The MLB Cycle of Life: From Rookies to Retirees

As breakout stars Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Gunnar Henderson (Baltimore Orioles) emerge as Rookie of the Year favorites, other players like Miguel Cabrera and Adam Wainwright are wrapping up final seasons of illustrious careers. While Cabrera (40) and Wainwright (42) are the two highest-profile impending retirees, they are not the only well-known players who have made or are likely to make this life-changing announcement. 

From Rookie to Retirees, the Major League Baseball Life Cycle

Miggy and Waino

Future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera played for the Miami Marlins from 2003 to 2007 and then for the Detroit Tigers from 2008 to 2023. The Venezuelan two-time American League (AL) Most Valuable Player winner, four-time league batting champ, and 12-time All-Star will finish his professional baseball career with a lifetime batting average of over .300, 500 plus home runs, and more than 3000 hits. He won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003 and was part of the Tigers’ squad that the San Francisco Giants beat to win the 2012 World Series. 

Wainwright is about to complete his 18th season with the St. Louis Cardinals. He started as a relief pitcher, saving their World Series-clinching victory against the Tigers in 2006. For the past decade, he has been one of the best starting pitchers in the National League (NL), racking up wins and strikeouts for a perennially contending Cardinals franchise. Only MLB Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson has more strikeouts than Adam Wainwright in Cardinals’ history. Wainwright is finishing a miserable final season on a good note as he recently recorded his milestone 200th win, joining Gibson and Jesse Haines in team history.

Other notable retirees

Along with these two stars, Sean Doolittle announced his retirement last week, ending a successful 11-year career closing games for the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals. After converting from a hitter to a pitcher, the left-hander broke out with the A’s, spending six seasons there before getting traded to Washington in 2017 and helping the Nationals win the 2019 World Series. Under a minor-league contract signed last November, Doolittle spent months recovering from a left elbow injury to return to the Major Leagues with Washington. However, he partially tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in June, ending his comeback attempt.

Other notable inactive Major Leaguers who officially retired this year include outfielders Adam Jones and José Bautista and pitchers Bartolo Colon and Cole Hamels. Jones played center field for the Orioles from 2008 to 2018, and Bautista powered the Toronto Blue Jays’ offense from 2010 to 2018. Hamels led the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation from 2007 to 2015, and Colon was one of the best and most entertaining pitchers in baseball during his 20-year career (1997-2018) with 11 different teams. Although Colon had not pitched in a Major League game since 2018, he officially retired as a New York Met this past July.

Rumored Retirement Candidates

Finally, the following six active MLB players are potential retirement candidates: pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Zack Greinke, and hitters Nelson Cruz, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria

The 35-year-old Kershaw is a future MLB Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in Los Angeles Dodgers (and baseball) history. The upcoming free agent has experienced frequent injuries during the past few years as he has aged, and this is not the first time he has dealt with retirement rumors.

Although Hill (43) experienced various struggles throughout his career, since 2015, he has proven to be a dependable left-handed starting pitcher for numerous MLB clubs. Hill started with the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching to a 4.76 ERA in 22 starts, but has struggled mightily following a midseason trade to the San Diego Padres, achieving an ERA of 8.88 in eight appearances.

Grienke (39) achieved initial success with the Kansas City Royals from 2004-2010 and also performed well with the Dodgers (2013-2015), Milwaukee Brewers (2011-2012), and Houston Astros (2019-2021). He has returned to the Royals for the past two seasons. 

43-year-old designated hitter Cruz broke out with the Texas Rangers, powering them to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. However, they came up short both times, and he missed a fly ball that would have clinched their victory in 2011 against the Cardinals. Cruz recovered from a drug suspension in 2013 to hit the most home runs of any MLB player in the 2010s, and MLB has given the free agent multiple awards for his community involvement.

Crawford (36) has been the Giants’ starting shortstop since 2012. He has helped the club win countless games this past decade, highlighted by World Series titles in 2012 and 2014. Crawford is in the final year of a 2-year contract and has not publically decided about his future after struggling with injuries and subpar performance this year.

Lastly, Longoria is considered one of the greatest Tampa Bay Rays in franchise history. He set many team records during his time there from 2008-2017, but like Crawford, his performance has dropped over the past few years with the Giants and Diamondbacks.

With only one week left in the regular MLB season, time is running out for fans to appreciate and cheer for these players before they move on and make space for the next generation. 

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