There are many unanswered questions that remain in handling of the COVID19 coronoavirus situation. But there is one thing we can absolutely say regarding this pandemic – it will end.
When this temporary emergency passes and America begins to return to at least a semblance of normalcy, baseball will return as well.
As baseball returns there are three position players who will have lost what are likely among the final valuable months of their careers. All three will one day find themselves among the immortals enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, in the short-term, there is a question as to whether they have anything left in the tank of an impactful nature. Can any of these baseball greats still produce a big statistical season? Can any help their clubs enjoy postseason glory?
Here is a snapshot on the status of each of these three former greats of the game.
STATUS: Albert Pujols will be in his 20th big-league season when Major League Baseball returns. He turned 40 years of age back on January 16 of this year.
CONTRACT: Guaranteed $59 million for the next two years combined. He then has a 10-year personal services contract with the Los Angeles Angels which will kick-in once he retires, likely following that 2021 season.
STATS: Career .300/.379/.549 slash line, 3202 hits, 656 home runs, 661 doubles, 2075 RBIs, 1828 runs scored, 100.8 WAR, 81.3 JAWS.
AWARDS: 2005, 2008 & 2009 National League Most Valuable Player, 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, 10x All-Star, 2003 NL batting champion, 3x Major League Player of the Year, 2x Hank Aaron Award, 2008 Roberto Clemente Award, 6x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glover, 2004 NLCS Most Valuable Player, 2006 & 2011 World Series champion, The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated Player of the Decade 2000’s.
EVALUATION: Over the last five years during his ages 35-39 seasons, Pujols has been a shell of his former self, which should have been expected as he aged past his ballplayer prime. His slash line over nearly 3,000 plate appearances during those years has been just .249/.303/.434, which demonstrates that he has not been a consistently effective force for a long time. Pujols does still have some pop, having produced 136 homers with 472 RBIs during those years. That includes 23 home runs in two of the last three seasons. The Halos added Anthony Rendon to go with Mike Trout in their lineup in hopes of giving Pujols another shot at the postseason over his final two years. If that happens, he won’t be the one to carry the team. But if they make it, don’t be surprised to find Pujols may still have a big October twilight moment left in his bat. One interesting statistical note: can he remain a career .300 hitter? That’s his current overall batting average entering the 2020 season.
STATUS: Robinson Cano will be in his 16th big-league season when MLB returns. He will play all year at age 37, and then turns 38-years-old on October 22, 2020.
CONTRACT: This could quite possibly end up as the worst contract in baseball over the coming years if his bat fails to re-ignite. Cano is still guaranteed another $96 million over four years through his 2023 age 40 season. Thus far, Cano has made more than $214 million over the course of his career.
STATS: Career .302/.352/.490 slash line, 2570 hits, 324 home runs, 562 doubles, 1272 RBIs, 1234 runs scored, 68.0 WAR, 58.7 JAWS.
AWARDS: 8x AL All-Star, 5x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glover, 2012 & 2013 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, 2009 World Series champion, 2013 World Baseball Classic Gold Medal and Most Valuable Player, 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP, 2011 Home Run Derby champion.
EVALUATION: Cano’s productivity has slipped precipitously over the past two seasons, which covers his final year in Seattle and his first with the New York Mets. He has played in just 187 total games in those two seasons, with a combined .277/.337/.447 slash line, 23 home runs, 50 doubles, 89 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. Those would be great if they were one full season. Now, however, the Mets are going to be paying him superstar money for four years and getting what is likely to be not more than pedestrian production. Assuming he can stay healthy and gets regular playing time over the balance of that deal, he would have a solid shot at reaching 3,000 hits. Reaching 400 homers may be a stretch, however. Cano needs to turn it around, at least to remain healthy and give the Mets some reasonable level of production, or his contract will prove a serious detriment to their ability to consistently compete. With the vast majority of his career numbers coming as a second baseman, his Hall of Fame credentials are already in place.
STATUS: Miguel Cabrera will be in his 18th big-league season when Major League Baseball returns, and will turn 37-years-old on April 18.
CONTRACT: Guaranteed another $124 million over the next four years, through his age 40 season in 2023. There are $30 million-per-season automatic vesting options for both 2024 and 2025, but those only kick in if he finished among the top ten in MVP voting in the prior year…not likely. He has already made over $306 million during his career.
STATS: Career .315/.392/.543 slash line, 2815 hits, 477 home runs, 577 doubles, 1694 RBIs, 1429 runs scored, 69.5 WAR, 57.2 JAWS.
AWARDS: 2012 and 2013 American League Most Valuable Player, 11x All-Star, 7x Silver Slugger, 4x batting champion, 2x Major League Player of the Year, 2x Hank Aaron Award, 2012 Triple Crown, 2003 World Series champion.
EVALUATION: The Detroit Tigers are stuck with a major albatross around their necks with his contract. Cabrera has produced just 31 homers and 141 RBIs total over the past three seasons. His slash line during those years has been .270/.345/.404, which is not bad for an average big-leaguer. But Miggy is being paid like a superstar. Look for him to reach the 3,000 career hits and 500 career home run marks during the 2021 season, assuming he can stay healthy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t expect much from either Cabrera or the Tigers as this long-time great fades slowly off into the sunset. For as great a hitter as he was in his prime, let’s hope it doesn’t get too embarrassing in these final years.
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