David Ortiz is now retired, but he showed last season that MLB’s “senior citizens” can still play. Ortiz put together one of the best seasons ever by a 40-year-old, hitting 38 home runs with an AL-best (tied for first) 127 RBIs while finishing sixth in the MVP voting. While Big Papi is no longer around to torment pitchers, there are still plenty of guys who are at least 35 years old getting the job done both at the plate and on the mound.
Expect to hear plenty from these elder statesmen this season as several of them are on the verge of some impressive accomplishments. So which of these “old” guys can still play?
Note: All players listed below are at least 35 years old as Opening Day (April 3). Current age is in parentheses.
1. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers (37)
Beltre’s 20th season won’t get started until he comes off of the DL (calf), but when he does, he’ll likely reach some impressive milestones. He needs just 58 hits for 3,000 in his career and is five home runs shy of 450. He also could get to 1,500 runs (needs 72) and 600 doubles (needs nine), as he shows no sign of slowing down. Beltre picked up his fifth Gold Glove in 2016 and has finished in the top 15 in AL MVP voting in each of his six seasons with the Rangers.
2. Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, Seattle Mariners (36)
Cruz continues to age well, posting his third straight 40-home run season with 105 RBIs in 2016. Cruz has 127 home runs over his last three seasons combined and has now hit at least 22 in each of the past eight years. Cruz also hit .287 with a career-high 96 runs scored while finishing 15th in AL MVP voting in his second season in Seattle.
3. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (36)
Back with the Blue Jays on a one-year, “prove it” deal (with a mutual option for 2018 and vesting option for ’19), Bautista is coming off of his worst season since 2009. Injuries are somewhat to blame, as he hit just .234 with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs. That ended a six-year run in which he averaged 38 home runs and 97 RBIs with 95 runs scored where he was an All-Star every season and finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting four times. With Edwin Encarnacion now in Cleveland, Toronto is hoping that 2016 was just a blip on the radar for the man known as Joey Bats.
4. Carlos Beltran, OF/DH, Houston Astros (39)
Beltran, who will turn 40 on April 24, returns to Houston hoping to provide some veteran leadership and some offense to a young team that appears to be on the cusp of possibly making it to the World Series. Traded from Kansas City to the Astros in June 2004, Beltran was an offensive force in his brief run with the Astros, especially in the playoffs. More than a decade later, Beltran remains a productive hitter, as he posted a .293-29-93 line for the Yankees and Rangers in 2016.
5. Albert Pujols, DH/1B, Los Angeles Angels (37)
Pujols has basically become a full-time DH at this point in his career and health is becoming more of an issue, but the numbers speak for themselves. He hit 31 home runs in 2016, his 14th with at least 30. He also drove in 119, his 13th season with at least 100 RBIs and now sits 20th on the all-time list with 1,817 entering 2017. He is ninth in history in home runs and needs just nine more to join the exclusive 600 club and is just 175 hits away from 3,000.
6. Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers (38)
After a torn meniscus limited Martinez to just 120 games in 2015 and contributed to his .244 average, the veteran hitter bounced back in a big way. In 154 games last season, Martinez posted a .289 average with 27 home runs and 86 RBIs. As the Tigers’ full-time DH, Martinez has one job and it’s something the career .301 hitter continues to do well.
7. Rich Hill, P, Los Angeles Dodgers (37)
It’s been quite the journey for Hill, who was a fourth-round pick of the Cubs back in 2002 and has just 221 career appearances (94 GS) in his 12 seasons. Health has been one of his biggest issues and remains his largest hurdle, but when he’s on the mound, this lefthander is capable of shutting any lineup down. In 20 starts last season for Oakland and the Dodgers, Hill went 12-5 with a sparkling 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings. He also pitched six scoreless innings in a win over the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS.
8. John Lackey, P, Chicago Cubs (38)
Overshadowed by his teammates – NL Cy Young finalists Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, and All-Star Jake Arrieta – Lackey more than held his own as a member of the Cubs’ starting rotation. He went 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 29 starts and had nearly as many strikeouts (180) as innings pitched (188.1). He has posted double-digit wins in four straight seasons and has done so in 14 consecutive if you don’t count 2012, which he missed after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
9. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Atlanta Braves (35)
After 11 seasons in Cincinnati, Phillips has come home as the Reds traded the Stone Mountain, Ga., native to the Braves in February. Although he’s likely not part of Atlanta’s long-term plans, Phillips remains a solid contributor at both the plate (.291-11-64 last season) while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense at second. He’s the perfect veteran to mentor the Braves’ young players, especially as the double-play partner for shortstop Dansby Swanson.
10. Matt Holliday, OF/1B/DH, New York Yankees (37)
After eight years with St. Louis, Holliday signed with the Yankees to be the primary DH, although he can still fill in at first base and in the outfield if needed. Injuries have been an issue for Holliday recently (183 games played in 2015-16 combined), but he still can do some damage with his bat. A career .303 hitter across 14 seasons, Holliday put together his 10th 20-home run campaign in 2016 and did so in just 382 at-bats.
11. Adam Wainwright, P, St. Louis Cardinals (35)
Last season was a struggle for Wainwright, but he still finished with a winning record (13-9) despite posting the worst ERA (4.62) of his career. Some of it could be attributed to the lingering effects of the torn Achilles he suffered in April 2015. But to his credit, he still made 33 starts, came up just shy of 200 innings (198.2), and pitched a shutout. Now in his 12th season, Wainwright is 134-76 with a 3.17 ERA and more innings (1768.1) than hits allowed (1,650) in his career.
12. Hisashi Iwakuma, P, Seattle Mariners (35)
Iwakuma turns 36 on April 12, and while his ERA is trending in the wrong direction, he remains an effective starter. Last season he won a career-high 16 games (33 GS) for the Mariners and has posted a winning record every season since coming over from Japan in 2012. He’s 63-37 in his five major league seasons and came up just one inning shy of 200 in 2016.
13. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets (36)
Granderson hit just .237 last season but he swatted 30 home runs and produced 88 runs with more than half of his at-bats coming from the leadoff spot. He strikes out a lot (130 in 2016), but his ability to draw a walk (74), hit with power (24 2B) and solid defense are why he remains a mainstay in the Mets’ lineup. He entered this season just seven home runs shy of 300 in his career.
14. Rajai Davis, OF, Oakland A’s (36)
Davis was somewhat of a surprise contributor for Cleveland last season, as he led the AL with 43 stolen bases. He also hit a career-high 12 home runs in the regular season and provided the game-tying, two-run blast in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Davis entered the season needing just 35 stolen bases for 400 in his career.
15. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals (37)
After an injury-plagued 2015, Werth played in 143 games last season, hitting . 244 with 28 doubles and 21 home runs. He’s not afraid to draw a walk (71 in 2016) and is far from a liability in left field for the Nationals, as he made just one error and had five assists last season.
16. Bartolo Colon, P, Atlanta Braves (43)
Colon remains the oldest player in the majors as well as a productive, reliable starter. He went 15-8 for the Mets last season with a 3.43 ERA while coming close to 200 innings (191.2) pitched. That’s five straight seasons with double-digit wins and 13 such as he enters his 20th year in the majors. And don’t forget the entertainment value he provides at the plate, as he finally hit his first career home run last season.
17. Santiago Casilla, P, Oakland A’s (36)
Casilla is back with the A’s, where his career started in 2004. In fact, Casilla has only pitched for the two Bay Area teams in his 14 seasons following his seven-year run with San Francisco from 2010-16. Last year, Casilla recorded 31 saves for the Giants, but he also tied for the major-league lead with nine blown opportunities.
18. Brad Ziegler, P, Miami Marlins (37)
Ziegler collected 22 saves in 28 opportunities last season while pitching for both Arizona and Boston. After getting traded to the Red Sox in July, Ziegler was solid, posting a 1.52 ERA in 33 games as both a setup man and fill-in closer. Although he won’t rack up a bunch of strikeouts, Ziegler has consistently done a good job in limiting the damage opposing hitters do against him (.242 career batting average allowed).
19. Fernando Rodney, P, Arizona Diamondbacks (40)
Rodney is pitching for his eighth team in 15 seasons, but he’s served as a closer for seven of those and has 261 saves in his career, good for 32nd on the all-time list. He’s not a lights-out finisher, but he’s effective, as he collected 25 saves in 28 opportunities last season for San Diego and Miami. He also posted an impressive 0.31 ERA in 28.2 innings (28 games) for the Padres in 2016.
20. R.A. Dickey, P, Atlanta Braves (42)
Dickey’s ERA was 4.46 and he posted a losing record last season for Toronto, but he also won at least 10 games for the fifth straight season and sixth time in his career. He remains durable (169.2 IP in 30 G, 29 GS) and is back in the NL after four seasons with the Blue Jays. Don’t forget Dickey was the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner when he was with the Mets and put together an impressive 2.95 ERA in his three seasons (2010-12) with them.
Don’t Forget About
Nori Aoki, OF, Houston Astros (35)
Joaquin Benoit, P, Philadelphia Phillies (39)
Jorge De La Rosa, P, Arizona Diamondbacks (35)
Jason Grilli, P, Toronto Blue Jays (40)
Dustin McGowan, P, Miami Marlins (35)
Pat Neshek, P, Philadelphia Phillies (36)
Oliver Perez, P, Washington Nationals (35)
Chad Qualls, P, Colorado Rockies (38)
Carlos Ruiz, C, Seattle Mariners (38)
CC Sabathia, P, New York Yankees (36)
James Shields, P, Chicago White Sox (35)
Chris Stewart, C, Pittsburgh Pirates (35)
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Miami Marlins (43)
Koji Uehara, P, Chicago Cubs (42)
Chase Utley, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (38)