Derek Lowe, Bobby Abreu, and Hideki Matsui were integral parts of championship teams and key players in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry over the last decade.
As of Thursday, though, they’re just another handful of veterans who have found their way to baseball’s equivalent of the scrap heap this season, and now serve as a reminder that for most of the Majors, the youth movement is in full effect.
Lowe, who is 39, was designated for assignment by Cleveland late Wednesday night after another abysmal outing on Tuesday. He started out the season 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his first nine starts, but has struggled so badly since then that the Indians – who are 50-54, third in the AL Central and six games out of a Wild Card – felt that eating the remainder of his $5 million salary was worth finding out if they had better in-house options.
Matsui, 38, clearly isn’t the player he was three (or even two) years ago, but after a .251-12-72 season in Oakland in 2011, the best he could do was a Minor League deal with Tampa Bay in late April. He got one, but after struggling in Triple-A, Matsui hit just .147 for the Rays before being designated for assignment last week and eventually outright released on Wednesday night.
Designation for assignment was the same fate Abreu has faced twice this year, the second coming earlier this week when the Dodgers sent him packing after acquiring Shane Victorino at the trade deadline. Sure, a slow start to the season and the was the Angels’ reason for cutting Abreu in April, but he hit fairly well for the cross-town Dodgers (.251-2-17, 30 BB, 5 SB in 209 PA) – but much like it was with Trout and Trumbo in Anaheim, the emergence/elevation/acquisition of a younger, “better” player meant that even with a $9 million salary, Abreu simply was no longer needed.
That has to be a tough phrase to hear for guys like that. Heck, it’s a tough phrase for fans who grew up or came of age (such as a man in his mid-30s like myself) watching the three of them win Home Run Derbies, become World Series MVPs, and, in Lowe’s case, win the game that made his team the first to ever come back from an 0-3 playoff deficit.
But the end of the line comes sometime, and this year may be it for one or all of those guys…if not more.
Beyond that trio, you have Vladimir Guerrero (37), Miguel Tejada (38), and Manny Ramirez (40), all of whom (like Matsui) found in-season Minor League deals as their only options, but then were released at their request after their teams refused to promote them from Triple-A.
And then there’s 38-year-old Johnny Damon who, while employed, is in a precarious position, as he has hit just .222-4-19 in 64 games with Cleveland and could be another late-season “youth movement” casualty if they fall further out of contention.
I guess if there’s one positive in that landscape, it’s this: if 2012 is the end of the line for any or all of these guys, then the Hall of Fame rookie class of 2018 is already shaping up to be a great one.