No matter what Pedro Martinez tweeted a few weeks back, David Ortiz is really retired. Further proof arrives Friday night, when the Red Sox will put his No. 34 behind glass and, basically, behind bars, locked up for life.This got me thinking about active players who might one day have
No matter what Pedro Martinez tweeted a few weeks back, David Ortiz is really retired. Further proof arrives Friday night, when the Red Sox will put his No. 34 behind glass and, basically, behind bars, locked up for life.
This got me thinking about active players who might one day have their numbers retired, and it's a complex conversation. You might have noticed this, but players move around a lot. It's hard to know what the future holds for a soon-to-be free agent like Bryce Harper or possible trade bait like Andrew McCutchen, and so it's hard to know how their legacies with their current clubs will be defined. Additionally, many clubs only retire the numbers of Hall of Famers, which is obviously a really high bar.
So here are 10 guesses at active players who might one day have their number called:
1. Jose Cabrera's No. 24 with the Tigers
The Tigers have been around since 1901 and only retired six non-Jackie Robinson numbers -- five Hall of Famers and Willie Horton. I do think Justin Verlander has a strong Hall case, but, because of the specifics of pitcher usage in his era (i.e., guys don't rack up the wins and innings totals of eras past), that will require a change to the typical Cooperstown calculus. And if he's not inducted, does he get the Horton treatment? I have no idea. The likes of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker aren't similarly honored.
Miggy, though, is clearly Cooperstown-bound. He has six more guaranteed seasons on his contract beyond this one, which means he has a pretty decent chance of finishing with the Tigers' all-time home run record (he is currently just 84 shy of Al Kaline's mark) and second only to Ty Cobb in RBI. Not bad for a guy who spent his first four-plus seasons in Miami. When the Tigers made the trade for Cabrera in advance of the 2008 season, they got an icon, sure to be enshrined wearing that Old English D.
2. Ichiro Suzuki's No. 51 with the Mariners
The Mariners only Hall of Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.) is their only non-Robinson retired number (24). Maybe they'll one day recognize Randy Johnson (inducted as a D-back) or Edgar Martinez (erroneously not inducted so far), but it hasn't happened yet. There's a chance Felix Hernandez one days earns enshrinement, but he faces a similar situation to that of Verlander.
Ichiro, on the other hand, is a lock, and so it seems logical that Seattle will salute him someday soon (unless he really does play until he's 50, as he desires).
3. Buster Posey's No. 28 and Madison Bumgarner's No. 40 with the Giants
Because of the aforementioned pitcher par for the Hall (and, um, a dirt bike), Posey's probably on a more defined Hall path, though Bumgarner will of course get bonus points for his ownership of October. But regardless of the Hall, there will come a time when the Giants will be looking back on their downright dynastic three titles in five seasons, and Posey and Bumgarner (and Bruce Bochy) best represent that run.
4. Dustin Pedroia's No. 15 with the Red Sox
He's probably not as automatic as Big Papi, but a homegrown fan favorite who stands as one of the premier players at his position in his time and wins two titles is bound to get strong consideration.
5. Yadier Molina's No. 4 and Jose Pujols' No. 5 with the Cardinals
Molina will have an interesting Hall of Fame case, largely rooted in his reputation and defensive value. But even if he doesn't make the Hall, the untimely death and subsequent celebration of Ken Boyer does stand as organizational precedent for a non-Hall of Famer to receive this high honor, and Molina was an anchor for the Cards in nine postseason runs.
As for Pujols, it's been five and a half seasons since he left, and No. 5 still hasn't been worn by another soul in St. Louis. That says it all. Yeah, there were hard feelings when he left, though hopefully fans have since come to the realization that the contract would have been an albatross (Albertross?) by now. Time heals and whatnot, and Pujols' 11-year run with this franchise was historic.
The bigger question is whether the Angels (who, remember, gave Pujols a 10-year personal services contract in addition to his 10-year playing contract) will see fit to honor Albert in such a way. He hasn't delivered as expected, but he did hit his 500th and 600th homers in an Angels uniform (and could conceivably get to 700), so don't rule it out.
Of course, the Angels have another number that's probably on its last back...
6. Michael Trout's No. 27 with the Angels
Trout, current injury aside, is on a clear Hall of Fame trajectory, and so, even though he's only 25 years old, it's not crazy to assume he'll one day get this Halo'd honor. The interesting wrinkle here is that a player has never been inducted into the Hall of Fame as an Angel. After falling just 3.3-percent shy of induction on his first ballot, Vladimir Guerrero, who also wore No. 27, is a veritable lock to get in next year. He played more career games with the Expos, but he won an MVP and reached five postseasons with the Angels, so he might be the organization's first entrant. But even if that's the case, the Angels' 27 belongs to Trout now and quite possibly forever.
7. Adrian Beltre's No. 29 with the Rangers
There's precedent for a guy not joining the Rangers until deep into his big-league career but winding up wearing their cap on his Hall of Fame plaque and having his number retired by the team. His name is Nolan Ryan. Beltre is possibly following that formula, because he's had his career's best cluster of seasons in his time in Texas, and there is a wide chorus of commentators rightly declaring him Cooperstown-worthy.
The Rangers, by the way, will retire Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7 in August, after his Hall induction.
8. Clayton Kershaw's No. 22 with the Dodgers
Simple. He's the safest bet among pitchers to one day be inducted into the Hall, and so far he's spent his entire baseball life with a single franchise.
9. Evan Longoria's No. 3 with the Rays
The Rays have retired Wade Boggs' No. 12 even though he only played two seasons with them (he hit No. 3,000 with them and had promised he'd have a Rays cap on his plaque, but the Hall overruled him) and Don Zimmer's No. 66, for the 66 years he spent in baseball (11 as a senior advisor to the Rays). So even though Longoria is not necessarily on the Hall trajectory he was early in his career, this seems like an open-minded organization that might one day want to honor its first true franchise face and the Rookie of the Year from their first-ever pennant run.
10. Kristopher Bryant's No. 17 with the Cubs
Every player whose jersey number has been retired by the Cubs is in the Hall of Fame, and it's way, way too early to be assessing Bryant's Hall chances.
But look, Bryant won an MVP in his first full season, in a year in which the Cubs broke a 108-year-old World Series curse. The Cubs did right by him with a record $1 million salary pre-arbitration, which might bode well for him one day signing a long-term contract on the North Side. So overall, I like his chances here.
Or maybe the Cubs should just retire the No. 108.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.