7 players who could set new standards of longevity for their clubs

February 9th, 2024

One of the top storylines of the week in baseball has been teams making big commitments to franchise players. It started with the Royals and Bobby Witt Jr. agreeing to a mega-extension that could last through 2037. A couple of days later, the Astros extended Jose Altuve through 2029.

That got us thinking: Which active stars have a reasonable shot at becoming the longest-tenured player in their team's history?

This doesn't seem likely for Witt. His deal could keep him with Kansas City through his age-37 season, but he would need to play until he's 42 to equal George Brett's 21 years with the Royals.

Altuve is a different story, so let's begin this list of seven franchise staples in Houston.

Jose Altuve, Astros
Entering 14th season; Craig Biggio played 20 seasons

When he was called up for his big league debut in 2011, Altuve said he was told that his promotion would last only until the Astros found another second baseman. He made sure the club didn't have to look anywhere else.

Arguably the greatest player in franchise history, Altuve ranks among the Astros' leaders in batting average (.307, first), hits (2,047, third) and runs (1,062, third), among other categories. He has led the team to two World Series titles and a record seven consecutive ALCS appearances. He will have played 19 seasons once his extension runs out in '29, but Altuve has said he hopes to make it to 20 years, which would tie him with Houston's other legendary second baseman. It would also put Altuve alongside Derek Jeter as the only players in the Wild Card Era (since 1995) to spend 20 seasons with one team.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Entering 17th season; Bill Russell and Zack Wheat played 18 seasons

Kershaw's first pitch of the 2024 season will make him the longest-tenured pitcher in Dodgers history, surpassing Don Sutton's 16 years with Los Angeles. Kershaw isn't exactly sure when he will deliver that pitch after undergoing left shoulder surgery in November, but the surefire Hall of Famer has his eye on toeing the rubber this summer.

Kershaw considered hanging up his cleats this offseason but ultimately decided to continue his decorated career with the Dodgers, who drafted the 10-time All-Star seventh overall in 2006. Although injuries have limited him to fewer than 135 innings in each season since 2019, Kershaw is still a force when he is on the mound. He owns a 177 ERA+ over 258 innings since the start of 2022. If he remains effective this year, perhaps the three-time Cy Young Award winner will exercise his player option and come back for an 18th season at age 37.

Mike Trout, Angels
Entering 14th season; Garret Anderson played 15 seasons

Trout will join that two-decade club as well if he sticks with the Halos through the life of his contract, which runs through 2030. There were reports earlier in the offseason that the Angels could trade Trout. General manager Perry Minasian emphatically shut that down.

The 32-year-old produced a 131 OPS+ last season, which would be great for most hitters but qualified as Trout's worst since his 2011 debut year. He also missed significant time due to injuries once again. The three-time MVP has missed 249 out of a possible 486 games over the past three seasons. However, barring an unforeseen swap or a catastrophic injury, the best player in Angels history will become their longest-tenured in 2026.

José Ramirez, Guardians
Entering 12th season; Mel Harder played 20 seasons

Ramírez debuted for Cleveland in 2013 but didn't break out until 2016 when he batted .312 with an .825 OPS across 618 plate appearances during the team's pennant-winning campaign. He has been one of the sport's most productive hitters since, ranking third in extra-base hits (541), sixth in total bases (2,181) and ninth in runs scored (702). Ramírez finished inside the top 10 in AL MVP voting for the fourth straight year in 2023.

His current contract, signed early in the 2022 season, will take him through 2028. That will be Ramírez's age-35 season and his 16th with Cleveland. Given the switch-hitter's skills at the plate and on the basepaths, J-Ram could be a pretty valuable player as he reaches his late 30s. That gives him a chance to at least tie Harder, who retired in 1947.

Aaron Nola, Phillies
Entering 10th season; Mike Schmidt played 18 seasons

Re-signing Nola was at the top of the Phillies' offseason to-do list. They completed their task early, agreeing to a seven-year deal with Nola a few days before Thanksgiving. That will keep the right-hander with Philadephia for 16 seasons, which would be a team record for any pitcher, topping Steve Carlton's 15-year run from 1972-86. Nola will be 37 when his contract expires, but his time in Philly could go beyond that if he maintains his ability to eat innings. Nola has made at least 32 starts in each of the past five full seasons and has thrown the second-most innings of any pitcher since the start of 2018 (1,065 1/3). He has a 3.65 ERA over that stretch.

Nola's workload and quality results have helped him accrue 32 bWAR through the first nine seasons. With 10 more bWAR, he will trail only three pitchers on the Phillies' all-time list: Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Grover Alexander and Carlton.

Ketel Marte, D-backs
Entering 8th season; Nick Ahmed played 10 seasons

If Corbin Carroll plays out his entire contract in the desert, he will match Ahmed's 10 seasons at the very end of the deal in 2031. But Marte appears likely to exceed that number before then. He is under contract through 2027 and has a club option for 2028, which would be his age-34 season and his 12th season with Arizona.

Marte has registered a .282/.352/.478 slash line and a 121 OPS+ since being acquired from the Mariners prior to the 2017 season. After another solid regular season at the plate in 2023, Marte strung together a record-setting 20-game hitting streak in the postseason and earned NLCS MVP honors as the D-backs captured their second pennant. According to "The Shredder," he is baseball's No. 5 second baseman entering this season.

Sandy Alcantara, Marlins
Has played six seasons; Luis Castillo played 10 seasons

Alcantara's seventh season with the Marlins won't occur until 2025 because he will miss all of '24 following Tommy John surgery. That makes his journey to 10 years with Miami a little tricky but not impossible.

The centerpiece of Miami's trade haul for Marcell Ozuna in 2017, Alcantara exceeded 180 innings in each of the past four full seasons. His 2.28 ERA and league-high 228 2/3 frames helped him bring home the club's first Cy Young Award in 2022. A few months before he embarked on his career year, Alcantara inked a five-year extension to keep him at the front of the Marlins' rotation through 2026 with a club option for '27. Prior to his elbow injury, that would have represented Alcantara's 10th season as a Marlin. Instead, he is scheduled to reach free agency one year short of Castillo's mark. The key question: Will Miami find a way to keep a 32-year-old Alcantara in its clubhouse for 2028 and possibly beyond?