One of the best things about baseball is that it’s always just one chapter in a larger story. One season is a smaller bit of a whole career, with ebbs and flows and highs and lows. And if you’re a fan of a particular team, that story is ongoing and endless. The players, the managers, the owners, they may all change, but you’ll still be there. It’s your story as much as anyone’s.
And each one of these players are part of the larger team’s narrative, making memories and etching their place in each franchise’s history. So today we take a look at the active player on each team who is highest on his particular team’s all-time wins above replacement leaderboard (according to Baseball Reference). We can argue about WAR all we want, but it’s a good rough estimate of each team’s top players’ all-around contributions. And these players are etching their names in the history books; they’re writing their own history with their teams right now.
To be clear, by the way: This is WAR compiled with these teams, not in total. Albert Pujols is fourth on the all-time Cardinals list, but, as you may have heard, he plays for the Angels, not the Cardinals.
American League East
Blue Jays: Cavan Biggio, 2B (4.9 WAR)
94th all-time in Blue Jays history
Next up: Tom Underwood, 5.0
The Blue Jays are so young that Biggio, amazingly, leads them in career WAR. Which Jay catches him over the next decade? Do any of them?
Orioles: Chris Davis, 1B (11.5 WAR)
94th all time in Orioles history
Next up: Gregg Olsen, 11.6
Davis has had an excellent career, but he’s not likely to move up much further on this list.
Rays: Kevin Kiermaier, CF (27.4 WAR)
4th all time in Rays history
Next up: Ben Zobrist, 35.3
The eight years he has played with the Rays is almost like playing 20 years with any other team, isn’t it?
Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts, SS (23.0 WAR)
44th in Red Sox history
Next up: Jason Varitek, 24.2
Mookie Betts, for those keeping score at home, is 14th all time. (Dustin Pedroia is 10th.)
Yankees: Brett Gardner, OF (43.0 WAR)
24th all time in Yankees history
Next up: Mel Stottlemyre, 43.1
A 3-WAR season for Gardner, who just re-signed with the Yankees, would push him past Thurman Munson and Tony Lazzeri.
Cleveland: José Ramírez, 3B (28.1 WAR)
36th in Cleveland history
Next up: Bobby Avila, 28.4
Ramírez was only half a win behind Francisco Lindor and he just passed Albert Belle.
Royals: Salvador Perez, C (24.2 WAR)
15th in Royals history
Next up: Lorenzo Cain, 24.4
Perez missed all of 2019 but may have had his best hitting season in 2020. He’s a free agent after this year, but can you imagine the Royals without him?
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, DH (51.3 WAR)
12th in Tigers history
Next up: Norm Cash, 51.7
Cabrera remains signed through 2023, and potentially 2025, so he’s going to have plenty of time to keep adding to this total.
Twins: Max Kepler, RF (12.5 WAR)
80th in Twins history
Next up: Scott Erickson, 12.7
Kepler is just about to pass Walter Johnson … as a hitter. (Johnson had a 12.7 WAR at the plate over 20 years with the Senators.)
White Sox: José Abreu, 1B (24.0 WAR)
31st in White Sox history
Next up: Harold Baines, 24.7
The reigning MVP has put together quite a White Sox career so far, though it still wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these young players pass him at some point.
Angels: Mike Trout, CF (74.5 WAR)
No. 1 in Angels history
Next up: None
Trout passed Chuck Finley for first in Angels history at the end of the 2017 season.
Astros: José Altuve, 2B (36.5 WAR)
8th in Astros history
Next up: Jim Wynn, 41.5
Last year was rough for Altuve, but he’s still only 30 years old. We surely haven’t heard the last of him yet.
Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B (21.0 WAR)
47th in A’s history
Next up: Marcus Semien, 21.0
He remains as much of a constant as the A’s have had since the Barry Zito/Tim Hudson days.
Mariners: Kyle Seager, 3B (33.4 WAR)
8th in Mariners history
Next up: Jamie Moyer, 34.2
He might not be a Mariner for much longer, but if he leaves, he may get a chance to finally play in a postseason game.
Rangers: Joey Gallo, RF (9.6 WAR)
56th in Rangers history
Next up: Chuck Hinton, 9.6
The Rangers had three players last year -- Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and Elvis Andrus -- with higher career Rangers WAR than Gallo, but they all play for other teams now.
National League East
Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B (38.8 WAR)
17th in Braves history
Next up: Fred Tenney, 44.2
For a guy who was once thought of as an average hitter but great defensive player, this is incredibly high for a franchise as old as this one.
Marlins: Brian Anderson, 3B/RF (8.7 WAR)
24th in Marlins history
Next up: Cody Ross, 9.4
Anderson finally got to play in a playoff game last year, and he must have felt like the greyest of greybeards.
Mets: Jacob deGrom, RHP (38.1 WAR)
4th in Mets history
Next up: Dwight Gooden, 41.6
deGrom is about to pass Gooden, but to pass Tom Seaver (78.8 WAR) for No. 1, he’ll essentially have to have the career he just had, again.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 1B (38.5 WAR)
5th in Nationals history
Next up: Steve Rogers, 45.1
If you only count Nationals history rather than Expos history, Zimmerman is first … but Max Scherzer is right behind him at 38.4 WAR.
Phillies: Aaron Nola, RHP (22.3 WAR)
39th in Phillies history
Next up: Darren Daulton, 22.5
Nola’s WAR totals are surprisingly high (at least to this observer).
Brewers: Christian Yelich, OF (14.8 WAR)
28th in Brewers history
Next up: Greg Vaughn, 15.3
If the Brewers ended up bringing back Ryan Braun, which is always a possibility, he’d be the pick -- he’s third all time, behind only Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, RHP (41.0 WAR)
12th in Cardinals history
Next up: Lou Brock, 41.8
His longtime battery mate Yadier Molina is right behind him with 40.4 WAR. A good year would send them both into the top 10.
Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (34.9 WAR)
28th in Cubs history
Next up: Jimmy Ryan, 35.7
Rizzo seems destined to be the face of that 2016 title team. He’s a free agent after this season, but it really is hard to imagine him playing for someone else, isn’t it?
Pirates: Adam Frazier, 2B/OF (6.9 WAR)
183rd in Pirates history
Next up: Bob Klinger, 6.9
It’s a little surprising, and a lot disappointing, to see him above Gregory Polanco.
Reds: Joey Votto, 1B (62.1 WAR)
5th in Reds history
Next up: Frank Robinson, 63.8
The perpetually underappreciated Votto just keeps doing it, year after year, even with some variation in his performance the last couple of years. He still has three more years in Cincinnati, and who knows, maybe more?
D-backs: Ketel Marte, 2B (14.1 WAR)
11th in D-backs history
Next up: Chris Young, 14.3
Marte might not quite be the superstar the D-backs hoped they had before last year, but he’s still key to just about anything they might be doing.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (69.6 WAR)
No. 1 in Dodgers history
Next up: None
That’s right: Kershaw is the best Dodger in the history of the franchise. He passed Pee Wee Reese last year, the year he finally won that World Series.
Giants: Buster Posey, C/1B (41.8 WAR)
16th in Giants history
Next up: Art Fletcher, 42.2
This is the last year of Posey’s deal with the Giants, and, alas, WAR does not account for “World Series championships.” (Posey has three, you might remember.)
Padres: Wil Myers, OF (10.3 WAR)
31st in Padres history
Next up: Ozzie Smith, 11.0
Fernando Tatis Jr. is already right behind him and, hey, he might even pass him this year. Considering the length of that contract … is Tony Gwynn in his sights?
Rockies: Trevor Story, SS (21.0 WAR)
6th in Rockies history
Next up: Carlos González, 23.7
Story might be young enough to make a run at Larry Walker for second or even Todd Helton for first … but not if he doesn’t sign past this year.