Which Of The Likely Retirees Can Still Help A Team?

PHOENIX, AZ : Derrek Lee #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Some familiar names might have to hang it up before the next season starts. But which of them could still have a place on a roster if they wanted one?

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, they've compiled a list of all the players who might be contemplating retirement. Some of the players are entering retirement with open arms; some of the players are having retirement thrust upon them by a cruel market. Here's the list of potential retirees, along with if they could still help a team.

Tim Wakefield
Maybe I'm getting too caught up in Platonic ideals of what each roster spot should be, but Wakefield seems like the perfect mop-up man for any team looking to carry 11 pitchers. Need someone to come into the third inning the day after a doubleheader? Wakefield. Need someone to mop up three games in a row? Wakefield. He might never be even average again, but there's some utility in an arm that a manager doesn't have to worry about slagging. Just keep him away from the close games.

Javier Vazquez
The short answer: Well, yeah, he's better than a lot of fifth starter candidates around the league. But the difference between Javier Vazquez, combustible item you need to keep away from open flame, and Javier Vazquez, quality mid-rotation option, is about four miles per hour. If he were especially interested in returning, he could get a decent guaranteed deal, but he seems pretty set on retirement.

Jason Varitek
He's a switch-hitting catcher who hit better than the league average for his position last season -- in theory, that should make him a nice piece on a roster somewhere. He'll be 40 in April, and his defense might take away any of the gains a team gets from his tick-above-average bat, but teams rarely expect anything from their backup catchers. He should still fit somewhere, even if it's just to captain things up.

Jason Kendall
Yeah, about that thing up there where I wrote that teams shouldn't expect anything from their backup catchers: They should expect them to be on the roster, at least. Kendall missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and he was slugging .297 in the season before his injury. He's almost certainly done.

This is a good time to remember that Kendall was once one of the very best players in the game. His decline in his 30s was brutal, but he'll still likely finish with a .366 on-base percentage over 15 seasons -- good for 13th best all-time among backstops.

Derrek Lee
Remember that month where the Pirates were in some sort of race? Remember how they traded for Derrek Lee? No, probably not. Lee doesn't either. But he did exceptionally well after going to Pittsburgh -- hitting .337/.398/.584 in 101 at-bats. He might not be a starting first baseman anymore, but he's 36 and still slugging in the mid-.400s. A team with a left-handed starting first baseman could do well to get him on the Andres Galarraga late-career platoon plan.

Problem is, though, that he's not just willing to sign for an NRI and a chance to back up. He wants to start and get a little money for his trouble. He's not good enough to do that for a contending team, and he doesn't make sense for a rebuilding team. MLB Trade Rumors mentions Jermaine Dye as a forced-retirement comp -- that's probably pretty accurate.

J.D. Drew
Drew has almost certainly retired, though Scott Boras is hinting that for the right situation, he'd come back. As in, for a lot of money, J.D. Drew would be quasi-happy to play right field for a contending team, even though he'll start the season on the DL because of injuries related to Boras's footprint on his ass. For fourth outfielder money? He'll pass, even though he'd be perfect for the role.

Pat Burrell
Unlike his fellow '98 first rounder, Burrell would be thrilled to come back as a weapon off the bench for the league minimum -- he essentially bypassed his agent to play for $1 million last year before even testing the market. But a foot injury is likely to end his career. And, no, there isn't a venereal disease that causes bone spurs in the foot. Yet. But he's in the lab, so to speak, working on that right now.

Edit: As I was writing this, Burrell reportedly made it official. The retirement part, not the bone-spur VD part.

Russell Branyan
It's a fine line between a valuable low-average bench option and a black hole of offense. When Branyan's hitting .215 while slugging .483, he still makes sense; when he's hitting under .200 with declining power, as he was last season, it's a little harder to carry his position-less bat on the bench. True facts: He played three innings at third base last season for the Angels. If you just extrapolate those three innings over a full season, he would have cost the Angels 208 runs. Don't see anything wrong with that statistical interpretation …

Milton Bradley
He could absolutely help a team like the Marlins. No doubt. His bat can still play, and he'd be perfect for a ship captained by Ozzie Guillen. There's a fourth-outfielder job just waiting for Bradley, and the Marlins would be nuts to pass him up. Also, this blurb was written by a Showtime executive.

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