Now more than ever, players are trying to extend their careers for as long as possible, but like everything else, it has to come to an end at some point.
Whether it be an injury, old age or an inability to find a spot on a roster, every player faces the inevitable day in which they file their retirement papers with the MLB commissioner's office.
Predicting retirements can be an easy thing, especially when the player says he will be retiring at the end of the year, but it can also be difficult; predicting a career-ending injury or a player's unwillingness to lower his perceived value during free agency is basically impossible.
Nonetheless, let's take a look at players who, because of age or who might have trouble finding a job next season, may be playing their last season in 2011.
Kevin Millwood is an anomaly in this group because he is the only one on the list that remains unsigned by a team.
He recently turned down a minor league offer from the Yankees, so Millwood may be one of those guys who is just asking too far above what the market is willing to pay for him.
Millwood is going to be 37 this year, and if he is unable to land a spot on a team, he may be forced into retirement. Not many teams will be looking for a 37-year-old pitcher who took a year off and has produced an ERA below 5.00 in only one of his last four seasons.
The Mets have been trying to move Luis Castillo the entire offseason and have even offered to take some of his salary.
Still, Castillo remains a Met.
In 2011, when Castillo's four-year, $25 million contract will end, so will his tenure with the Mets. Barring a remarkable turnaround in 2011, Castillo's career may come to a halting end after the season.
His diminished skills have been highlighted many times by the New York media, and being 36 won't help convince general managers that he is worth taking the risk.
Brian Schneider, currently the backup catcher for the Phillies, will be 35 at the beginning of the 2012 season. Even if Schneider does continue to play, he will either be a third-string catcher or kept on for his ability to handle and teach young pitchers (much like Ivan Rodriguez was kept on by the Nationals).
The problem Schneider faces in trying to find work post this season is that he has become very one-dimensional. He is good at calling games, but his inability to hit can be a major problem for teams; Schneider has not hit above .260 since 2005.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Schneider become a coach in time, but his career playing is quickly coming to an end.
Ivan Rodriguez, who will be 40 in the 2012 season, is almost certainly running out of time playing in the major leagues. I have to admit, however, to be able to catch still, at his age, is quite impressive.
Rodriguez has had a great career and, as I wrote in the previous page, he still has a roster spot because of his ability to teach young pitchers. It's a nice fit for the young Nationals team, but I can't see the Nationals wanting to spend more money on a player whose time has come and gone.
Jason Kendall, another catcher, will also probably struggle to find work beyond the 2011 season. Kendall will be 38 years old and may have to consider another position if he wants to continue playing.
He showed some life by stealing 12 bases in 2010, but his .318 OBP will not garner much attention from teams in the 2011-2012 offseason.
The list of old catchers keeps on coming: Gregg Zaun, who will be 41 in 2012, is another catcher facing possible forced retirement after the 2011 season.
Does it really surprise anyone that old catchers are the most likely to be forced into retirement?
Zaun has also been plagued with injuries over the past few seasons, including only amassing 102 at-bats in the 2010 season.
You never know what's going to happen during the course of a baseball season, but Zaun will need a career-saving year if he wants to draw interest from teams after this season.
Will be 49 years old and is recovering from Tommy John surgery that will make him miss the entire 2011 season...does this sound like a pitcher most teams would want in their starting rotation?
Heck, does this sound like a pitcher who has a shot at making most starting rotations?
I'm not sure how Jamie Moyer does it, but he continues to play the game, and Moyer has made it very clear he intends to pitch in 2012. With that said, I think he should start considering retirement—maybe make a switch to coaching.
Props to Moyer if he can still be an effective pitcher, but I just don't see it happening. Jamie, there is no shame in retiring.
With that said, I wish you the best of luck in your recovery; if you are able to mount a comeback, it will certainly capture the attention of the entire sports world.
John McDonald, an infielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, will be 37 in 2012.
Along with aging catchers, aging utility players often have trouble finding jobs because their spots get filled up by DHs and younger players who are either journeyman or prospects that are getting adjusted to the majors.
Augie Ojeda is another aging utility infielder (he'll be 37 in 2012).
Ojeda really needs a solid 2011 to show he can still play—he was only able to get 79 at-bats with a .190 batting average in 2010.
Much like John McDonald, Ojeda may find himself getting minor league deals or spring training invites, non-roster, in 2012. If that's the case, it wouldn't surprise me to see Ojeda retire from MLB soon after.
I'm a fan of Alex Cora because I think he would make a fantastic coach someday.
Unfortunately for him, that day may be fast approaching.
Cora will be 36 and has shown signs that he isn't able to compete as well as teams would like at the professional level anymore. That said, because of his great ability to handle and teach other players I wouldn't be surprised if a team offered him a contract so he could be a player-coach, but retirement, nonetheless, is certainly looming.
Personally, I'd like to see him retire soon, because the sooner that happens, the sooner he may become a coach.
Melvin Mora is another guy who may or may not retire. He batted .285 in 2010, and with a good 2011, he will probably be able to find a job in 2012, but he will be turning 40 years old.
I think the question of Mora retiring or not rests on whether he is willing to be a bench player. Starting will most likely not be an option much longer for Mora, so it will all come down to if he is willing to keep playing in a diminished role.
If not, his retirement is almost imminent.
Mike Cameron is one of my favorite players, and I'd hate to see him retire, but he'll be 39 in 2012.
Cameron still plays a good outfield, and has some pop left in his bat, but he doesn't run as much anymore and his batting average continues to be an issue.
Cameron can certainly be a solid fourth outfielder, which he will be for the Boston Red Sox in 2011, but he isn't much more than that at this point in his career. Perhaps Cameron has some time left beyond 2011, but as soon as the defense slips, his career will pretty much be over.
That'll be a sad day for me, because, as I said, he is one of my favorite players.
Miguel Batista has to be staring retirement in the face. Fifteen years in baseball and only once has he posted a WHIP below 1.30...
I'm not really sure how he got to 15 years. Nonetheless, at 41 years of age in 2012, Batista will have to consider retiring soon, if for no other reason than a lack of interest from teams.
Dontrelle is the youngest, and by far the most controversial, on the list. Given he will be only 30 years old in 2012, there remains a great possibility of teams willing to take a chance on him (much like the Reds did this year).
Nonetheless, Willis has not had a good year since 2005 and 2006. That's far removed, but teams will probably continue to pay him a small amount in hopes he returns to 2005 form (when he posted a 2.63 ERA with 22 wins).
If Dontrelle continue to pitch the way he has the past four years or so, it will be hard to continue to find jobs. His is an unfortunate case, but he may be forced into retirement if he doesn't start improving. It'll be interesting to see how he does coming out of the Reds bullpen this year (should he get a spot in it, of course).
I keep saying, every offseason, that this will be the winter when Tim Wakefield retires, and it never is.
So, why break tradition?
For Wakefield, 2012 will be the first season to be retired. He'll be 45 years old and without a contract, and I cannot imagine the Red Sox would be willing to bring him back (even if it was in a reliever role).
Wakefield is too inconsistent at this point; he can go on a hot streak and pitch really well, but he can hit a streak when he can't get out of the first few innings. With that said, this should be Wakefield's last season in the majors.
If the Red Sox win the World Series this year, he would have to be crazy not to retire on top.
I couldn't believe it when Edgar Renteria announced he intended to play beyond the 2010 season. For me, he had the perfect situation to ride off into the sunset: Winning the World Series and being named series MVP seems like the best way to retire, right?
Nonetheless, Renteria will be 35 for the 2012 season, but his chances of continuing playing are slim.
Renteria joined the Reds, so maybe he will get to be a part of another playoff run, but this will probably be the last season for him.
Livan Hernandez will be 37 come 2012 and will be a free agent looking for a spot in a rotation after this season.
Currently, he pitches for the Nationals, but it seems unlikely he will be there after this season.
Livan always reminds me of Eddie Harris (portrayed by Chelcie Ross in the 1989 movie Major League). If you've seen the movie, you know Eddie Harris is a pitcher who throws only "junk," since he is old and his arm doesn't have it anymore. Anytime Livan throws that 50 MPH curveball, I immediately equate that to him being like Eddie Harris (although it is always entertaining to see the hitter's reaction to that pitch—usually a laugh and a big smile).
However, throwing that stuff can only last for so long. Maybe he'll be able to find a job as a long reliever, but realistically, his time is coming to a close.
Jim Thome struggled to get a contract done with the Twins for the 2011 season and he'll only be another year older next winter (he'll be 41).
If the Twins have a successful year in 2011, he may be inclined to retire "on top." If 2010 is any indication, Thome still has a lot to offer American League teams as a DH, but at 41 years old, he may not want to keep playing much longer.
Randy Winn is on the verge of having to possibly retire this year, let alone next year. He is a non-roster invitee with the Baltimore Orioles this spring.
He'll be 38 years old if he plays in the 2012 season. With diminished hitting, running and defense, it's tough to argue that he has much left to offer a team. If he misses out on making the Orioles team this spring, he will almost certainly be forced into retirement.
As with Alex Cora, though, Winn would probably make an excellent coach; so perhaps there is a future in baseball for Winn after all.
Matt Stairs is the other player on the list who is not guaranteed a roster spot in the 2010 season; Stairs is a non-roster invitee with the Washington Nationals.
Stairs will be 44 years old, and although he has been able to prolong his career as a pinch hitter, it seems like his time is running out. Typically, if you are looking to add a player solely as a pinch hitter, you don't need to invite him to spring training.
I would have to imagine that Stairs will have to put up some solid numbers in spring training in order to make the team.
Much like Randy Winn, if Stairs is unable to make the team this year, he may not make it to 2012—he may have to retire even sooner.
Raul Ibanez will be finishing his three-year, $31.5 million contract this season, and it will most likely be his last.
He'll be 40 years old next year, and chances are not many teams will be interested in him given his age, lack of defense and decline in offensive production.
Ibanez, much like Thome and some others on this list, may have the opportunity to go out with a championship ring on his finger. The Phillies are a strong team this year, and if they win it all, he'll have a lot of reasons to hang up the cleats after the season.
Omar Vizquel is another one of those guys who may, and should, become a coach after his playing career is over. Vizquel will be 45 in 2012 and his value as a utility infielder is quickly fading.
For me, the appeal to having Vizquel on the team is because he would be a player-coach. Like Alex Cora, his value is probably more off the field than on it.
Craig Counsell will be 41 years old in 2012. Much like other utility infielders we have seen, chances are he will have to compete in spring training with younger guys if he is lucky enough to get a contract in the 2011-2012 winter.
There's a good chance that Counsell will be playing his last season in 2011.
Jermaine Dye was unable to find a contract in 2010 and it seems he will be missing the 2011 season as well. He'll be 38 years old in 2012.
At age 38 and two years removed from playing a single game at the professional level, Dye is basically retired. While he has not filed his retirement papers with the commissioner's office, his chances of playing again are slim.
I think after Dye misses the 2011 season, he'll realize his time is done and he'll officially retire from baseball during the season this year or at the end of the season in the winter.
Manny Ramirez struggled to get work this offseason, so it stands to reason that he may struggle again next winter.
Manny could have a great year in 2011 and help prolong his career, but it'll have to be a great year to convince other teams to be interested in him for the 2012 season (when he'll be 40).
Manny was a great player and he has provided a lot of memories (from holding up the game by disappearing into the Green Monster to pee to catching a fly ball and high-fiving a fan at the same time with the Dodgers), but his swan song is certainly playing.