Derek Jeter has been in the news lately for a myriad of reasons—underproduction, injury, and when his date with destiny (3000 hits) will come.
You see, Derek Jeter is an aging ballplayer, but not just any aging ballplayer. Jeter is an aging baseball star, a perennial champion, and a likely first ballot Hall of Famer.
Jeter isn't some old curmudgeon role-player who can be forced out of the game. For better or for worse, Jeter's place among baseball's elite has earned him the prerogative to decide for himself exactly when he'll hang up his cleats.
The line between banking on past accolades and actual ability and production is often walked by aging stars. It's universal to sports, not just baseball.
Often times, it's impossible to guess when superstars will hang it up for good and how many bridges they'll burn on the way to retirement. Luckily enough, you have me, who was kind enough to take a handful of baseball players closest to qualifying for AARP and (accurately?) predict how the rest of their careers will shake out.
**Note: Retirement year indicates the final year in which a player will play.
Mariano Rivera needs just 25 more saves to catch Trevor Hoffman for the all-time lead. Mo should accomplish this feat sometime in early 2012.
With five World Series rings, the most distinguished career of any closer, and a Hall of Fame induction waiting for him, Rivera will have no reason to stick around past 2012. He’ll call it quits at 42.
Retirement year: 2012
Stats: 1.68 ERA, 35 saves, (2012)
Matsui’s 2011 has been a struggle, but he’s picked up his performance as of late. I think a stronger second half is on the way, which will motivate Matsui to stick around for a few more years.
Seattle could be a fit for Matsui next year, and so could Baltimore. It’s more than likely that an American League team takes a chance on him, as he can’t really play a full season in the field anymore.
Retirement year: 2013
Stats: .260 batting average, 40 HR (2012-13).
At 44 years of age, Tim Wakefield is the oldest active player in the majors today. He made his debut in 1992, and he's on his 19th season (17th with the Red Sox).
Wakefield has 183 career wins for the Red Sox, just nine shy of tying and 10 shy of passing both Roger Clemens and Cy Young (192 wins) for the most wins in Red Sox history.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the season and Clay Buchholz on the DL, Wakefield's spot in the rotation is solidified––for now––giving him a great opportunity to reach 193 wins before the end of the season.
Everyone around the Red Sox wants Wakefield to reach this milestone, and I don't think he'll retire until he does. If he gets to 193 before the season is out, however, 2011 will be his last year.
Retirement year: 2011
Berkman has been one of the biggest (if not the biggest) individual surprises of the 2011 season. He looked nearly done after a subpar 2010, but he’s currently having a career year at age 35.
The Cardinals will extend Berkman for an additional two years after this season. He’ll struggle initially in 2012, but respond with a stellar second half and a strong 2013. He’ll play parts of two seasons after 2013, but not with the Cardinals. Despite his subpar fielding ability, Berkman will remain in the NL for the rest of his career, splitting time between first base and the outfield.
Retirement year: 2015
Stats: .280 batting average, 95 HR, .890 OPS (2012-2015).
Following the season, Chipper Jones will finally see the writing on the wall. After 18 years and a stellar big league career, he’ll call it quits right before the start of spring training.
The move might surprise some, as Jones still has $13 million in guaranteed money left on his contract. But, injuries and age have caught up to Jones, a man who has made nearly $140 million in his career. It’s been a few years since Jones has played at a high level.
Retirement year: 2011
Vladimir Guerrero just won't go away. No matter how many times you think he's done, he keeps on coming back.
His performance so far this year is a far cry from the Vlad of old—but, it could be worse—right?
Vlad likely won't stay with the O's after this year, and his defensive limitations means he has to stay in the American League. But Vlad has always struck me as a guy who just flat out enjoys playing baseball.
Not to mention, with 2502 career hits, Guerrero is a couple of seasons away from the 3,000 hit benchmark. For better or for worse, I think Vlad is here to stay. He'll play (or attempt to, anyways) until age 40.
Retirement Year: 2015
Stats: .270 batting average, .780 OPS (2012-15).
David Ortiz has given the Red Sox a very tough choice this offseason. At age 35, he’s not only having one of the best seasons of his career, but he’s arguably a top-five hitter in the American League.
There’s no real possibility that the Red Sox can replace Ortiz’ production in the middle of the lineup if they let him walk. During the offseason, they bite the bullet, offering Ortiz a nice, healthy two-year deal, which he accepts.
David Ortiz has remained healthy for nearly his entire career, aided by the fact that he doesn’t have to play the field. Given his clean healthy history and the protection afforded him by the Red Sox lineup, his production won’t dip much during the course of his two-year deal, and the Red Sox will give him an extra year––his last year––following the 2013 season.
Retirement year: 2014
Stats: .290 batting average, 95 HR (2012-14).
Don’t look now, but Posada is hitting .405 in the month of June.
Contrary to popular belief, Posada will remain with the New York Yankees past the trading deadline, playing out the final year of his contract. He’ll continue to see nearly all of his time as a designated hitter.
Posada obviously believes he still can catch. He’ll sign a one-year contract with another American League team following the season, where he’ll be able to catch with some degree of frequency.
Retirement Year: 2012
Stats: .250 batting average, 15 HR (2012)
Beltran won’t finish out the year with the Mets, but he’ll stay on the East Coast. The rumor mill has churned out nearly every team as a possible landing spot for Beltran, but he appears to be a good fit for the Yankees, Phillies, or Red Sox––teams who have both the need for his services and the financial capacity to eat most or all of his remaining salary.
Where he lands beyond 2011 is anybody’s guess, but it would be more beneficial for an American League team to sign him, as they can provide the crutch of the designated hitter spot. Considering much of Beltran’s range in the outfield is gone, NL teams may be wary about signing him to a multi-year deal.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Beltran plays in the league another three years. He’ll get a two-year deal this offseason with an option for a third. He’s shown this year that he can still be very productive when healthy.
Retirement year: 2014
Stats: .275 batting average, 55 HR (2012-14).
Derek Jeter will finish his career with the Yankees, but his best years are behind him.
Late in the 2011 season, sometime after he collects his 3000th career hit, Jeter will be permanently flip-flopped with Brett Gardner in the batting order.
Limited at both the plate and in the field, Jeter will struggle with productivity and health for the remainder of his career. After a disappointing 2011, injuries will relegate Jeter to a reserve middle infield position. He’ll never complete the move to the outfield that some have predicted.
Fortunately for Jeter, he’ll receive the necessary Hall of Fame votes in his first year of eligibility, solidifying his spot as one of the best shortstops of all time.
Retirement Year: 2013
Stats: .255 batting average, .660 OPS (2012-13)