Who Will Get the Next Retirement Tour? by Paul Swydan July 18, 2014 This is the fourth season in five in which we’ve experienced — or for some, endured — a retirement tour. First was Bobby Cox in 2010, and then Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have all been feted by their peers around the game. That begs the question, who’s next? Well, if our very own Dave Cameron has his say, nobody. But whether Dave likes it or not, it’ll happen again. These four certainly weren’t the first. Players like Mickey Mantle, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith — Hall of Famers all — were presented with going-away presents on their last go-round (shoutout to this great Reddit thread for the reminders). And, with all of these recent examples so fresh in our minds, and teams always looking for a good marketing gimmick, retirement tours aren’t going to go away permanently. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have one soon though. Back in 2011, Dave wrote a post on the active players most likely to reach the Hall of Fame. He did so again in January. If we look back at the first list, we can see that plenty of these elite players retired without much fanfare, such as Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones. Jumping from team-to-team in your later years, or hanging on until you’re no longer a starter are two big reasons why many such players walk away quietly. Some of the players from Cameron’s list do remain candidates for a retirement tour. Here is a list of 10 position players, ranked by career WAR, who could conceivably have such a tour. I didn’t include pitchers, because all pitchers are broken — some just don’t know it yet. Alex Rodriguez: Hahahahaha, just kidding. Albert Pujols: In nine of the first 10 seasons of his career, Pujols was worth at least 7 WAR. Since, it has been downhill. His time with the Angels hasn’t been pretty, though he is certainly been doing better this year than he did last year. Still, he’s signed for seven more seasons after this one. If he makes it to 2021, he’ll be 41. The good thing is that by then no one will be wrapped up in the fact that the Angels are his second team. The bad news is that by then people may have forgotten about him period. Here’s the list of 40-year-old or older first basemen to qualify for the batting title since baseball integrated in 1947. Note that first base was not even Willie Mays‘ primary position that season, and that Darrell Evans spent a significant amount of time at designated hitter. Adrian Beltre: Now on his fourth team, Beltre figures to take names and kick @$$ on a fifth and sixth team, at least, before he’s ready to hang up his spikes. By that point, he’ll have so many teams that identifying with one of them would be seemingly very difficult. Carlos Beltran: Not only may Beltran share Pujols’ problem with staying relevant on the field, he also has even more of a problem than does Beltre with team identification — the Yankees are his sixth team. Beltran sent no more than seven years with any one team, and he finished his tenure with his last consistent team in 2011. And outside of his Rookie of the Year Award back in 1999, Beltran has precious little hardware, and is far from a media darling or ballpark draw. He’s garnered more recognition recently, but with the game now chuck full of young, talented outfielders, Beltran has been quickly forgotten this season, even in the city that never sleeps. Miguel Cabrera: A sure-fire Hall of Famer, but since he’s signed through 2023, it’s doubtful that he will be the next player to get a retirement tour. Chase Utley: I went back and forth here. Utley has many of the markers you’d want to see for a guy who gets a retirement tour. He’s only played for one team. He’s been without a doubt the best second baseman of his generation, and he has a case for the best second baseman since Lou Whitaker as well — he ranks fifth on this list, but all four of the guys ahead of him have roughly a 3,000 plate appearance advantage (or more). However, Utley is not much of an attention getter. He’s only been an All-Star in six of his 12 seasons, and he’s never finished higher than seventh in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. And, despite being one of the best fielders of the UZR generation, he has exactly zero Gold Gloves to his credit. He doesn’t have any postseason hardware either, though he has hit very well in the postseason. He doesn’t have much interest in playing elsewhere, and if he stays with it through 2018, he’ll be 39. By that point, he should be a lock for the Hall of Fame, but his lack of traditional markers may betray him as they betrayed Whitaker and Bobby Grich. Hopefully, people will have come around on Utley by that point, and he’ll be given the chance for a retirement tour if he wants one, but my bet is that he doesn’t get one. Ichiro Suzuki: A no-doubt Hall of Famer, I’m on the fence about Ichiro here. On the one hand, he’s good enough, and he’s been popular enough, that he deserves a retirement tour even if he’s no longer an impact player — much in the same way Jeter is this season. But Jeter at least has been a starter. Ichiro began the season as a backup, and the Yankees were supposedly willing to eat the majority of his salary to send him to the Astros, but the Astros still didn’t want him. I’d put the odds at 50/50 that Ichiro quietly retires this offseason. The other scenario I could envision is him re-signing with the Mariners for one last season, the way they tried to do with Ken Griffey Jr., but when you combine the memory of that experience with the fact that the Mariners are supposed to be contenders now, and it seems like an unlikely scenario. David Wright: Here, we have our first likely candidate for the next retirement tour. Wright already ranks 28th all-time for WAR among third basemen. By the end of the season, he should rank no worse than 26th. Assuming roughly a 2 WAR average for the final six seasons of his contract, he should rank safely in the top-15 all-time. And that’s being conservative. You’ll notice that players in the top 15 currently such as Paul Molitor, Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez spent the majority of their careers elsewhere. If there’s a sticky wicket, it’s that Wright — like Utley — doesn’t have a ton of hardware. But he does have some — two Gold Gloves, for example. He also has a top-five MVP finish on his resume, and history will show that he deserved better in 2007. Yes, the Mets collapsed, but it wasn’t Wright’s fault — he hit .394/.516/.657 in August and .352/.432/.602 in September. Wright also has managed a level of celebrity that Utley hasn’t. One other bugaboo could be Wright’s injury history. The Virginia native has had back, shoulder, knee and thigh problems during his 11-year career, and as he ages those problems may become more severe and prevent him from going out on his own terms. Still, combine his greatness with his level of fame and he lines up as a prime candidate for a retirement tour. Joe Mauer: Mauer is seemingly a one-team guy. He’s a hometown guy, and why wouldn’t he just stay in Minnesota, right? But his contract only has four more years after this one, and if he’s productive through his age-35 season, he may find himself in high demand. Of course, the question remains as to whether or not he will be. Health has already forced him off of catcher, but his transition to first base seems to be clouded by injury issues. The Twins and their fans certainly don’t want to watch four more years of this kind of play from Mauer, and Mauer probably doesn’t want to endure it either. So while he could also be in high demand, he could also be done at 35. That doesn’t bode well for him if he is, because he definitely needs a few more productive seasons to be in the Hall of Fame conversation. Right now, he’s basically in a dead heat with Jorge Posada, and no rational person would conclude that Posada is a Hall of Famer. Mike Piazza, who you would think shouldn’t have much trouble, is having trouble, and he’s got nearly 20 WAR on Mauer. And Piazza never moved permanently to first base. So, Mauer has some work to do. Right now, he’s in Todd Helton territory. David Ortiz: Will the last on this list be first? Ortiz has a rabid following in Boston, and though he also played for the Twins, that seems like ancient history at this juncture. Ortiz isn’t necessarily a Hall of Fame player, but he has a great deal of fame, and when you combine the murky valuation of DHs for the Hall with his postseason heroics, there will be enough of a gray area that Ortiz’s case will be heavily debated for years to come. In other words, he could get over with a retirement tour if he wanted to. He is near the end of his rope now, so aside from Ichiro, he figures to head on out that door before the others discussed here. If Ortiz wanted to, he could probably line up 2016 as his year of adulation from the baseball public. When I was thinking about this post, that is exactly how I had it pegged. But there’s one issue — Ortiz is always looking for his next contract. His incessant chatter for new contracts over the years have become par for the course. Assuming he stays in Boston, his next contract with the Red Sox will be his seventh (counting arbitration), and each affair is generally loud and drawn out. As this article notes, Ortiz went public about this upcoming offseason back in spring training. This leads some, like the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn to note, that Ortiz won’t have the foresight to plan things out: @Swydan He won't. He won't announce his retirement ahead of time. He'll go out with a bad year. Game will decide for him. — Chad Finn (@GlobeChadFinn) July 16, 2014 There’s something to that notion. Ortiz hit phenomenally well in 2012, and pretty damn well last season too, but this season he has fallen down a notch. If his 123 wRC+ holds, it will be his second-worst mark during his tenure with the Red Sox. That won’t stop him from getting his next contract with the team, but it’ll be a short contract — one year, two years tops. If Ortiz’s hitting continues to decline, he may not have time to plan out a retirement tour. Sometimes retirement tours can seem tiresome, and it almost certainly feels like that to some, now that we’re on our fourth in five seasons. They also can produce happy moments, like when Rodriguez forced Ripken to play shortstop for an inning during the 2001 All-Star Game. But as common as they have seemingly become these past few years, we shouldn’t get used to them just yet. Ortiz and Wright figure to be the two most likely candidates, with Ichiro looming as a long shot, in the next five to 10 years. My guess is that the next one will be Wright, in 2021. That’s a ways off.