10 players with longest current tenure with 1 club

Year after year, these icons have stayed with their original teams

December 11th, 2022

Staying with one team for an entire career is incredibly difficult, though this offseason has already seen franchise icons Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw commit to pitching at least one more season for their respective clubs.

Remaining a one-team player has grown increasingly difficult in this modern era of free agency, arbitration and industry movement toward younger talent. So with that in mind, below is a list of the 10 longest-tenured active players who have spent their entire Major League careers with just one team. Players are listed in descending order of seniority, and we're only looking from a player’s MLB debut date onward -- regardless of whether they were traded before entering the Majors.

It's worth noting, however, that a player like Caleb Thielbar, who debuted for the Twins in 2013 and has only pitched at the big league level for Minnesota -- but bounced around Minor League affiliates in other organizations from 2016-19 -- does not qualify for this list. 

Here are the 10 active players who have spent the longest time with one franchise:

1. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Debut: Sept. 11, 2005

Wainwright takes over the top spot with the retirement of Yadier Molina, his longtime batterymate. Wainwright debuted for St. Louis just one year after Molina, and within 13 months he had thrown one of the franchise’s most famous pitches: the signature curveball that froze Mets slugger Carlos Beltrán and sealed the Cardinals' 2006 NL pennant. Wainwright morphed from a shutdown reliever to a workhorse ace, earning four top-three finishes in NL Cy Young Award voting in a six-year span from 2009-14.

Wainwright has also defied the odds on several occasions, bouncing back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2011 and returning again after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in '15. He turned back the clock in 2019 and '20, winning 19 total games with a 3.91 ERA and pitching admirably in October. Waino will return for one more season in 2023, looking to notch five more wins to join the 200-win club.

2. Joey Votto, Reds
Debut: Sept. 4, 2007

One of the best on-base machines of his generation, Votto had nine .400-plus OBP seasons in a 10-year span beginning in 2009, the year before he captured the NL MVP Award and led the Reds into the postseason. Votto returned to the playoffs for the first time in seven years in 2020, then earned a share of down-ballot NL MVP votes with a 36-homer season in '21. Following a rare injury-plagued campaign in '22, Votto will be looking to bounce back in '23, his 17th season for the Reds.

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Debut: May 25, 2008

Kershaw began as the consensus top high school pitcher in America and debuted in the Majors with a curveball that quickly earned the nickname "Public Enemy No. 1" from legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. What followed was a résumé that made Kershaw the most decorated pitcher of his era: five NL ERA titles, three Cy Young Awards, a pitching Triple Crown in 2011 and the ‘14 NL MVP Award. But the best part? After 13 years in a Dodgers uniform, Kershaw finally won that elusive World Series title in 2020.

Kershaw struggled a bit while dealing with various injuries in '21, but he looked like his vintage self in '22 when he went 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA while earning his ninth career All-Star selection. Following the season, Kershaw signed a one-year deal -- which pays him a $15 million salary in 2023, plus a $5 million signing bonus -- to return to the Dodgers for his 16th season.

4. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Debut: June 8, 2010

Strasburg's debut was one of the most hyped and memorable in recent history -- and since that day more than 10 years ago, when he struck out 14 in front of an electric crowd at Nationals Park, the 2009 No. 1 overall Draft pick hasn't pitched a game for any other franchise. Stras is set up to be in a Nationals uniform for a long time, too, after re-signing with Washington on a seven-year, $245 million deal before the 2020 season. Unfortunately, injuries have limited Strasburg to just eight starts and 31 1/3 innings in three seasons since signing that deal.

5. Brandon Crawford, Giants
Debut: May 27, 2011

The Giants selected Crawford in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft -- the same year they picked Buster Posey (who was on this same list until his retirement following the 2021 season) with the No. 5 overall pick. Crawford made his debut three years later, and he's been a constant in San Francisco's lineup ever since.

Crawford played at least 143 games each season from 2012-19 before the COVID-shortened '20 campaign halted that run. Still, his 1,561 games since his big league debut are the eighth most by any player during that span. And all he's done during that time is win two World Series titles, four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger and make three All-Star appearances. Crawford is set to become a free agent following the '23 season.

6. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
Debut: June 27, 2011

Blackmon ended his 2022 season by undergoing surgery to repair a torn left meniscus, but he plans to be fully healthy for Spring Training after exercising his player option to return to the Rockies for a 13th season. Blackmon has established himself as a fan favorite in Colorado, all while earning four All-Star selections and winning the 2017 NL batting title. The only player to appear in more games for the Rockies than Blackmon (1,404 entering the 2023 season) is Todd Helton (2,247).

7. Mike Trout, Angels
Debut: July 8, 2011

The only thing missing from Trout's remarkable tenure with the Angels is a postseason win. The generational talent made his debut in 2011, but he returned to the Majors for good on April 28, 2012 -- the same day fellow highly touted prospect Bryce Harper made his MLB debut. Trout not only went on to win the '12 AL Rookie of the Year Award, but he finished second to Miguel Cabrera in AL MVP voting.

Trout has gone on to win three MVP Awards of his own, along with earning two All-Star Game MVP Awards, nine Silver Sluggers and 10 All-Star selections. He figures to continue climbing this list in years to come, as he's under contract through 2030 after signing a 12-year deal worth $426.5 million prior to the '19 season.

8. Jose Altuve, Astros
Debut: July 20, 2011

Altuve has become a face of the Astros' franchise during his 12 seasons with the club. An eight-time All-Star, Altuve has won three batting titles and two World Series titles with Houston, while also claiming the 2017 AL MVP Award and '19 ALCS MVP Award. He's also taken home six Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove.

Prior to the 2018 season, Altuve signed a five-year, $151 million extension that keeps him under contract with the Astros through the '24 campaign.

9. Salvador Perez, Royals
Debut: Aug. 10, 2011

Perez, who made his MLB debut in 2011 at the age of 21, has undoubtedly become the face of the Royals' franchise. He's made seven All-Star appearances while winning five Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Sluggers. But the highlight of his career came in 2015, when he not only led the Royals to a World Series title, but earned World Series MVP honors in the process.

More recently, Perez earned the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2020 by hitting .333 with a .986 OPS after missing the entire '19 season due to Tommy John surgery. He continued that success into the '21 campaign, when he led the Majors with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs -- each of which was easily a career high. Perez is under contract with the Royals through 2025, with a $13.5 million club option for '26.

10. José Ramírez, Guardians
Debut: Sept. 1, 2013

Ramírez has established himself as one of the top all-around talents in the Majors during his 10 seasons with the Guardians -- and he figures to climb this list in the years to come. After all, Ramírez signed a seven-year contract prior to the 2022 season that will keep him in Cleveland through the '28 season. Ramírez has received a share of AL MVP votes in six of the past seven seasons. He finished third in AL MVP voting in both 2017 and '18, then finished second in '20, sixth in '21 and fourth in '22. Ramírez is already the only player in franchise history with at least 150 home runs and 150 stolen bases for the club.