5 stars who said goodbye this year

December 25th, 2018

They combined for 28 All-Star selections, 17 Silver Slugger Awards and nearly 300 Baseball-Reference wins above replacement (WAR) -- not to mention numerous amazing moments and fantastic feats.
At the end of 2018, each said goodbye and closed the book on an accomplished career. And while fans no doubt will miss watching them on the field, each one of these stars left us with lots of fond memories.
Barring a comeback, , , Joe Mauer,  and all have played their final MLB games (It's possible has, too, although he already is penciled into the Mariners' roster for the season-opening Japan Series next March in Tokyo). So as this year comes to a close, here is a look back at these five talented players, and a stat that illustrates what was special about each one.
Number to know: 51.1 WAR after age 30
The baseball aging curve is cruel. Just ask a few of the other guys on this list. But Beltre scoffed at it. After reaching the Majors as a teenager, Beltre was putting together a good career through age 30, including a near-MVP season in 2004, followed by a difficult (if underrated) five years in Seattle. But Beltre enjoyed a renaissance in Boston in '10, which extended through his eight seasons in Texas, when he finally got his due as a star and fan favorite. Combining a well above-average bat with superb defense at the hot corner, Beltre's 51.1 WAR over the past nine years ranked third in MLB over that time, behind and . Only seven position players in history have accrued more value from ages 31-39, and each is a legend in the game: Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie. Of those, only Bonds has played since 1973.

Number to know: 172 OPS+ in 2014
As a catcher, Martinez's career numbers don't rank far behind Mauer's (see below), as he slashed .295/.360/.455 over 16 seasons for the Indians, Red Sox and Tigers, combining nearly 250 homers with more than 400 doubles. However, Martinez ended up spending more time as a first baseman/DH, especially after missing all of 2012 due to a knee injury. The recovery was slow, but '14 showcased everything a healthy V-Mart could do at the plate, even at age 35. He finished second in the Majors in batting average (.335), OBP (.409), slugging (.565) and OPS+, making it one of the best offensive seasons produced by a player that age. Martinez led the league with 28 intentional walks and struck out only 42 times, which makes him the only hitter since Bonds in 2004 to have fewer than 45 Ks while hitting at least 30 homers.

Number to know: .388 career OBP
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft played each of his 15 MLB seasons with his hometown Twins. Unfortunately, injuries chipped away a bit at that storybook career, as a 2013 concussion forced a move from behind the plate to a first base/DH role (with the notable exception of a final, brief goodbye on the final day of '18). But as a catcher, Mauer hit like few others in baseball history, helping him claim three batting titles, earn American League MVP honors in 2009, and become the face of the franchise. That '09 season, which Mauer slashed .365/.444/.587 (171 OPS+) with 28 home runs, is one of the best ever produced at the position. The overall body of work stands out as well. Of the 234 players who have caught at least 500 career games since integration (1947), Mauer ranks second in batting average (.306) and OBP, and eighth in OPS+ (124).

Number to know: 87.5 percent career SB success rate
Utley's career wasn't really about raw numbers. The second baseman didn't play his first full season until age 26, dealt with some injuries, and ultimately finished with less than 2,000 hits, 300 homers and 200 steals. Instead, Utley squeezed out value everywhere he could. He never won a Gold Glove Award but consistently played stellar defense, got hit with more pitches (204) than all but four modern players to support a .358 OBP, and was one of the most efficient, valuable baserunners of all-time, thanks in part to a stolen base success rate that leads all players with at least 100 career attempts. Put that all together, and Utley's 65.4 WAR puts him among the top 10 second basemen since integration, just behind Craig Biggio.

Number to know: 133 career OPS+
If Wright had been able to do anything close to what Beltre did in his 30s, he would have gone down as one of the best third basemen who ever played. Unfortunately, serious back injuries interfered, and Wright played in only 211 games from age 31 on, including two at the end of 2018 as he said farewell to the Citi Field faithful to cap a career spent entirely with the Mets. While he had his health, however, Wright was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. His 47.2 WAR through 30 ranks in the top 10 at his position. But even though physical issues kept him off the field for much of the past five years, Wright finished with a career .296/.376/.491 line. Among third basemen with at least 5,000 plate appearances since 1920, only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones and George Brett have produced a higher OPS+.