Predicting the Next 10 MLB Stars to Play Entire Careers with One Team
In the current era of free agency that sees players jump ship and move on to the highest bidder on a yearly basis, it's becoming more and more rare that a player spends his entire career with one team.
That said, there have been some terrific players who retired or are set to retire in recent years that spent the duration of their career with one club.
Chipper Jones played 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves before retiring after 2012, Mariano Rivera pitched 19 years with the New York Yankees before hanging it up after last season and Derek Jeter is set to retire at the end of the upcoming season after what will be his 20th season in the Bronx.
It's always hard to predict how a player's career will pan out, but here are my predictions for the next 10 superstar-caliber players who will spend their entire career with one team.
1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Current Contract: Signed through 2021 (eight-year, $135 million).
Handed the started first base job during his age-21 season, Freddie Freeman has improved each year leading up to a fantastic 2013 season.
He posted a .319/.396/.501 line with 23 home runs and 109 RBI, finishing fifth in NL MVP voting and providing a consistent bat in the middle of an inconsistent Atlanta Braves lineup. That earned him an eight-year extension, and the 24-year-old could very well follow in Chipper Jones' footsteps as a career member of the Braves.
SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Current Contract: Signed through 2019 (seven-year, $175 million).
A regular member of the Seattle Mariners rotation since his age-19 season, Felix Hernandez has been one of the game's best pitchers for several seasons now. He likely would have piled up more wins playing for a better team, but as it stands the right-hander is 110-86 with a 3.20 ERA in nine big league seasons.
The Mariners rewarded him with a seven-year, $175 million deal last offseason, briefly making him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. That contract will run through his age-33 season, and there's no reason to think his allegiance to the team will waiver late in his career.
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Current Contract: Signed through 2020 (seven-year, $215 million).
When last season kicked off, the title of best pitcher in baseball was a three-man race between Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. By the time the season was over, there was little question as to who the game's elite starter was, as Kershaw absolutely dominated in 2013.
The left-hander went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, winning his third straight ERA title and second NL Cy Young in the last three years. It's almost unfathomable that he'll only be 26 years old on Opening Day, and the Los Angeles Dodgers made him a rich man this offseason. He can opt out of his contract after the 2018 season, but barring injury, it's hard to imagine the Dodgers letting him get away.
3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Current Contract: Signed through 2022 (six-year, $100 million), 2023 option.
As they are known to do, the Tampa Bay Rays locked up Evan Longoria on a team-friendly six-year, $17.5 million deal early in his career that ran through 2013 and also included three option years.
With his continued progression to stardom, the team tacked a six-year, $100 million extension on top of that. The deal could keep him in a Rays jersey through his age-37 season, and as the face of the franchise and one of the league's top players, he could be a Tampa Bay lifer.
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Current Contract: Signed through 2017 (five-year, $75 million), 2018 option.
An elite defensive catcher since he first broke into the league back in 2004, Yadier Molina has stepped his offensive game up over the past few seasons and emerged as arguably the best all-around catcher in the game.
When the St. Louis Cardinals opted to let Albert Pujols walk in free agency, they used some of the money they saved to lock Molina up long-term. As much as he means to the team, it's hard to imagine him playing elsewhere at any point.
2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Current Contract: Signed through 2021 (eight-year, $110 million),
The AL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and AL MVP the following season, Dustin Pedroia has been a constant in the middle of the Boston Red Sox lineup for seven seasons now. He likely could have gotten more on the open market, but he instead opted to re-up with the Red Sox on an eight-year, $110 million deal midway through the 2013 season.
His power was down last season, as he failed to reach double-digit home runs for the first time since his rookie season, but he was still among the most productive second basemen in all of baseball. His decision to take less money to stay in Boston long-term is a good sign that he'll be there for the duration of his career.
SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Current Contract: Signed through 2014 (one-year, $3.975 million), under team control through 2016.
Hailed as a once-in-a-generation talent when the Washington Nationals selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, Stephen Strasburg has pitched well after dealing with some early-career injuries, but he has yet to truly emerge as a dominant force atop the team's rotation.
Signed to a four-year, $15.1 million deal when he was drafted, he agreed to a one-year, $3.975 million deal this offseason to avoid his first year of arbitration in his first year of eligibility. Given the ever-climbing price of starting pitching, by the time he hits free agency, he could be in for a huge contract. The Nationals will likely do whatever it takes to re-sign him, though, and an entire career in Washington seems like a very real possibility.
2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Current Contract: Signed through 2015 (two-year, $27 million), 2016-18 options.
Chase Utley is in the homestretch of a fantastic career that has seen him hit .287/.373/.498 with 217 home runs and 808 RBI over 11 seasons. He proved he still had plenty left in the tank last season though, as he hit .284/.348/.475 with 18 home runs and 69 RBI over 131 games, the most he'd played since 2009.
Set to hit free agency this offseason, the Phillies re-signed the 35-year-old to a two-year, $27 million deal in August. With the three option years tacked onto the end of the contract, he could be 39 years old if he plays out the entirety of the deal, making it very likely that he finishes his career in Philadelphia.
1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Current Contract: Signed through 2023 (10-year, $225 million), 2024 option.
After winning NL MVP honors in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds gave Joey Votto a three-year, $38 million deal to buy out his arbitration years. When he turned in another impressive season in 2011, the team tacked a 10-year, $225 million extension onto the end of that three-year deal.
That locks the first baseman up through 2023, and there is also a $20 million team option for 2014, what would be his age-40 season. He's not a prototypical slugger, but there is no one better at getting on base, and he'll be at the heart of the Reds' offense for better or worse for the next decade.
3B David Wright, New York Mets
Current Contract: Signed through 2020 (eight-year, $138 million).
A year after Jose Reyes departed in free agency, the New York Mets avoided a similar situation with David Wright when they locked him up on an eight-year, $138 million deal. The unquestioned face of the franchise, Wright will be the cornerstone of the team's push to return to contention.
He's dealt with some injuries, but when he's healthy there may be no third baseman better than Wright. His current deal runs through his age-37 season, and as much as he's meant to the team to this point in his career, it's hard to picture him playing anywhere else.
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