Four Former MLB Stars Now Playing in the Middle East

On November 24th and 25th, Baseball United, a new professional baseball league taking place in the Middle East and South Asia, held a showcase game in Dubai, putting the sport on a new stage and exposing it to a whole new demographic. The game didn’t count for regular season standings and was more so an All-Star Game, showing off what the new league has to offer.

The most striking novelty of Baseball United is something it calls the “Moneyball”, a gold-colored baseball that has a special power. When the “Moneyball” is used during a specific at-bat, any runs that are batted in when the “Moneyball” is in play are doubled.

Baseball United isn’t all shticks either, it has legitimate household names from MLB,  including a World Series MVP and a Cy Young Award winner, the league is not without its notable players. Let’s break down the four biggest players in Baseball United. 

Four Former MLB Stars now Playing in the Middle East

4. Didi Gregorius, SS, Age 33

Most notably playing for the New York Yankees over his 11-year major league career, Didi Gregorius has joined the Dubai Wolves after being drafted third overall, where he will likely play shortstop. While never an All-Star, Gregorius totaled 999 hits over his career, along with a 17.8 WAR and a .728 OPS.

The Netherlands-born shortstop spent his last three Major League seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies before being released in 2022. He was most recently part of the Seattle Mariners minor league system in the summer of 2023 but was also released before the season had ended. It will be interesting to see if Gregorius can bounce back performance-wise as in his last season with the Phillies, he hit just .210, and while in Triple-A for the Mariners, only hit .192

3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B/1B, Age 37

Pablo Sandoval was taken with the fourth overall pick in Baseball United’s inaugural draft, going to the Abu Dhabi Falcons where he will likely split time between first and third base. 

Sandoval last played in MLB in 2021 with the Atlanta Braves, but he most notably played with the San Francisco Giants for 11 seasons where he wound up winning three World Series titles with the team, taking home World Series MVP honors in 2012. He was also a two-time All-Star in MLB, being selected to the team in back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012. 

As for the Baseball United League, Pablo Sandoval made history by hitting the first-ever six-run homerun in the November 25th showcase game. This occurred because he hit a three-run home run during a “Moneyball” at-bat, meaning it now counted for six. 

2. Bartolo Colon, RHP, Age 50

Despite being a half-century old, the former Cy Young winner, Bartolo Colon,  refuses to throw in the towel on his playing career. The four-time All-Star, who had a 21-year MLB career, will pitch for the Karachi Monarchs after being selected with the 16th pick in Baseball United’s draft after last having played in the Major Leagues back in 2018 for the Texas Rangers. 

In Baseball United’s showcase game, Colon pitched three innings, giving up two earned runs, off two hits and a walk, yet striking out three batters. Colon will be managed by the 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada, who will serve as the head coach of the Karachi Monarchs, along with Adrian Beltre serving as the team’s “Honorary” GM.

1. Robinson Cano, 2B, Age 41

Perhaps the most famous and decorated ex-MLB Star now playing in the Baseball United League is Robinson Cano, an eight-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Gold Glove winner, spending the majority of his 17-year career with the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. 

Cano was selected sixth by the Dubai Wolves and will play second base for the team, after having last played in the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves in 2022. As well as being a player, Cano is also a member of the ownership group for Baseball United, meaning the former World Series Champ will serve in two different roles for the league.

Are the players and gimmicks enough for you to tune in to Baseball United’s first season, coming in late 2024? While a far cry from the MLB, seeing baseball grow around the globe is an interesting and positive prospect, leading to more attention being on the sport and new fans spawning around the world. 

Main Image: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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