Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer agreed to a big honking eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, a team eager to show it's ready to contend in the near future, for better or for worse. Hosmer is many things, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a one-time All-Star, a World Series champion, but more than anything else, he has been a Royal.
Hosmer, along with Salvador Perez, is the physical avatar of one of the two most successful eras in Royals history. He started out as the superstar prospect who pointed to a better future, then became the slightly disappointing young player once he reached the Majors, to the leader of a team that won a World Series, to a legitimate top-shelf down-ballot American League MVP Award candidate, to ultimately the most Royal thing of all: A free agent who left town.
Hosmer played seven years in Kansas City, and he is among the all-time franchise leaders in several categories, from homers (eighth) to RBIs (eighth) to hits (ninth) to games played (11th). (It is worth noting that he's not in the top 25 in all-time Royals bWAR, even though current and recent Royals like Alex Gordon, eighth, Lorenzo Cain, 13th, and Perez, 21st, all are).
Had Hosmer re-signed with the Royals, like many suspected he would, he likely would have moved into the top five, and maybe even the top two (he wasn't catching George Brett in anything) in almost every Royals career category. He would have been Mr. Royal, the representation of this era of Royals baseball in a way similar to the way Brett was in the 1980s.
But Hosmer didn't, because players of course rarely do anymore. It has become an article of faith that the days of Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski and Cal Ripken, Hall of Famers staying with the same franchises their entire careers, are long in the past, though it is worth noting that Chipper Jones, Alan Trammell, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Jim Rice, Tony Gwynn and Ripken have all been inducted in the last decade. (And Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are coming in the next few years.) But certainly finding guys who stay with one team their whole career are few and far between. You'd be surprised how few players have even made it deep into their second contract with one team.
So, today, we look at the longest-tenured active careers with one team, for both pitchers and hitters. It can be a little tricky for pitchers, because, due to injuries, sometimes pitchers can play for one franchise for a decade without actually, you know, pitching all that much. So we'll look at the top 10 in career innings pitched for one team for pitchers (which eliminated some relievers, but not all), and total games played for hitters. Hosmer had a chance to top the latter list someday. But that opportunity ended this weekend. He'll have to buy his own beers in Kansas City from now on. (Thanks to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the research help.)
10. Dallas Keuchel, Astros, 984 2/3 innings (debuted in 2012)
Keuchel had a 5.21 ERA in his first two seasons over 38 starts before turning it on in 2014 and then winning the AL Cy Young Award in '15. It feels like he just got here, another reason it's so amazing to see him in the top 10 already. (No. 11 on this list is Chris Archer, by the way.)
9. Julio Teheran, Braves, 1,009 2/3 innings (debuted in 2011)
Teheran first appeared in Atlanta when he was 20, which is why it feels like he's been around forever even though he only turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. For what it's worth, Greg Maddux didn't even get to Atlanta until he was 27.
8. Corey Kluber, Indians, 1,091 innings (debuted in 2011)
Kluber has now thrown more than 203 innings a season for four consecutive seasons, and that's not even counting the postseason. He didn't make his first start for Cleveland until he was Teheran's age. The Indians have Kluber under contract through 2021, when he will be 34.
7. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, 1,099 2/3 innings (debuted in 2010)
It's a little disconcerting seeing Strasburg on this list, isn't it? It seems like just yesterday that he was the phenom who was going to change the sport. Also, so much of his career has been about reducing his innings. But here he is. The Nationals will be paying Strasburg through 2030, by the way.
6. Chris Tillman, Orioles, 1,118 1/3 innings (debuted in 2009)
A free agent this offseason, news broke Monday that Tillman is returning to the O's on a one-year deal, according to multiple sources. Considering he had a 7.84 ERA last season, perhaps he should consider himself fortunate to be pitching in 2018 at all.
5. Homer Bailey, Reds, 1,124 innings (debuted in 2007)
There is a special slot on this list for Bailey, who is here because of the rarely used "they can't get rid of his contract, so let's call it 'longevity'" principle. The Reds are hoping Bailey can "lead' their rotation, which might be asking a lot of a guy who hasn't had an ERA under 5.56 since 2014. They owe him $49 million over the next two seasons (counting a $5 million buyout after 2019), so, suffice it to say, Cincinnati fans will still be seeing plenty of the Christian Bale doppleganger for a while.
4. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, 1,508 2/3 innings (debuted in 2009)
Now we're getting somewhere. The final four pitchers on this list are all staples, the faces of their franchises for a decade now. Bumgarner finally had the injury season in 2017 many had feared, but because of a bike crash rather than wear and tear. He is somehow still only 28.
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, 1,891 2/3 innings (debuted in 2005)
Wainwright has had the two worst seasons of his career the past two years, and there has been enough worry about him that he felt compelled to have a news conference last week saying he'd no longer be taking retirement questions. The Cardinals still want him to hold a spot in the rotation or, failing that, at least the chance to bow out gracefully. Wainwright will remain beloved no matter what happens: Clinching a World Series your rookie season as a closer and then becoming an ace over the next few years will do that.
2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 1,935 innings (debuted in 2008)
Kershaw is about 400 innings behind Sandy Koufax, and he's now almost the same age Koufax was when he retired. (He'll turn 30 a month from today.) Whether he passes Koufax depends entirely on whether or not he re-signs with the Dodgers at the end of the year. Kershaw may have a few outside suitors.
1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, 2,502 1/3 innings (debuted in 2005)
It was the worst year of King Felix's career, though his strikeouts crept up a tick, maybe a positive sign moving forward? The Mariners are not asking too much from Hernandez anymore; they'd just like him to have a smile on his face again.(Pssst: A playoff appearance might help that.)
10. Brett Gardner, Yankees, 1,218 games (debuted in 2008)
Usually you have to be a Hall of Famer for a Yankee to make this list, but Gardner has proven just handy enough to stick around for a decade now. It probably ends this season: He's a free agent after the World Series. (No. 11 on the list is Freddie Freeman, by the way.)
9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 1,379 games (debuted in 2009)
How have we gotten so impossibly old that baby-faced Andrus is a grizzled veteran now? We're going to blink and Rougned Odor is going to be 53.
8. Alex Gordon, Royals, 1,412 games (debuted in 2007)
Gordon holds the Bailey spot on this list, a guy who's going to remain here not because of his play, but because of his dreadful contract. It's possible the Royals had Gordon in mind when deciding not to give Hosmer that eighth year.
7. Joey Votto, Reds, 1,430 games (debuted in 2007)
Votto maybe had his best season in 2017 and would have been this scribe's choice for the National League MVP Award. If the Reds haven't traded Votto already, they certainly aren't going to now. His contract could go all the way through 2024, when he'll be 40 and probably still getting on base in half his at-bats.
6. Ryan Braun, Brewers, 1,458 (debuted in 2007)
Braun was expected to be trade bait at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, but the Brewers ended up in a pennant chase, so they needed him. He could have been a Milwaukee legend if it hadn't been for, well, you know, but even with all the outside unpleasantness, the Brewers have gotten a great deal on his contract, and he's still cheap for the next three years. Braun may end up retiring a Brewer after all?
5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 1,503 games (debuted in 2006)
A moment to remember players who dropped out of the top 12 last year: Andre Ethier (whom the Dodgers aren't bringing back), Evan Longoria (traded to San Francisco) and Andrew McCutchen (ditto). Laser Show is going to play second base for the Red Sox until he dies, and probably a little while after that.
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,552 games (debuted in 2005)
It's funny to think that when Zimmerman was a prospect, we all referred to him as "a player in the Expos' organization." He never wore Montreal garb, sadly, but he did hit a career high in homers last year.
3. David Wright, Mets, 1,583 games (debuted in 2004)
Included because he's under contact and wants to come back. Wright hasn't made it into a game since May 27, 2016. The Mets insurers are rooting for him to come back, and so should you.
2. Joe Mauer, Twins, 1,731 games (debuted in 2004)
Mauer's mammoth contract finally expires after this year, and while it might not have been the most efficient spending of cash, the guy is still productive and useful. Paul Molitor thinks he's "going to be a lifelong Twin," but that might be optimistic. Amazing stat: Mauer has played in 14 postseason games and lost 13 of them.
1. Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 1,747 games (debuted in 2004)
It really is remarkable that the top guy on this list is an everyday catcher. Carson Kelly is knocking on his door, but Yadi is signed through 2020 and remains the most beloved Cardinal since Ozzie Smith. Molina will be allowed to play as long as he wants in one capacity or another. He's 18th in all-time games caught; if he catches 130 this year (and he's only been under that once in the last decade), he'll pass Lance Parrish for 12th.