Diminishing Roles

A year ago, Ken Griffey Jr. and Omar Vizquel were preparing for the role of mentor and part-time player with their new clubs. For two decades, these icons had been obvious starters given their exceptional talents and respected presence on the diamond. Griffey and Vizquel were staples in center field and at shortstop, respectively, as they had defined their positions with Gold Glove after Gold Glove. But with age and injuries taking a toll on these great baseball players, a new role provided them a chance to stay in the game as mentors for a couple of promising teams.  

Junior took a DH role back where it all began in Seattle while Vizquel went to Texas as a utility infielder. Though they did not start as many games, their presence was still known in the field and at the plate. Each helped transform their teams back into winners and next season looks bright for the Mariners and Rangers. Early this off-season, Griffey re-signed with the M’s with a similar role in-store and Vizquel signed a one year deal with the White Sox to provide the same intangibles and versatility he did in Texas.

As the off-season has progressed, many of these former All-Stars are finding themselves in the same position as Griffey and Vizquel. This evening it was reported that Jim Thome and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a one year deal worth $1.5M. Besides a huge paycut, Thome’s playing time will decrease too. He will have to earn at-bats from Jason Kubel at DH but will be their primary pinch hitter off the bench. 

There are still a few other prominent players in search of those elusive at-bats. Carlos Delgado is rehabbing in hopes of landing the first base job with the New York Mets. Gary Sheffield’s market has been quiet this year though he still produced in 268 at-bats in 2009. Randy Winn is still capable of playing solid defense in all three outfield spots and showed great durability in 149 games last season. Another solid outfielder, Jermaine Dye, played in 140 games and hit 27 home runs. Despite great power numbers, Dye’s performance declined in the second half. 

It’s an especially tough time for these aging stars given the fairly common youth movements happening across the Majors. With time running out in this winter’s Hot Stove League, where do you see these players ending up? And will any of these guys arrive at Opening Day with starting jobs?    

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