The 2022 MLB season promises to be a memorable one. The lockout caused an unprecedented free-agent frenzy during spring training, and the lead-up to Opening Day has been more action-packed than ever before. With so much to look forward to over the next six-plus months, let’s examine 20 guys we should be sure to appreciate this season because they could conceivably retire at years’ end.
Switch-hitting Carlos Santana has enjoyed a decorated big league career that has watched him play in an all-star game, win a Silver Slugger award, participate in a home run derby, and crush 259 homers in the Majors. But at 36-years-old it’s become obvious his best days are behind him. The veteran hit only .214 a year ago–an improvement over his .199 mark the season before–and his ’21 OPS plummeted to a career-worst .661. His contract with Kansas City expires at the end of the year, and barring a significant turnaround it will likely be his last.
Charlie Morton has been hinting at retirement for a few years now, but after helping the Braves win the World Series last October, he was easily convinced to come back for 2022. His contract comes with an option for ’23, but Morton himself will tell you at this point in his career he’s taking it year to year. Performance is certainly not the issue, however, as on the mound, the righty delivered 3.34 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP for Atlanta in ’21.
For several years Corey Kluber was arguably the best pitcher in the American League. Between ’14-’18 the righty made three all-star teams, won two Cy Young awards, and a Lou Gehrig award. Unfortunately for him, at the end of that stretch, his career was completely derailed by injuries. Last season Kluber was more than serviceable for the Yankees–and even threw a no-hitter–but he was only able to make 16 starts. In fact, it’s now been four years since he was able to turn in a fully healthy, and consistent campaign. Kluber signed with Tampa Bay in December but he’s going to turn 36 the first weekend of the upcoming season. If he has to deal with more injuries and rehabbing in 2022 it would not be surprising at all if he decided to hang ’em up.
Daniel BardRighty Daniel Bard was out of the big leagues for seven full years before impressively making an unlikely comeback with the Rockies in 2020. The 3.65 ERA he produced in 24.2 innings in the pandemic shortened season earned him NL Comeback Player of the Year honors, but he was unable to back that up a year ago, limping to a 5.21 ERA with a 1.60 WHIP across 65.2 innings. If the 2022 season does not go any better it’s fair to wonder if he’ll slide into retirement, with the personal satisfaction of the ’20 justifying all the hard work it took to get back on a big-league mound.
David RobertsonRight-handed reliever David Robertson used to be one of the best set-up men and then closers in baseball, but those days feel like an eternity ago. After missing most of two full seasons, the veteran made it back to the Major Leagues in Tampa last season, appearing in 12 games for the Rays with mixed results. The Cubs signed him to a free-agent contract in March hoping he could be a surprise boon to their relief corps, but at 37-years-old rehabbing constant injuries has to be getting old. Don’t be surprised if the 2022 season ends up being the end of the road.
Evan LongoriaAnother well-known big league veteran of the past decade, third baseman Evan Longoria, is unbelievably already 36 years of age. Injuries have hampered Longoria significantly over the past few seasons, and while his .261/.351/.482 slash line a year ago was plenty acceptable, he was only able to participate in half of the Giants’ contests. His contract is set to expire at the end of this year–provided San Francisco buys out his ’23 option–and if they do, it would not shock me if he chose to walk away.
Greg HollandFrom someone who will likely finish his career in Kansas City to someone who made a name for himself there. Right-handed reliever Greg Holland was one of the most feared closers in baseball during his prime, and the Royals were able to ride him and their bullpen to a World Series title in 2015. He left Kansas City shortly after that but returned in 2020, and while he pitched well for the Royals in the pandemic shortened season, last year was not as kind. Now 36-years-old, Holland was able to secure a minor league deal with Texas a few weeks ago, and regardless of how this season plays out, it’s fair to assume it could be his last one.
Justin TurnerThe idea of Justin Turner calling it quits sounds a bit far-fetched, but at 37-years-old what more does he have to prove? The veteran helped the Dodgers win the World Series they desperately coveted in 2020, and he’s become one of the faces of baseball in southern California. The contract Turner signed to re-up in LA two years ago expires after this season, and while there is an option on it for 2023, depending on what happens this year and if the Dodgers decide to buy out the option, don’t be surprised if Turner becomes intrigued with the possibility of moving on to something else.
Justin VerlanderJustin Verlander has accomplished nearly everything a pitcher can in the game of baseball. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2006, has made eight all-star teams, won two Cy Youngs, and was even the AL MVP in ’11. The righty played a crucial role in Houston’s 2017 World Series victory and helped them return to the Fall Classic–albeit in a losing effort–two years later. He’s now 39-years-old, though, and has essentially missed two full seasons due to t Tommy John surgery. On an Astros team that has slowly watched their championship core depart and could start to come back to the pack in the AL West, does Verlander really want to continue pitching into his 40s? We’ll find out soon enough.
Lorenzo CainOutfielder Lorenzo Cain has made a pair of all-star teams in his career and was part of the Royals core that won back-to-back AL pennants in ’14 and ’15 and captured the World Series title in 2015. Since signing in Milwaukee back in 2018, though, his career has slowly regressed. Since the start of 2020 Cain has only appeared in 83 big league games, and his .257 batting average a year ago was his lowest total since 2013. Cain will turn 36 just after opening day, and with his contract set to expire after this season, the ’22 campaign could be the end of the line.
Nelson CruzNelson Cruz made his big league debut in a Brewers uniform all the way back in 2005, and for the better part of a decade and a half, the man known as ‘Boomstick’ has been terrorizing pitchers. In almost 7,000 Major League at-bats Cruz owns a lifetime .277 batting average with 449 home runs. The veteran is going to turn 42 this July and at this point of his career is unquestionably solely a DH. The one-year deal he signed in Washington for 2022 could conceivably be the end of the road for him, although the contract does include a mutual option for ’23. Depending on how this season goes–if the Nationals are interested in picking up the option, and if Cruz himself wants to stick around to make a run at 500 homers– he could return. But in terms of players who may retire, he is certainly deserving of a place on the list.
Nobody on this list has played longer than quirky left-hander Oliver Perez who will be completing his second decade as a Major Leaguer in 2022. Ten years ago it looked like Perez’s career could be done before he impressively reinvented himself and went from a failed starter to a valuable lefty specialist. The three batter minimum negates some of his value, but after joining the Diamondbacks in late March he’ll look to finish out a career that has proven to be inspiring.
Like Cruz, left-hander Rich Hill first stepped on a big-league field in 2005, but his journey has not been nearly as linear. The University of Michigan product has bounced between starting and relieving, has pitched for 11 different Major League teams, and even endured a stint in independent ball. This winter the veteran latched on with his hometown Red Sox–his 3rd stint in Boston–and in all likelihood, this will be a fitting swan song to a satisfying career.
Cano’s presence on this list may be more wishful thinking on the part of a Mets fan than anything else. The 39-year-old is due to make $24 million in each of the next two seasons, and his presence on the New York roster has more to do with that than anything else. The Mets have an abundance of DH options and would surely prefer to give the at-bats to anyone but Cano–the longtime Yankee who is coming off a year he missed entirely because of a failed PED test. If the 2022 season goes poorly for him it’s possible he’d consider retiring, but would you walk away from $24 million in 2023?
Robinson ChirinosVenezuela-born Robinson Chirinos has spent the bulk of his career as a defensively oriented backup catcher that can supply occasional pop at the plate. Those types of backstops will always have a role on big-league rosters, and the Orioles were happy to add him as a free agent this winter–conceivably to help mentor young Adley Rutschman. The veteran will turn 38 this summer, though, and it remains to be seen if he’ll look to come back for an 11th big league season in 2023.
Veteran lefty Sean Doolittle was a lights out closer for Oakland early in his career but became more well known nationally for the role he played in the Nationals World Series win in 2019. The southpaw instantly became a fan favorite during his first D.C. stint, which is why Washington fans were ecstatic when their team brought Doolittle back with a free-agent contract in the middle of March. Performance-wise the Rapid City, SD native struggled in ’21, pitching to just a 4.53 ERA, but on a Nationals team that is not expected to compete, he could play a nice role as a left-handed reliever/pseudo pitching coach/mentor to some of the young arms on this team.
Sergio RomoVeteran Sergio Romo owns three World Series rings and has over 700 big league innings on his right arm, but he’s still climbing big league mounds 14 years after first setting foot on one. In Oakland, last season the 39-year-old turned in a 4.67 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP, but that was still enough to help him land a free-agent contract with the Mariners just last week. What he has left in the tank remains to be seen, and if 2022 indeed is the end of the road for Romo he’ll be remembered as one of the critical members of the Giants’ dynasty in the early 2010s.
Yadier MolinaPlanning to retire with Wainwright is his career-long battery mate, Yadier Molina, who has been an absolute staple on countless good Cardinals teams across his now 19-year big league career. Molina will turn 40 later this summer but remains incredibly productive, as offensively last season he hit .252 with 11 homers in 440 at-bats. Behind the plate, he’s still the defensive player that has won nine Gold Glove awards, and his ability to manage a pitching staff is second to none.