Each MLB Team's Top Player Whose Best Days Are Over for Good

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2018

Each MLB Team's Top Player Whose Best Days Are Over for Good

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    As the 2018 MLB season enters the stretch run, playoff races are heating up and stars are being born. Around the league, exciting up-and-comers such as Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar are streaking across the big league firmament. 

    As stars rise, others must fall.

    With that in mind, let's look at one player on each MLB club whose best days are over for good. 

    Some guys listed below have at least a puncher's chance of proving us wrong. In many cases, however, the choices were as easy as they were painful for the teams and players in question.   

American League East

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    Baltimore Orioles: 1B Chris Davis

    We already made the case for why Chris Davis is having arguably the worst season of any hitter in MLB history. 

    He ranks at or near the bottom among qualified players in virtually every offensive category. He sports a .180 average and a .255 on-base percentage. Power was once his calling card, as he led MLB in home runs with 53 homers in 2013 and 47 in 2015. This year, he's managed only 16.

    The future is dire for the 32-year-old Davis. It's equally dire for the Baltimore Orioles, who will pay him $21.1 million each season through 2022.

       

    Boston Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello

    After winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2016, Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello posted a 4.65 ERA last season and led MLB with 38 home runs allowed.

    So far this season, he owns a 4.20 ERA and put up above-5.00 ERAs in May, July and August for Boston. 

    The 29-year-old still could be a serviceable mid-rotation option, but his status as a Cy Young contender and top-shelf arm is officially over.  

       

    New York Yankees: RHP Sonny Gray

    In 2015, Sonny Gray was an All-Star and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting for the Oakland A's. Two seasons later, the New York Yankees acquired him at the trade deadline in the hope that he'd anchor their rotation.

    So much for that.

    After a so-so performance in 2017 with New York, Gray has been a disaster in 2018, with a 4.96 ERA and career-high 3.9 walks per nine innings. 

    Gray will hit arbitration in 2019 and is slated for free agency in 2020. The odds of the Yanks keeping him any longer than they have to diminish with each middling-to-terrible start.

       

    Tampa Bay Rays: OF Carlos Gomez

    This was a tough one, as the Tampa Bay Rays don't have many bona fide stars. Of the ones they (arguably) do have, few if any are underperforming. 

    Outfielder Carlos Gomez has the pedigree, with All-Star appearances in 2013 and 2014 for the Milwaukee Brewers and a top-10 National League MVP finish in '13.

    This season, he's hitting .220 with a .657 OPS. Suffice it to say the 32-year-old will not be paid like a star as he enters free agency this winter.

       

    Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada

    A top-10 AL Cy Young Award finisher in 2015 and an All-Star in 2016, Marco Estrada posted a 4.98 ERA last season.

    Rather than rebound in 2018, he has a 5.43 ERA while embodying the fall from grace that has defined the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The 35-year-old is set to hit free agency this offseason after the Jays failed to trade him, but he shouldn't expect more than a short-term, prove-it deal.

American League Central

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: RHP James Shields

    As a rebuilding team in the midst of a youth movement, the Chicago White Sox don't employ many fading former stars. But since James Shields remains a member of the ChiSox, he gets the honors.

    Shields is having a serviceable season and has eaten 182.1 innings, his highest total since 2015. However, he's far removed from the guy who picked up stray MVP votes as recently as 2014.

    He'll turn 37 in July and will be a free agent, assuming Chicago exercises his $2 million buyout.

       

    Cleveland Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis

    We could cheat and give this to Josh Donaldson, whom the Cleveland Indians acquired from Toronto at the August 31 waiver trade deadline. Donaldson is the embodiment of a fallen star, but he's yet to play an inning for the Indians as he works his way back from injury.

    Instead, we'll highlight second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is hitting .231 with a .693 OPS. Whenever Donaldson arrives, Kipnis could be bumped to the outfield, where he'd have to fight for a role, according to MLB.com's Casey Harrison

    That's a far cry from the days when the two-time All-Star was considered one of the top offensive second basemen in baseball.

       

    Detroit Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera

    With 11 All-Star appearances and two AL MVPs, Miguel Cabrera boasts a Hall of Fame resume. However, he'll also turn 36 in April and is recovering from season-ending triceps surgery.

    He did hit .299 with an .843 OPS in 38 games for the Detroit Tigers before the injury knocked him out. Perhaps Miggy still has a bit of gas sloshing in the tank.

    Realistically, Cabrera will go from franchise cornerstone to payroll drag for the rebuilding Tigers, who owe him at least $30 million per season through 2023.

       

    Kansas City Royals: LF Alex Gordon

    Many key pieces from the Kansas City Royals' 2014-15 run have skipped town. Left fielder Alex Gordon remains after inking a four-year, $72 million contract in January 2016, but the results aren't pretty.

    The Royals are mired in last place in the AL Central. Gordon, meanwhile, is slashing .239/.317/.359.

    The five-time Gold Glove winner still boasts solid defensive metrics, but those offensive numbers from a corner outfielder are unacceptable, to put it kindly. 

        

    Minnesota Twins: 1B Joe Mauer

    Joe Mauer is a three-time batting champion, a six-time All-Star and an AL MVP. Yet as Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer outlined in August, Mauer cleared revocable waivers.

    In other words, all 29 teams (excluding the Minnesota Twins) took a pass.

    Mauer's power has evaporated, as he has only five home runs in 106 games. At age 35, his impressive resume isn't enough to make him anything close to an elite player. 

American League West

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: OF Josh Reddick

    Most of the Houston Astros' stars are entering their primes and/or performing at a high level. As a result, we'll stretch and point a finger at outfielder Josh Reddick.

    Reddick picked up stray MVP votes in 2012 with the A's and hit .314 with an .847 OPS last season with Houston. This year, the 31-year-old is hitting .243 with a .699 OPS and has an even-worse .216 average and .628 OPS since the All-Star break.

    The 'Stros have enough talent to repeat without Reddick as a major contributor, but they still have to pay him $26 million through 2020.

       

    Los Angeles Angels: 1B/DH Albert Pujols

    Albert Pujols is done for the season due to knee surgery. Long before that, his once-blazing star had faded. 

    Yes, he clubbed 23 homers and tallied 101 RBI in 2017 and hit 19 homers this season, showing flashes of his old three-time MVP form. However, he's 38 years old and is a one-dimensional player at best. His glory days are in the rearview mirror. 

    Up ahead? The $87 million the Los Angeles Angels owe him through 2021, his age-41 season. It's going to be a painful end for an all-time great, and for his employer as well. 

       

    Oakland Athletics: C Jonathan Lucroy

    The A's have been one of the coolest stories of 2018 and are on track for a surprise postseason berth. Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, meanwhile, has been a fringe player.

    He's gotten the bulk of the starts behind the dish for Oakland, but he's slashing .238/.290/.323. That's a far cry from the one-base machine who made All-Star teams in 2014 and 2016 and finished fourth in NL MVP voting in '14 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Lucroy's savvy and veteran leadership may benefit the A's in October, but his star has faded.

       

    Seattle Mariners: LHP Felix Hernandez

    It's time to face facts: Felix Hernandez is the artist formerly known as King.

    The six-time All-Star and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner posted a 4.36 ERA last season while battling injuries. In 2018, that figure has ballooned to 5.55, and he was briefly demoted to the bullpen in August.

    The M's appear destined to miss the playoffs for the 17th straight season, the longest active drought in baseball, and the seemingly irreversible struggles of their erstwhile 32-year-old ace are a big reason why.

               

    Texas Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre

    Veteran Adrian Beltre is having a decent season for the Texas Rangers. The likely Hall of Famer is hitting .275 and has even occasionally dazzled on defense.

    Not bad for a 39-year-old.

    However, Beltre's batting average and OPS have each dropped roughly 30 points since the All-Star break. He's a poor fit for a last-place Rangers team that needs to rebuild, but he may not have enough left to bolster a contender going forward. 

National League East

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    Atlanta Braves: CF Ender Inciarte

    The Atlanta Braves roster is populated with rising stars; that's why seasons postseason contenders. We had to strain here and call out center fielder Ender Inciarte. 

    After slashing .304/.350/.409 for Atlanta and making the All-Star team in 2017, Inciarte's line has fallen to .258/.316/.371. The 2018 Braves have been a revelation, but Inciarte has taken a step back.

    The 27-year-old could right the ship, and Atlanta has enough burgeoning weapons even if he doesn't. In this case, we're splitting hairs.

       

    Miami Marlins: LHP Wei-Yin Chen

    This is another tough one. The Miami Marlins are committed to a full-scale teardown, which explains why they traded all of their biggest stars over the winter.

    As such, we'll train our sights on southpaw Wei-Yin Chen.

    You'd have to squint to call Chen a star, though he did finish fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2012 and posted a 3.34 ERA with the Orioles in 2015. That earned him a five-year, $80 million deal with Miami.

    He's been mostly a disaster since. Despite strong recent results, he owns a 4.64 ERA and is an untradable payroll drag on a club that's looking to shed salary.

       

    New York Mets: OF Yoenis Cespedes

    When healthy, Yoenis Cespedes is among the more fearsome power hitters in the game. That's a significant caveat for the Cuban slugger, however.

    Cespedes hasn't played 100 games in a season since 2016, when he finished eighth in NL MVP voting. He was limited to 38 contests this season before he underwent season-ending heel surgery in July.

    As the New York Mets limp toward the finish line of another disappointing season, the 32-year-old Cespedes is limping right along with them.

       

    Philadelphia Phillies: 3B/RF Jose Bautista

    This might seem like piling on. We knew Jose Bautista's once-vaunted career was on the ropes before the Mets dealt him to the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the waiver deadline.

    But like the Braves, the Phils stars are mostly rising, not fading. 

    Bautista, a six-time All-Star and two-time MLB home run leader, has hit .300 in six games with the Phils after hitting .204 in 83 games with the Mets and .143 in 12 games with Atlanta. 

    As far as farewell tours go, this one isn't especially flattering for Joey Bats.

       

    Washington Nationals: C Matt Wieters

    A four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, Matt Wieters has spent a large chunk of 2018 on the disabled list with various injuries.

    When he's played for the Washington Nationals, the veteran backstop has posted a .227 average and .656 OPS. It isn't all his fault that the Nats are going to miss the playoffs in Bryce Harper's probable swan song with them, but it is his fault that he'll get nothing more than a tepid one-year deal in free agency. 

National League Central

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish

    The Cubs made Yu Darvish their $126 million man over the winter. What they got was a bust who underperformed on the mound and is now done for the season due to triceps and elbow issues.

    At his best, Darvish was a four-time All-Star and one of the most electric arms in the game. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015,  which makes these latest arm issues especially troubling.

    Seeing as he turned 32 in August, the Cubbies could be looking at a potentially steep decline that may prove costly. 

       

    Cincinnati Reds: RHP Homer Bailey

    In February 2014, the Cincinnati Reds inked Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal. The idea was he'd morph into an ace and lead the Reds staff. 

    Since then, Bailey has vacillated between promising and awful. This season, he's settled squarely on awful.

    Pitching wins are an outdated stat, and Cincinnati isn't exactly a juggernaut. However, we can't ignore Bailey's comically abysmal 1-14 record.

    Stack that next to his 6.09 ERA, and you're looking at an embarrassingly seasons pitcher making $21 million in 2018 and $23 million in 2019 on a club with no designs on immediate contention.

       

    Milwaukee Brewers: OF Ryan Braun

    Ryan Braun's complicated career has included six All-Star appearances, a 2011 NL MVP award and the permanent stain of a performance-enhancing drug suspension. 

    As the Milwaukee Brewers push for playoff position, Braun remains in the picture. With that said, he's put up career lows in average (.253), on-base percentage (.302) and slugging percentage (.440).

    His production has trended upward since the All-Star break. But as the Brew Crew rise, the 34-year-old Braun seems to be sinking. 

       

    Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Chris Archer

    Here's a controversial selection that could be proved wrong. But the early returns on Chris Archer as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't great.

    In six starts since the Bucs acquired him from the Rays for a rich prospect package, Archer has coughed up 17 earned runs in 28.1 innings, giving him a 5.40 ERA.

    Overall, the 29-year-old hasn't posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015. The peripheral stats suggest he's been the victim of some misfortune, but results are results at a certain point

    Archer has the two-time All-Star cache and was once counted among MLB's emerging aces. On a new team with a new challenge, he's yet to show it.

       

    St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright

    Adam Wainwright will always have a place in the hearts of St. Louis Cardinals fans. A three-time All-Star and four-time top-three NL Cy Young Award finisher, he's etched his place in Cardinals lore.

    He's also set to take the hill Sept. 10 against the Pirates after missing nearly four months because of elbow inflammation, according to Joe Trezza of MLB.com. 

    Perhaps the 37-year-old has something left to give as the Cards jostle for a playoff spot. But the fact that he hasn't posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 doesn't instill confidence for a sustained late-career renaissance. 

National League West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks: 3B Jake Lamb

    An All-Star who clubbed 30 home runs and notched 105 RBI in 2017, Jake Lamb came crashing back to earth this season.

    He hit a scant .222 with a .655 OPS in 56 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks and underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in August.

    Maybe he'll rebound. The Diamondbacks are in the hunt this season regardless. For now, though, dreams of Lamb's rapid ascent have been dashed.

       

    Colorado Rockies: CF Charlie Blackmon

    Charlie Blackmon has been swinging a hot bat of late for the Colorado Rockies, who are trying to improbably wrest the NL West away from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

    However, Blackmon has underperformed overall after signing a guaranteed six-year, $108 million extension in April.

    A three-time All-Star, Blackmon finished fifth in NL MVP voting in 2017. This year, his average has dipped from .331 to .282 and his OPS from 1.000 to .823. 

    Those aren't terrible numbers, but for a 32-year-old who plays half his games at mile-high altitude and is locked in through at least 2021 and likely beyond, it's a deeply concerning trend. 

       

    Los Angeles Dodgers: 2B Brian Dozier

    Brian Dozier made an All-Star team in 2015, hit 42 home runs in 2016 and finished 11th in AL MVP voting while winning a Gold Glove at second base in 2017.

    This season, he hit .227 for the Minnesota Twins and was shipped to the Dodgers, who hoped he'd rekindle his past glory. So far, however, Dozier is hitting .196 with L.A.

    An impending free agent, Dozier turns 32 in May. Someone will sign him, but not as a star.

       

    San Diego Padres: 1B Eric Hosmer

    The San Diego Padres handed Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million deal in the offseason. He has repaid the rebuilding Friars with a .250/.317/.386 slash line. 

    That would be fine for a utility infielder making the league minimum. For a premium star at a premium price? Not so much.

    More damningly, the four-time Gold Glover has posted a minus-5.4 ultimate zone rating at first base. 

       

    San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey

    Sorry, San Francisco Giants fans. We want to be wrong about this one.

    Not only has Buster Posey been the face of the franchise since he burst on the scene in 2010, he's been the best catcher in baseball. He collected a Rookie of the Year award, a batting title, an MVP trophy and a trio of even-year titles along the way.

    Baseball is better when Buster is well.

    Unfortunately, Posey underwent season-ending hip surgery in late August. He'll turn 32 in March. That isn't to say his career is over, but at some point soon, the Giants will need to consider moving him out from behind the plate, especially with top prospect and catcher Joey Bart coming down the pipeline.

    If nothing else, Posey's reign as MLB's top backstop is likely at an end.

            

    All statistics current entering play Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

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