Each MLB Team's Player Whose Days as a Star Are over for Good

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2019

Each MLB Team's Player Whose Days as a Star Are over for Good

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    Every star in the known universe burns out eventually. The same is true in Major League Baseball, where even the greatest players ultimately fade away.

    It's tough for fanbases and, often, even tougher for the players in question. But it's reality all the same.

    Here's a look at one player on each MLB team whose days as a star are seemingly over for good based on age, injury history and recent production trends. In some cases, we had to stretch the definition of "star." In others, we were forced to call out guys with Hall of Fame resumes who can no longer live up to their elite pedigree. 

    In all cases, it's a painful pill to swallow.

Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Adam Jones

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    A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Adam Jones has mostly been a disappointment with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Sure, the one-year, $3 million deal he signed with the D-backs in March didn't break the bank, but his .269/.319/.434 slash line and minus-1 defensive runs saved in right field don't conjure memories of the all-around player he once was.

    Add the fact that he turned 34 on Aug. 1, and you've got all the makings of a once-excellent performer in precipitous decline.

Atlanta Braves: RHP Mark Melancon

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    The Atlanta Braves acquired reliever Mark Melancon from the San Francisco Giants prior to the July 31 trade deadline in the hopes the veteran right-hander would bolster their relief corps heading into the postseason.

    In 12.2 innings with Atlanta, Melancon has surrendered 15 hits and seven earned runs, "good" for a 4.97 ERA. 

    Yes, Melancon has thrown 2.1 straight scoreless innings in his last three appearances. He may well have utility for Atlanta.

    But they're paying the remainder of his $14 million salary for this season and another $14 million next season for a 34-year-old whose recent performance with both the Braves and Giants has been uneven, to say the least. He posted a 4.50 ERA in 2017 and better (but still not great) 3.23 in 2018 while recording a combined 14 saves.

    Melancon is a former top-tier closer and three-time All-Star who finished eighth in NL Cy Young voting in 2015. Whatever he has left in the tank, it's highly unlikely he'll attain anything close to that again.

Baltimore Orioles: 1B Chris Davis

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    Chris Davis has fallen so far and so hard, it's easy to forget he was a fearsome slugger not so long ago. 

    In 2013, Davis clubbed 53 home runs and finished third in American League MVP voting. In 2015, he hit 47 homers and picked up down-ballot MVP votes.

    The following season, he swatted 38 homers but led the Junior Circuit with 219 strikeouts and hit just .221. Then, the wheels came off.

    This year, Davis is slashing .175/.266/.311 with 10 home runs. The rebuilding Orioles are paying him $23 million and will cough up the same sum every year through 2022. Davis is 33 years old.

    Writing, meet wall.

Boston Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello

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    Rick Porcello led MLB with 22 wins in 2016, posted a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings and won the AL Cy Young Award for his troubles. 

    Since then, the right-handed sinkerballer has failed to post a sub-4.00 ERA for the Boston Red Sox. This season, his ERA sits at 5.63, and he's paced the AL with 96 earned runs allowed.

    The 30-year-old is earning more than $21 million in 2019 but will be a free agent this offseason. Needless to say, he'll have to drastically adjust his contract expectations to match his ongoing underperformance. 

Chicago Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish

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    Yu Darvish pitched just 40 innings in his first season with the Chicago Cubs in 2018. He posted a 4.95 ERA and generally did not look like the four-time All-Star the Cubs signed to a six-year, $126 million deal.

    This year, Darvish's ERA sits at 4.25. He's shown flashes of his old dominance, including in his most recent start on Aug. 27 against the New York Mets (8 IP, 1 ER, 7 SO), but has also given up an NL-leading 31 home runs and recently missed a start with forearm tightness. 

    He turned 33 on Aug. 16, and while he might rebound in time to help the Cubbies' playoff push, his window as a legitimate Cy Young contender worthy of nine figures appears to be closed.

Chicago White Sox: RHP Kelvin Herrera

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    Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star and was a key piece of the Kansas City Royals bullpen when they won a pennant in 2014 and a World Series title in 2015.

    He's making $8.5 million this season with the rebuilding Chicago White Sox and is owed another $8.5 million next season with a $1 million buyout for 2021.

    For that coin, he's posted a 6.96 ERA and given up 57 hits in 42.2 innings. That's...not great.

    The ChiSox are stuck with the 29-year-old unless they want to cut him loose and eat the money, which they might be forced to do if he continues on his current trajectory.

Cincinnati Reds: 1B Joey Votto

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    Sorry, Cincinnati Reds fans. It has to be said: Joey Votto isn't the player he used to be.

    The six-time All-Star and 2010 NL MVP has been the franchise backbone for a decade. As recently as 2017, he hit 36 home runs and finished second in NL MVP voting.

    Yet, he'll turn 36 on Sept. 10. He's hitting .262 with a career-low .767 OPS, and he's been battling back issues.

    Votto is too talented to write off completely. But the trends are not positive for a player moving toward 40 whose time as an on-base machine and perennial MVP contender appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Cleveland Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis

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    A two-time All-Star who picked up down-ballot MVP votes as recently as 2015, Jason Kipnis has largely been a role player at best for the Cleveland Indians in 2019.

    Through 112 games, Kipnis is slashing a modest .245/.306/.412 and is battling wrist tendinitis. This, after he hit just .230 in 2018.

    The Indians would surely love Kipnis to get healthy and turn back the clock as they battle for an AL postseason berth, but the chances of the 32-year-old being a major stretch-run contributor are slim to none.

Colorado Rockies: RHP Wade Davis

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    Wade Davis was an All-Star as recently as 2017 and finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2015. He was considered an elite closer when the Colorado Rockies signed him to a three-year, $52 million deal in December 2017.

    After posting a 4.13 ERA and nailing down 43 saves in 2018, the excrement has hit the fan for Davis in 2019.

    In 48 appearances, he sports an ugly 7.02 ERA and was removed from the closer role on Aug. 2. 

    Granted, he's been chewed up by Coors Field. He owns a 9.62 ERA at home compared to a 3.50 mark on the road. Still, results are results, and they haven't been there for Davis, who turns 34 on Sept. 7.

Detroit Tigers: 1B/DH Miguel Cabrera

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    Eventually, Miguel Cabrera will have a bust in Cooperstown. And Detroit Tigers fans will always have the memories of his days as one of the game's most ferocious sluggers. Sadly, those days are over.

    Cabrera hasn't been awful. He's hitting .285 with a .347 on-base percentage through 121 games. But his 10 home runs and .745 OPS make him a shadow of the player who made 11 All-Star teams and won a pair of AL MVP trophies.

    As a veteran leader on a rebuilding team, he has value. Whether he's worth a fraction of the $30 million-plus the Tigers will pay him annually at least through 2023 is another matter.

Houston Astros: OF Josh Reddick

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    The Houston Astros are cruising to another AL West title behind a stacked starting rotation, solid bullpen and a deep, balanced lineup.

    One guy who's only sort of joined the party? Right fielder Josh Reddick.

    Through 124 games, Reddick is slashing .264/.308/.380. The defense that won him a Gold Glove in 2012 has also diminished, as evidenced by his modest 0.4 ultimate zone rating. (For contrast, that figure was 9.1 in 2012.)

    With top prospect Kyle Tucker now on the big league roster, it's worth wondering how much longer Reddick will serve as an everyday player.

Kansas City Royals: OF Alex Gordon

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    On the surface, Alex Gordon's .264/.340/.401 slash line doesn't look that bad. Yes, he's only hit 12 home runs, a low total for a corner outfielder, but his offense hasn't been atrocious.

    The trouble is, Gordon's value has always come largely from his defense, as the six Gold Gloves he's won in left field can attest.

    This season, however, he's posted minus-1 defensive runs saved even as he earns $20 million from the rebuilding Kansas City Royals.

    Minus the elite leather, the 35-year-old is simply a light-hitting, vastly overpaid albatross.

Los Angeles Angels: 1B/DH Albert Pujols

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    Like Cabrera, Albert Pujols is a surefire Hall of Famer. Ten All-Star selections and three NL MVP Awards speak for themselves. 

    Also like Cabrera, he's a shell of his former self.

    Yes, he's swatted 21 homers for the Los Angeles Angels this year. But his ho-hum .253/.314/.451 slash line puts him light years away from the glory days.

    Pujols will turn 40 in January and is owed $29 million in 2020 and $30 million in 2021. Needless to say, the Halos won't be getting their money's worth.

Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Kenley Jansen

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    A three-time All-Star who finished fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2017, Kenley Jansen has not been consistently dominant in 2019.

    Sure, he's notched 28 saves and averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He's also posted a career-worst 3.86 ERA overall and a 5.29 ERA since the All-Star break.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers are a pretty darn complete team as they angle for their first championship since 1988. The 31-year-old Jansen, however, seems to have gone from unmitigated late-inning strength to a downright liability.

Miami Marlins: 2B Starlin Castro

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    It's tempting to put overpaid ($20 million in 2019, $22 million in 2020) left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and his 6.86 ERA in this slot. But it's tough to argue he was ever a star.

    Starlin Castro, meanwhile, made four All-Star teams, including in 2017 with the New York Yankees. Now, the 29-year-old is putting up mediocre stats for the cellar-dwelling Miami Marlins.

    Castro has hit 17 home runs through 138 games but owns a dreadful .295 on-base percentage. Assuming the Marlins offer him a $1 million buyout this winter, he'll become a free agent. Maybe a change of scenery and a chance to play for a winner will rekindle his star-level production.

    As he rounds the bend on 30, however, don't bank on it.

Milwaukee Brewers: OF Lorenzo Cain

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    You were probably expecting Ryan Braun, right? Granted, Braun will likely never again achieve the heights he reached when he won NL MVP honors in 2011 with, ahem, a little performance-enhancing assistance.

    But Braun owns an .828 OPS with 18 homers for the Milwaukee Brewers. That's not quite star-level, but it's solid production.

    Fellow outfielder Lorenzo Cain, on the other hand, has seen his production crater. 

    In 125 games with Milwaukee, Cain owns a .671 OPS and has battled knee problems. Last season, his first with the Brew Crew, Cain made the All-Star team and finished seventh in NL MVP voting. A resurgence is possible.

    On the other hand, he'll turn 34 in April. Often, that's when the slide becomes irreversible.

Minnesota Twins: RHP Sam Dyson

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    The Twins don't have any obvious fading stars on their roster. Many of their players are up-and-comers, and their resident veteran, designated hitter Nelson Cruz, won't stop raking.

    So we'll stretch the definition of "star" to the breaking point and target reliever Sam Dyson.

    A trade-deadline pickup from the San Francisco Giants, Dyson was a top-shelf closer as recently as 2016, when he saved 38 games and posted a 2.43 ERA for the Texas Rangers. In 51 innings with the Giants this season, he posted a 2.47 ERA in a setup role.

    Since arriving in Minnesota, Dyson has coughed up nine earned runs in 11.1 innings, "good" for a 7.15 ERA. It's a small sample, sure. But the 31-year-old will be a free agent after the season and might have to settle for a shorter-term, less lucrative deal because of his struggles in Minnesota. He certainly won't garner elite reliever money.

New York Mets: 2B Robinson Cano

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    Robinson Cano homered and reached base four times in his return from a hamstring injury Wednesday, propelling the New York Mets to an 8-4 win over the Washington Nationals.

    It was a rare bright spot in a season defined mostly by injury and underperformance.

    Overall, Cano has played just 87 games in his first season with the Mets and posted a .259/.303/.430 slash line. Any hope he'll return to his eight-time All-Star ways is fizzling fast.

    He'll turn 37 in October, when he and the Mets will likely be watching the postseason from their couches.

New York Yankees: OF Jacoby Ellsbury

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    Admit it, you almost forgot Jacoby Ellsbury is even on the Yankees, didn't you?

    That's understandable. He hasn't played an inning since 2017 because of various injuries. He's reportedly rehabbing at the Yanks' minor league facility in Tampa, but there's no timetable for his return.

    Meanwhile, New York is paying the 35-year-old, who was the AL MVP runner-up and won a Gold Glove for Boston in 2011, more than $21 million this season and next, plus a $5 million buyout for 2021.

    That's a lot of dough for a guy who may never again set foot on a big league diamond.

Oakland Athletics: DH Khris Davis

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    Khris Davis led MLB with 48 home runs last season and posted an .874 OPS for the Oakland Athletics. He also struck out 175 times, but the power more than made up for it.

    In 2019, Davis has crashed to Earth.

    He's hitting just .221 with a .290 on-base percentage and .673 OPS. And his 19 home runs don't nearly make up the difference.

    Davis will turn 32 in December. The game-changing pop might return, but just as likely, his time as one of the AL's preeminent mashers has passed.

Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Jake Arrieta

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    Since winning the NL Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs in 2015 with a 1.77 ERA, Jake Arrieta has seen his ERA climb in each successive season: 3.10 in 2016, 3.53 in 2017, 3.96 in 2018 and 4.64 in 2019.

    It's a disturbing trend. Add the fact that Arrieta underwent season-ending elbow surgery in August, and the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander has officially gone from unquestioned ace to serious question mark.

    He'll attempt a comeback next year at age 34. How well that'll go is anyone's guess.

Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Chris Archer

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    When they acquired Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays at the 2018 trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates were getting a two-time All-Star who, at various points in his career, threw like a dominant ace. They were also getting a mercurial pitcher who hadn't posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015.

    So far with the Pirates, Archer has looked more like the latter and less like the former.

    After posting a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts with the Bucs in 2018, Archer owns a 5.19 ERA in 23 starts this season and has surrendered 25 home runs. He's also been out for more than two weeks with a shoulder issue.

    Archer will turn 31 in September. Even if he stays healthy, his ceiling might be as a mid-rotation starter going forward.

San Diego Padres: 2B Ian Kinsler

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    Eric Hosmer is a candidate for this spot, but the San Diego Padres first baseman is hitting .284 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI. 

    Instead, we'll target veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler.

    A four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, Kinsler is hitting just .217 with a .278 on-base percentage in 87 games for the San Diego Padres and has posted one defensive runs saved at the keystone sack.

    He's making $3.75 million this season and next, so it's not as if he's busting the Friars' payroll. But, at age 37, he's nothing more than a fringe role player.

San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey

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    Oh, San Francisco Giants fans...we know this one hurts.

    Along with manager Bruce Bochy and left-hander Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey was the backbone of the Giants' trio of even-year championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. In that span, he won a Rookie of the Year Award, a batting title and an NL MVP trophy.

    Posey still has value as a leader and experienced receiver with plus pitch-framing abilities. His offense, however, has all but evaporated.

    In 102 games, Posey has hit just six home runs and posted a full-season career-worst .696 OPS. He'll turn 33 in March and might soon need to move out from behind the plate to save his legs.

    Unfortunately, his current production with the bat is not befitting an MLB first baseman, which is the position he'd most likely occupy.

Seattle Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez

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    Between 2009 and 2015, Felix Hernandez made six All-Star teams, won an AL Cy Young Award and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young balloting five other times for the Seattle Mariners. He was, quite simply, the King.

    Since then, Hernandez has seen his ERA balloon and his effectiveness plummet. This season, he's thrown just 52.1 innings with the M's while missing significant time with a shoulder injury and posting a 6.02 ERA.

    He'll turn 34 in April and is an impending free agent. Someone will probably take a flier on him, but he'll never again be paid, or pitch, like an ace.

St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina

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    With nine All-Star appearances and nine Gold Gloves between 2008 and 2018, there's little doubt Yadier Molina is one of the greatest catchers of his generation.

    He's still an effective player and crafty, experienced catcher—an asset to the St. Louis Cardinals, no question.

    But a star? Those days are probably over. The 37-year-old has hit well since returning from a thumb injury in mid-August, but overall his .314 on-base percentage and eight home runs make him a complementary contributor rather than a lineup cog.

    Still, for a guy to be even somewhat productive behind the plate in his late 30s is impressive.

Tampa Bay Rays: C Mike Zunino

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    Again, we're stretching the definition of "star." But Mike Zunino did look like a catcher on the rise in 2017 when he hit 25 home runs with an .840 OPS for the Mariners.

    This year, the small-budget Tampa Bay Rays are paying him more than $4 million (a significant sum by their standards) to hit .170 with a .557 OPS.

    He's only 28 years old. But he's deep enough into this awful offensive season to wonder if his breakout 2017 was more an anomaly and less a harbinger of a star-quality career.

Texas Rangers: DH/OF Shin-Soo Choo

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    Don't get us wrong: Shin-Soo Choo is having a decent season for the Texas Rangers. In 132 games, the 37-year-old veteran is hitting .263 with 21 homers.

    Since the All-Star break, however, Choo's average has dipped to .215 and he's managed just 13 extra-base hits compared to 38 before the break. He's also limited defensively in the outfield and will likely need to become a full-time designated hitter soon.

    Choo was an All-Star last season and picked up stray MVP votes as recently as 2013. Yet at his age, he's unlikely to live up to the star money ($21 million) the Rangers will pay him in 2020.

Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Justin Smoak

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    The rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays don't have many stars, fading or otherwise, left on their roster.

    So we'll count first baseman Justin Smoak, who was an All-Star in 2017 when he bashed 38 homers with 90 RBI and an .883 OPS.

    This year, Smoak's average has bottomed out at .212 and his OPS sits at a modest .758. He still gets on base at a decent clip, though, as evidenced by his .350 on-base percentage. He'll test the free-agent waters this winter as he enters his age-33 season and should generate some interest.

    But a modest short-term deal laden with incentives is much more realistic than a star-level long-term contract.

Washington Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

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    Two separate injured list stints due to a foot injury have cost Ryan Zimmerman 91 games this season. The Washington Nationals first baseman is back on the active roster as the Nats push for the postseason, but he's likely to play a diminished role.

    A two-time All-Star, Zimmerman had a bounce-back season in 2017 when he hit 36 home runs with 108 RBI. He was limited to just 85 games last season, however, and the injury bug has bitten again this year.

    Zimmerman will turn 35 on Sept. 28. Nostalgia aside, the Nationals are almost guaranteed to give him a $2 million buyout and say goodbye to a longtime franchise cornerstone.


    All statistics current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs