Big-Name MLB Players Teams Should Leave Behind After 2022

Zachary D. RymerSeptember 5, 2022

Big-Name MLB Players Teams Should Leave Behind After 2022

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    The Detroit Tigers have run out of good reasons to keep rostering Miguel Cabrera. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

    There are times when it hurts to say goodbye, yet Major League Baseball teams should know that there are also times when it's nonetheless preferable to saying hello again.

    With this in mind, let's have some hard discussions about big-name veterans teams should be looking to move on from after the conclusion of the 2022 season.

    We settled on a dozen players whose name recognition is still measured in oodles, but whose ability to live up to their renown on the field is thoroughly diminished because of age, injuries or other factors. It's time for teams to let them go, whether it be via trades, declined options or more drastic severing measures.

    Please note that we only considered situations where teams haven't yet decided their course of action. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly already determined that they won't be picking up Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's option for 2023.

    Going in alphabetical order by team, let's get to it.

Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Madison Bumgarner

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    Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2022 Stats: 27 GS, 141.2 IP, 164 H (20 HR), 103 K, 45 BB, 4.83 ERA

    Status: Year 3 of 5-Year, $85 Million Contract

    After he had thrived as an All-Star and a playoff hero for the San Francisco Giants between 2013 and 2016, injuries and increasing ineffectiveness had already damaged Madison Bumgarner's stock by the time the Arizona Diamondbacks signed him in Dec. 2019.

    It's thus not the biggest surprise that they haven't gotten what they thought they were paying for. Rarely, if ever, has this older Bumgarner looked like the Bumgarner of old as he's put up a 4.97 ERA and 0.7 rWAR across 62 starts for the desert dwellers.

    Things were looking rosier as Bumgarner racked up a 3.65 ERA through July 9 of this season, yet Bob Nightengale of USA Today nonetheless reported on July 3 that Arizona "would love to move" the left-hander. Per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, there was even some interest at the Aug. 2 trade deadline:

    Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

    D-Backs have determined Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly aren’t going anywhere. They’ve gotten a few nibbles on October stalwart MadBum but nothing serious yet.

    The 6.97 ERA that Bumgarner has posted across his last nine outings hasn't done his value any favors, but that shouldn't stop the Snakes from trying to generate interest in him again on the winter trade market. Even if nothing materializes, eating the $37 million left on his contract and releasing him would at least have the benefit of opening up a roster spot.

Atlanta: LF/DH Marcell Ozuna

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    AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

    Age: 31

    2022 Stats: 111 G, 460 PA, 21 HR, 2 SB, .218 AVG, .267 OBP, .401 SLG

    Status: Year 2 of 4-Year, $65 Million Contract, with $16 Million Club Option for 2025

    The 1.067 OPS and 18 home runs that Marcell Ozuna put up in 2020 made the $65 million deal he subsequently signed with Atlanta seem vaguely like a bargain, but to say that the reunion has been disastrous would be putting it mildly.

    Ozuna played in just 48 games last season before his arrest on assault and battery charges, resulting in him sitting for the remainder of the season. He made it through 107 games this year before he was arrested again, this time on DUI charges on Aug. 19. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker has pencilled his name into the starting lineup only four times since then.

    This would be a lot for Atlanta to stomach even if Ozuna was producing, but he's been well below replacement level in putting up minus-1.4 rWAR since the start of last season.

    As reported by Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald, Atlanta made an attempt to offload Ozuna in a bad-contract swap with the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline. The team should revisit those efforts this summer, yet it should be prepared to simply cut Ozuna loose and eat the $37 million he's still owed if there are no takers.

Chicago Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks

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    Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2022 Stats: 16 GS, 84.1 IP, 85 H (15 HR), 66 K, 24 BB, 4.80 ERA

    Status: Year 3 of 4-Year, $55.5 Million Contract, with $16 Million Vesting Option for 2024

    Who knows how to quantify these things, but it sure feels like Kyle Hendricks doesn't get enough credit for the role he played during the Chicago Cubs' run of contention between 2015 and 2020.

    He put up a 3.17 ERA across those six seasons, peaking with a major league-leading 2.13 ERA in the team's 108-years-in-the-making World Series season in 2016. Not bad for a guy whose average fastball never eclipsed 90 mph.

    The last two seasons have obviously been a different story, wherein both the Cubs and Hendricks have been in freefall mode. As the team has slipped to a .431 winning percentage, the pitcher has pitched to a 4.78 ERA. At least that number won't go any higher this season, as the righty is sidelined with a capsular tear in his shoulder.

    “You know, it's OK to hear that,” Hendricks said when asked about pitching elsewhere in coming years, according to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. Only Hendricks knows what's in his heart, but that sure sounds like a guy who wouldn't mind a change of scenery. If so, the Cubs would be doing both pitcher and team a solid by entertaining trade offers this winter.

Cincinnati Reds: 3B/1B Mike Moustakas

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2022 Stats: 78 G, 285 PA, 7 HR, 2 SB, .214 AVG, .295 OBP, .345 SLG

    Status: Year 3 of 4-Year, $64 Million Contract, with $20 Million Club Option for 2024

    The Cincinnati Reds signed Mike Moustakas when he was fresh off his second 35-homer season in three years, with the potential promise of even more power to come amid Great American Ball Park's postage-stamp dimensions.

    Well, Moustakas is now 184 games into his Reds tenure and he's hit 14 fewer home runs in than he hit in 143 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in that fateful 2019 season.

    It's only fair to point out that the shortened 2020 season didn't help Moustakas' cause, but that's obviously not the whole story. He's been injured for much of the last two seasons—including right now with a strained calf—and his power isn't what it once was even in raw form. His average exit velocity is down about 2 mph from 2019.

    The Reds resisted tying Moustakas' contract to Luis Castillo when they were shopping the ace before the trade deadline. The right call, perhaps, but it meant sacrificing probably their last good chance to dump his remaining salary. Probably the best thing they can do this winter is swallow the $22 million he'll have left and open his roster spot for someone else.

Detroit Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera

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    Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Age: 39

    2022 Stats: 102 G, 393 PA, 4 HR, 1 SB, .256 AVG, .305 OBP, .317 SLG

    Status: Year 7 of 8-Year, $240 Million Contract, with $30 Million Vesting Options for 2024-25

    Miguel Cabrera collected his 500th home run on Aug. 22, 2021, and his 3,000th hit on April 23 of this season, with his 600th double following shortly on May 7. These are inner-inner-circle numbers, as only he, Henry Aaron and Albert Pujols are members of all three clubs.

    And yet, it's been a while since Cabrera was so much as a viable everyday player. His peak value over the last six years was his 0.2-rWAR season in 2018. And unlike Pujols, Cabrera hasn't maintained value as a platoon hitter. He's slugging a career-low .304 against left-handers in 2022.

    Though Cabrera seemed to hint at retiring in August, he subsequently cleared up any confusion with these remarks to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News in August:

    Chris McCosky @cmccosky

    Miguel Cabrera just told me, directly, that he has no intention of retiring after this year. His plan, he said, is to finish out his contract and retire after 2023.

    Not that this is surprising, as Cabrera would be giving up his $32 million salary for 2023 if he were to voluntarily retire. But the Tigers should be well past ready to facilitate the end of his playing career anyway, even if it means arranging a Bobby Bonilla- or Chris Davis-like long-term payout of what's left on his contract.

Los Angeles Dodgers: CF Cody Bellinger

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2022 Stats: 119 G, 467 PA, 17 HR, 12 SB, .202 AVG, .263 OBP, .387 SLG

    Status: $17 Million Salary, 4th-Year Arbitration-Eligible in 2023

    After winning the NL Rookie of the Year as a 21-year-old in 2017 and then the NL MVP as a 23-year-old in 2019, it wasn't that long ago that Cody Bellinger was on a Hall of Fame-level trajectory.

    It hasn't been all bad since then. He notably hit the home run that put the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2020 World Series, where they subsequently won their first championship since 1988. He's also had a good feel for the moment this year, hitting five go-ahead home runs.

    But is all this enough to account for a total output of 1.2 rWAR across the last three seasons, much less at an average salary of $14.9 million with a minimum of $13.4 million headed his way in 2023?

    We think not, and the Dodgers should be thinking the same thing. They could try to move Bellinger on the winter market, but a non-tender seems more likely. Though the Dodgers could then try to pull a Carlos Rodón and re-sign him at a discounted rate, a change of scenery seems like the best thing for Bellinger at this point.

Minnesota Twins: 1B/3B Miguel Sanó

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    AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

    Age: 29

    2022 Stats: 20 G, 71 PA, 1 HR, 1 SB, .083 AVG, .211 OBP, .133 SLG

    Status: Year 3 of 3-Year, $30 Million Contract, with $14 Million Club Option for 2023

    The Minnesota Twins struck while the iron was hot when they extended Miguel Sanó in Jan. 2020. Or, more precisely, the bat. The 6'4", 272-pound slugger had cranked 34 home runs in just 105 games the prior year, translating to a 52-homer pace over 162 games.

    Even then, though, there were obvious risks with committing to Sanó beyond his original date with free agency after 2021. He already didn't have the cleanest injury history, and his big power came with plentiful strikeouts and little in the way of defensive value.

    Sure enough, both of these shortcomings have bit the Twins as Sanó has played in only 208 games and mustered all of 0.1 rWAR across the last three seasons. This year, especially, has been a calamity as the big guy has been unable to get his left knee healthy.

    With Sanó seemingly unlikely to return to the field before the end of this season, a final chance to prove his worth doesn't appear to be in the cards. Declining his $14 million option in favor of his $2.8 million buyout will be an easy call for the Twins. So, too, should be the decision to let him seek a change of scenery in lieu of forcing a reunion.

New York Mets: 1B Dominic Smith

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2022 Stats: 58 G, 152 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .194 AVG, .276 OBP, .284 SLG

    Status: $4.0 Million Salary, Arbitration-Eligible in 2023-24

    Here's a fun fact for all you fun-fact afficionados out there: Dominic Smith had a better OPS+ across 2019 and 2020 than Freddie Freeman, who won the NL MVP for the latter season.

    As Smith had been a top-100 prospect who earned high marks for his bat, this seemed to be a case of him making good on a rise that had been foretold. Yet his is a light that has gone out, as the last two years have seen him post a .643 OPS across 203 games in the majors.

    The last of these games was back on July 16, after which Smith hit the IL with a sprained ankle. His subsequent return to action has played out in the minors at Triple-A Syracuse, where he's hit well (.286 AVG) but apparently not well enough to justify another shot with the Mets.

    This may yet change now that rosters have expanded for September, but it's hard to imagine the Mets bringing Smith back for 2023. They could see if he has any trade value on the winter market. If not, simply non-tendering him would free up a spot on the 40-man roster in addition to a few million dollars to reallocate elsewhere.

New York Yankees: RHP Luis Severino

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2022 Stats: 16 GS, 86.0 IP, 67 H (14 HR), 95 K, 25 BB, 3.45 ERA

    Status: Year 4 of 4-Year, $40 Million Contract, with $15 Million Club Option for 2023

    After taking his lumps in 2015 and 2016, Luis Severino planted himself atop the New York Yankees rotation with back-to-back All-Star campaigns in 2017 and 2018. His best quality was a fastball that, at an average of 97.6 mph, was beyond what any other starter could throw.

    Those days are over, and the injury bug is largely to blame. Severino pitched just 18 innings between 2019 and 2021 because of a shoulder injury and Tommy John surgery. He returned this year, but with a relatively diminished 96.1 mph fastball that he could only maintain until his shoulder quit on him again in July.

    To his credit, Severino began this year with the good intentions of proving himself worthy of being as big a part of the Yankees' future as he was of their recent past:

    Brendan Kuty @BrendanKutyNJ

    Luis Severino says, "I want to be a Yankee for life" as he begins his audition for the Yankees to pick up his $15M option for next year — or face free agency. <a href="https://t.co/VQGoiU6Mp7">https://t.co/VQGoiU6Mp7</a>

    But with the right-hander now four years removed from his last season as a reliable hurler, the Yankees have little to no incentive to pick up his $15 million option for 2023. That would open the door for him to go elsewhere and try to reinvent himself, possibly as a relief pitcher.

Philadelphia Phillies: 2B Jean Segura

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2022 Stats: 72 G, 286 PA, 8 HR, 13 SB, .287 AVG, .346 OBP, .410 SLG

    Status: Year 5 of 5-Year, $70 Million Contract, with $17 Million Club Option for 2023

    Jean Segura reached his peak with the Diamondbacks in 2016 when he hit .319 with 20 home runs and 33 stolen bases, and then followed it with two more seasons in which he hit over .300 for the Seattle Mariners.

    Since arriving in Philadelphia by way of a Dec. 2018 trade, Segura's time with the Phillies has been more of a mixed bag. He's been more of a solid offensive producer than an outstanding one, hitting .283 with a .763 OPS, with hit-or-miss defensive metrics. He's also missed time with injuries over the last two seasons, including two months with a broken finger this year.

    Even the man himself seems doubtful about the Phillies picking up his $17 million option for next season. As Segura told Matt Gelb of The Athletic in June: "The situation about my contract, this is my last year here probably. Or not. I cannot control that."

    There's perhaps an argument that $17 million is a fair rate for a healthy Segura, but health isn't a given at his age. The Phillies would also be better off putting that money toward actual needs this winter. Namely, a bullpen that's slated to be strip-mined by free agency.

San Diego Padres: RF Wil Myers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2022 Stats: 57 G, 216 PA, 3 HR, 0 SB, .247 AVG, .296 OBP, .348 SLG

    Status: Year 6 of 6-Year $83 Million Contract, with $20 Million Club Option for 2023

    After a rough introduction to San Diego in 2015, Wil Myers broke out with a 28-homer, 28-steal season for the Padres in 2016. That begat a long-term agreement the following January, followed by another star-caliber effort in 2017.

    Save for a brief return to stardom in the shortened 2020 season, it's mostly been a struggle for Myers since then. He's put out only a .770 OPS and 2.7 rWAR over the last four seasons, with more specific low points being various injuries and a Fortnite-related public relations gaffe in 2018.

    If the Padres had been able to get their way, their partnership with Myers would already be over by now. General manager A.J. Preller has occasionally tried to move Myers in trades, including just this past August.

    Though those efforts unsurprisingly went nowhere, it won't be long now before the Padres will have a simple means of getting Myers off their roster and, more importantly, off their payroll. They'll just have to pay the $1 million buyout on his $20 million option this winter.

San Francisco Giants: 3B Evan Longoria

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age: 36

    2022 Stats: 70 G, 232 PA, 12 HR, 0 SB, .255 AVG, .336 OBP, .485 SLG

    Status: Year 6 of 6-Year, $100 Million Contract, with $13 Million Club Option for 2023

    That was some ride that Evan Longoria had with the Tampa Bay Rays between 2008 and 2017. He was a three-time All-Star and Gold Glover, not to mention the source of the most dramatic moment in the team's relatively young history.

    Though Longoria hasn't been that guy for the San Francisco Giants since coming to the Bay Area in 2018, it's only fair to note that he's been one of the team's best hitters when he's been able to play in the last two seasons. He's put up an .829 OPS.

    Alas, "when he's been able to play" is the operative phrase there. Longoria has hit the injured list five different times since the start of 2021, including three times with finger, oblique and hamstring injuries just this year.

    “If they decide to pick that up, I’ll come back and play for sure,” Longoria said in July in reference to the Giants' looming decision on his $13 million option for next season. Yet it would be wiser for them to pay the $5 million buyout and hand third base over to J.D. Davis, who's found new life in San Francisco since he came over from the Mets at the deadline.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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