankiel returned to the major league mound the next summer, then again in 2004. He just didn't know where the ball was going anymore.
So he accepted a position switch, refined his swing and became a productive outfielder.
Making contact gradually became more and more difficult, however, and the Cardinals dismissed him after 2009. Though Ankiel found other work, he never truly became a full-time player. The 25-game stint with the Houston Astros was rock bottom, as his constant whiffing negated all power contributions.
He was designated for assignment on May 6.
MLB debut: September 30, 2000.
Xavier Nady's athletic peak was interrupted by Tommy John surgery. He owns a mediocre .237/.288/.347 batting line since returning from the procedure.
Major league competition will exploit the fact that he isn't particularly athletic or disciplined at the plate.
Nady can spend another year or two as a journeyman or end the suffering immediately.
MLB debut: May 1, 2004.
Brad Hawpe hasn't been the same offensive threat since leaving the Colorado Rockies (.866 OPS before, .644 OPS after).
He spent much of the 2000s as a starting outfielder, though every defensive metric agrees that he's a liability if used there. Only first base suits Hawpe's physical limitations.
During two months with the Frisco RoughRiders in 2012, he struck out 39 times in 152 plate appearances. Making contact is even more of an issue for him currently as a member of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
Major league pitching would obliterate him.
MLB debut: April 2, 2002.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Sean Burroughs this past April 10, but he hasn't appeared in any minor league games yet.
Jim Caple of ESPN.com reports about his turbulent professional career. Very cool story.
But frankly, nothing about Burroughs' stints with the Arizona Diamondbacks or Minnesota Twins suggests he'll be more than a replacement level player.
MLB debut: September 7, 2004.
The 2013 Miami Marlins were untalented to begin with. On top of that, they've recently been decimated by injuries.
Wilson Valdez hasn't received a call-up yet, which speaks volumes about how he's struggling with the bat in the high-scoring Pacific Coast League (Triple-A).
The soon-to-be 35-year-old's WAR ranked him among the worst players in the majors last summer.
MLB debut: April 8, 2009.
The Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles gave Chris Jakubauskas opportunities to establish himself as a long man/spot starter. He didn't really pan out.
The right-hander is doing fine at Triple-A, though the Milwaukee Brewers have a surplus of younger options in the high minors.
MLB debut: July 21, 2003.
It seems like Rich Harden's last major league appearance came an eternity ago, yet he's only 31 years old.
His shoulder has suffered a lot of damage, however, ruling out a return to starting duty. Harden wasn't particularly effective when last spotted on the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. He was missing fewer bats and surrendering too many fly balls.
Mark Berardino of Pioneer Press reports that the right-hander doesn't expect to regain his mid-90s velocity. It's hard to imagine him succeeding if that's the case.
MLB debut: May 4, 2005.
The New York Yankees once had hopes that Sean Henn could be a serviceable back-end starter. He just couldn't overcome his control problems.
FanGraphs shows us that Henn has one of the highest career earned run averages in the modern era (min. 80 IP). His walk rate is nearly as unsightly.
Major League Baseball never likes to give up on a left-hander, but this one has been stuck at Triple-A for years. He currently boasts a 7.94 ERA and 3.53 WHIP for the Las Vegas 51s, a New York Mets affiliate. That's no way to earn a promotion.
MLB debut: May 23, 1995.
Of all the players on this list, Mariano Rivera is the only one we confidently anticipate retiring after 2013.
Ineffectiveness isn't the issue; the Sandman has been almost as automatic as ever in the ninth inning. There's simply nothing left for him to prove or accomplish.
With the exception of a Cy Young Award, Rivera has received all the top individual honors that a reliever can. His next challenge? Becoming the first unanimous Hall of Fame inductee. The sooner he quits, the quicker he'll appear on the ballot.
MLB debut: April 4, 1997.
We have to tip our hats to Bartolo Colon.
It stood to reason that his late-career success was attributable to performance-enhancing drug use. Yet coming off a 50-game suspension, he's still a relentless strike-thrower with above-average velocity.
Colon has ample earnings to live off of. It would be fitting that he retires while teammates and fans hold him in high regard.
MLB debut: September 20, 1998.
Roy Halladay might have been the sport's best pitcher during the 2000s. He certainly was from 2010-2011, his first two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Part of his legacy is that "let me finish what I started" mentality. That's why he earned All-Star selections and Cy Young Awards (and why his shoulder has deteriorated to mush).
Nobody wants to watch Halladay hang around past his usefulness. It will dull the memories of his past excellence.
MLB debut: July 4, 1999.
Defensive substitutes have a place in the majors, especially the National League.
But there comes a point when such players offend the baseball gods with their inept bats. John McDonald, 38, has reached that point.
His career .275 on-base percentage is barely acceptable. In 2013, the infielder has a .077/.172/.115 batting line.
MLB debut: July 11, 1997.
Nothing typed here will convince Mark Kotsay to quit playing after 2013.
"I have a lot of retired friends who tell me to play as long as you can," he tells Corey Brock of MLB.com, "because when you're done, you're done."
His chances of sticking with a potential contender seem slim. Kotsay doesn't provide great defense or much power or particularly impressive numbers against right-handed pitching.
However, he's flirting with a .300 batting average this season (granted in very limited plate appearances). The 37-year-old can "go out on top," as they like to say.
MLB debut: September 2, 2000.
This is assuming that Ryan Vogelsong can't get his act together.
During this rebirth with the San Francisco Giants, the right-hander has been excellent at spacious AT&T Park. But if that's no longer the case, the front office wouldn't exercise his $6.5 million option for 2014.
Vogelsong's regression isn't all that sudden. His performances became irregular late in the 2012 campaign.
MLB debut: August 1, 1996.
Raul Ibanez is a disaster in the field and an automatic out against left-handed pitching.
Position players who hang around past 40 almost always do so to pursue their first championship. Though Ibanez doesn't have one, he's already etched in baseball history as a postseason hero (via MLB.com).
MLB debut: April 4, 2000.
Rafael Furcal has occasionally committed errors at inopportune times, but all in all, he's among the best defensive shortstops to never win a Gold Glove.
The hardware certainly won't be coming to him in the future. The 35-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training.
Even if his arm strength returns, Furcal lacks the offensive tools to validate everyday usage.
MLB debut: September 6, 1999.
Jose Molina is still a solid defensive catcher, though not an intimidating presence who discourages speedy baserunners from challenging him.
His eagerness to swing early in the count has become increasingly problematic because he's less mobile than ever. Old, hefty players can expect to see their BABIP drop.
Now that Molina has two World Series rings, it's time to take off the pads forever.
Berkman could play until age 50 and still be a great hitter.
MLB debut: July 16, 1999.
Without question, Lance Berkman could be a decent designated hitter for another decade. He has the prerequisite beautiful stroke and plate discipline.
But clearly his mind is in other places.
Last November, Berkman opened up to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle about his coaching aspirations. He wants to transition into a college job as soon as playing isn't worth the exertion.
Those surgically-repaired knees won't cooperate much longer.
MLB debut: September 1, 1993.
The left-hander would have called it a career last offseason if not for the $3 million remaining on his contract.
Darren Oliver won't have any reason to stick around past his 43rd birthday. He provided nearly $50 million in career earnings for his family, nearly 40 percent of which came after he swallowed his pride and accepted a relief role.
MLB debut: September 7, 2010.
Yunesky Maya is only in the Washington Nationals organization because his contract runs through 2013.
He left Cuba to realize his dream of pitching in the majors. The Nats gave him opportunities in 2010 and 2011.
Unfortunately, Maya has a very ordinary repertoire. According to FanGraphs, his fastball averaged less than 90 mph during both MLB stints, even though he made several 2011 appearances out of the bullpen.
With the exception of his latest outing versus the Durham Bulls, Maya has not shown the pinpoint control he'll need to survive at the highest level.