Baseball could be welcoming “Big Sexy” back in 2018.
The Clown Prince of Baseball himself, Bartolo Colon, has announced that he plans to pitch in 2018, which would be his 21st season in a MLB uniform.
Surprising, when considered that the 2017 season was his worst in the majors. Pitching for his 10th and 11th teams in the big leagues, the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, Colon posted his worst overall record, 7-14. He also established a career worst 6.48 ERA in 28 starts, and third worst WHIP of 1.587.
Even still, the long-time hurler is only one season removed from a great 2016 campaign that saw him go 15-8 for the New York Mets in 33 starts, with a 3.43 ERA and 1.210 WHIP.
Any team looking to sign the portly 44-year-old would hope he could revert to that form. We’ll see.
If it weren’t for such a lousy season, we would include him on our list here of old-timers seeking new contracts for the 2018 season. Here are 15 who could still have varying impacts, in order of “youngest” to oldest.
15. 2B Brandon Phillips – 36
By all accounts, veteran second baseman Brandon Phillips had a good season split between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels. A four-time Gold Glover and two-time All-Star, Phillips hit a collective .285 (10 points above his career average), had 48 extra base hits and drove in 60 runs. He also stole 11 bases to push his career number to 209. He played 88 games at second and 25 at third for Atlanta and another 24 at second for L.A., posting a .984 fielding percentage (seven errors on 444 chances). Phillips was on the last year of a six-year, $72.5 million contract that paid him $14 million in 2017, but he will likely have to sign for less this winter on a short-term deal.
14. P Hisashi Iwakuma – 36
In terms of career standards, Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is low on the games-played totem pole. He was a superstar in the Nippon Professional Baseball League and didn’t cross over to the major leagues until he was already relatively old at 31 in 2012. The Oakland Athletics eventually won the bidding for his services once the NPB allowed his release, but he couldn’t get a contract and signed with Seattle instead. In his first five seasons, from 2012 to 2016, Iwakuma was very reliable, even finishing third in AL Cy Young voting in 2013, when he went 14-6, with a 2.66 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 219.2 innings. Over those five seasons his record was a respectable 63-37 in 130 starts. But, shoulder inflammation limited him to just six starts in 2017 (0-2, 4.35 ERA). He’ll need to pass a physical.
13. P C.C. Sabathia – 37
Carsten Charles “C.C.” Sabathia Jr. showed the baseball world in 2017 that age is just a number. After a few losing seasons where many in the game thought he was all but done, the veteran starter put in a strong 17th career campaign for a decidedly younger Yankees team on the rise. He near matched his win total from the three previous seasons (18) by going 14-5 in 27 starts, along with a 3.69 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 148.2 innings. He was a fairly tough cookie in two games against Cleveland in the ALDS, striking out 14 and allowing eight hits and four earned runs in 9.2 innings of work. In the ALCS, Sabathia went six strong in a 8-1 Game 3 win over Houston, allowing just three hits, no runs and striking out five. He didn’t pitch too badly in a 4-0 Game 7 loss, going 3.1 innings on short rest, with five hits against and one earned run. He tops the free agent list in money made last season at $25 million, which he won’t come close to garnering this off-season (but should still get offers).
12. OF Jose Bautista – 37
His arm isn’t what it used to be, but Jose Bautista can still swing a bat and has a great eye at the plate. Joey Bats, though, became a lightning rod for criticism in a very disappointing Toronto Blue Jays season, as his strikeouts increased to an eye-popping 170 and his 23 homers in 157 games way down from previous seasons, all while making over $17 million. Bautista hit just .203, but did walk 84 times to boost his on base percentage to .308. He also stroked 27 doubles and drove in 65 runs. Toronto has washed its hands of the “Bat Flip” man, declining a mutual option for the 2018 season, but he just turned 37 a few weeks ago and if healthy could have a rebound season given a chance.
11. DH Matt Holliday – 37
Like teammate C.C. Sabathia, long-time MLB outfielder Matt Holliday was part of an ever-shrinking group of geezers on a surprisingly good New York Yankees team in 2017. The seven-time NL All-Star and champion with St. Louis in 2011 was signed to a one-year, $13 million contract by the Yanks last year and ended up playing fairly well. He appeared in 105 games (missing some games due to viral infections and back problems), hitting .231 with 18 doubles, 19 homers and 64 RBI. He didn’t see much action in the post-season (where he has excelled in the past), getting no hits in three at-bats. Those kind of numbers may not have justified his $13 million contract, however, should he take a bit of a discount, his still potent bat might be welcome elsewhere.
10. OF Jayson Werth – 38
The Grizzly Adams of baseball just completed a season that by his standards was well below his career output. For that reason, it is highly unlikely the Washington Nationals will bring him back for a 16th big league season. The bearded wonder missed 92 games, due to a fractured left foot suffered when he fouled a ball off of it in a game against Oakland in early June. Werth came into his own with Philadelphia nine years ago, breaking out with a career high 24 homers during the 2008 season and later winning a championship with the Phillies. He continued his ascent up the offensive ladder for a few years, his last good one being in 2014, when he hit .318 with 16 homers and 82 RBI. In 70 games this year, Werth hit just .226, but still had decent power numbers (21 extra base hits) and a OBP nearly 100 points higher than his batting average (.322). If healthy, he could still contribute, probably as a platoon player.
9. 2B Chase Utley – 38
Compared to fellow 38-year-old Jayson Werth, Chase Utley was a bargain at $2.25 million in 2017 (Werth was paid over $21 million in 2017). The man who had a rule created in his name didn’t have a great year, statistically, hitting .236, but did have 20 doubles, four triples and eight homers among his 73 hits for a .405 slugging percentage. Utley also stole six bases at his advanced age and was only caught once, so he still does have some wheels. The post-season with the Dodgers wasn’t as kind, as the man who once hit five homers for Philadelphia in the 2009 World Series went hitless in 15 total post-season at bats. If he does catch on with another team in 2018, it will likely be in a spot start capacity and maybe as a mentor to an up-and-coming young second baseman.
8. P Peter Moylan – 38
Veteran hurler Peter Moylan’s career really didn’t start until he was 27, so at 38 his resume is still getting fleshed out. As for his 11th year in the big leagues, well, we’ll say it was a darned good one for a guy who’ll be 39 soon. The righthanded Aussie tied Cleveland’s Bryan Shaw for most appearances at 79. And he didn’t just put in time, logging a 3.49 ERA, as well as recording 24 holds, a 1.096 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched. A hard-throwing sidearm pitcher, Moylan made a bottom-line friendly $1 million in 2017 and in the right organization, still has plenty of value in a set-up role.
7. P John Lackey – 39
For the first half of the 2017 season, John Lackey looked for all intents and purposes to be washed up. By the end of June the 15-year veteran was saddled with a terrible 5-9 record and ugly 5.24 ERA for the defending champion Chicago Cubs. But, the old buzzard still had life in his long right arm, rebounding to finish out at 7-3 to even his record at 12-12, while lowering his ERA to a more manageable 4.59. Lackey, on the last year of a two-year, $32 million deal with the Cubs, appeared in three games in the National League Championship Series, all in relief, and pitched on back-to-back days for the first time in his career, Oct. 14-15, against the Dodgers. Having started 92 games in the last three seasons, a lot of teams could do worse than to offer Lackey a contract.
6. OF Carlos Beltran – 40
For one of the few times in his lengthy and illustrious 20-season big league career, Carlos Beltran didn’t have much of a post-season impact for the champion Houston Astros. The nine-time All-Star and holder of a career .323 post-season batting average (along with 16 homers and 42 RBI in 55 games), had just three hits in 20 at-bats, with one RBI for the Astros. But, those numbers mirrored his output at primarily designated hitter from the regular season, when he hit a career low .231, with 29 doubles, 14 homers and 51 RBI in 129 games. What sets Beltran apart is his ability (usually) to rise to the occasion with clutch hits. Still a useful DH candidate at 40.
5. P Joaquin Benoit – 40
Benoit has been a baseball troubador lately, suiting up for five different clubs in the past three seasons. Through it all, he has pitched admirably in a set-up role, despite his advanced age. After posting a 3-1 record and 2.81 ERA in 51 games with Seattle and Toronto in 2016, Benoit bounced between the woeful Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates this season, seeing action in 52 contests. While his ERA ballooned to 4.65 and his record flipped to 1-6, his WHIP only increased from 1.271 in 2016 to 1.291 this past season. Benoit also remained close to his career strikeouts per nine innings of 8.9 with 8.2 (46 in 50.1 innings). He made $7.5 million on a one-year contract, but may have to take a bit less to stay in the majors, where he still has value.
4. P Fernando Rodney – 40
He’ll be 41 before the 2018 season begins, but don’t tell closer Fernando Rodney he’s washed up. The Dominican fireballer did have some early season troubles with a good Arizona club, blowing five saves by early July, but he cleaned up his act and had only one misstep the rest of the way. In the end, Rodney saved 39 games (tied for fourth overall in MLB) and struck out 65 batters in a season more reminiscent of the years where he was either a saves leader or near the top. When he blew his fifth save, Rodney’s ERA was at a season high 5.64, but by his final relief appearance on Oct. 1 in a win over Kansas City, it was a respectable 4.23. He may not be the D-backs closer of the future and may be better suited to a set-up role, however, he made just $4 million in 2017, which is a bargain in anyone’s books.
3. P Koji Uehara – 42
Now we are in the true geezer class of this crew of veterans. Koji Uehara, who was already old (34) when he joined the Baltimore Orioles after many seasons in the NPB, was still mowing them down in a set-up role with the Chicago Cubs this season as a free agent signee. Through his nine-season major league career, Uehara has logged a 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings average, admirable for a guy his age. It wasn’t his best year, surely, as his ERA was a career worst (as a relief man, anyway) 3.98. He appeared in 49 games and recorded a 3-4 record, two saves and 50 Ks in 43 innings. The Cubs opted not to put him on their 25-man roster for the NLCS, which means he’s all but done in the Windy City. His repertoire may not be as good as days gone by, but we think he’s still got some game for a team looking for cheap bullpen help.
2. P R.A. Dickey – 43
There are no signs of quit in R.A. Dickey’s knuckleballing arm. Even at the ripe old age of 43, the former NL Cy Young winner was Atlanta’s most consistent starter, posting a 10-10 record for a losing team, with a 4.26 ERA (he is 4.04 lifetime), and 136 strikeouts in 190 innings of work. The Braves, though, cut Dickey loose after the season and he recently said that any decision about his future in the major leagues would be discussed with his family. Hard to argue, though, that he still couldn’t be effective as a back end starter for a few clubs. If he does pitch, he might not get another $7.5 million contract, but even at that he gave Atlanta good bang for the buck.
1. OF Ichiro Suzuki – 44
Is old man Ichiro’s time in the major leagues finally up? We’ll find out in the near future, as the Miami Marlins cut ties with the 3,000-hit (3,080 to be exact) wonder. At 44, he hasn’t been the hit machine he was when he led the American League in hits seven times with Seattle (two batting titles too). However, in limited action with Miami this past season he still rapped out 50 hits in 196 at bats (.255 average) while striking out little and driving in 20 runs. The one thing we did note about his performance was the fact he stole only one base this season, after swiping at least 10 in each of the three previous campaigns. Many don’t want to see him go and we believe he could still be a valuable spot starter and pinch hitter. In fact, he had 26 pinch hits in 91 pinch hit at bats, the second highest total ever.