We see it happen in baseball all the time.
A perennial superstar starts to fade and appears to be past his prime. All hope is lost. He has to accept that his best days are behind him. So his team trades him away, just trying to shed payroll. Or he simply signs with another team. Boom -- he finds a way to turn his career around when it looked like he was finished.
We could see a number of big-named veterans soon changing homes in the majors. There are many guys who appear to be shelves of their former selves, but in reality they may just need a new home to turn their careers around. Some of these guys are just months away from free agency, but some of them are about to get traded as their current clubs try to shed payroll and rebuild.
Here is a look at 15 fading MLB veterans who just may turn their fortunes around on a new team.
*All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com, contract details via Spotrac*
15 James Shields: Minnesota Twins
Remember when James Shields was so good that the Kansas City Royals gave up elite prospect Will Myers and young pitcher Jake Odorizzi for his services? Then Shields took the Royals to the 2014 World Series, where they narrowly lost? That seems like a lifetime ago.
Shields has not been the same since the San Diego Padres signed him to a four-year, $75 million deal three offseasons ago. His ERA is well above 5.70 for the second-straight year, and the rebuilding Chicago White Sox have no need to hold onto him any longer.
The Minnesota Twins -- very much alive in both the AL Central and wild card race -- could use a veteran arm. Shields just needs a fresh start on a contending team, and perhaps the Twins would be able to turn him into what we like to call a "rebuilding project".
14 Melvin Upton Jr.: Kansas City Royals
Melvin Upton Jr. was once among the most highly regarded prospects in the game, being drafted second overall by Tampa Bay in 2002. Upton has shown flashes here and there with his insane speed, solid defence and solid home run power. But Upton has been a huge strikeout machine and is a career .243 hitter. Not very good.
The Toronto Blue Jays released Upton before the 2017 season took place, and nobody has signed him. He'd be a good fit for the Kansas City Royals -- who've built their team around speed, speed and speed.
Many of the Royals core players are slated for free agency -- including Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. They'll have to go bargain shopping this offseason to replace them, and Upton Jr. could be a worthwhile addition.
13 Homer Bailey: Atlanta Braves
Homer Bailey was once a key part of the Cincinnati Reds rotation, helping them reach the playoffs in 2010, 2012 and 2013. His 13 victories and 168 strikeouts powered the Reds to an NL Central title, and it looked like he was on the verge of forming into one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
But times have changed quickly. Homer has been giving up a lot of homers, and his ERA is north of 5.50 for the second consecutive season. Bailey clearly has worn out his welcome in Cincinnati, and a new team shall await him.
The Atlanta Braves love taking a chance on fading pitchers -- signing Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey last winter. Dickey has morphed into a quality starter in their rotation, so why not take a chance on Bailey and hope he can rebound in Atlanta as well?
12 Jason Grilli: Los Angeles Dodgers
'Grilled Cheese' was one of the greatest mid-season pickups in 2016, as he became a huge weapon in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. Jason Grilli pitched just 42 innings, but racked up 58 strikeouts and a wonderful 3.64 ERA. But unfortunately, Grilli was miserable for Toronto to start off 2017, allowing 16 earned runs in 20.2 innings pitched.
Toronto traded Grilli to the Texas Rangers, where the pending free agent has seen limited action. But the flame-throwing veteran should get at least one more run at a championship in 2018, and the Los Angeles Dodgers may be the team for Grilli.
He'd join a stacked team that includes the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), and the game's best closer (Kenley Jansen). With plenty of run support coming from the Dodgers' stacked lineup, Grilli would be extremely comfortable playing in the California sun. Perhaps the Dodgers would be his final ride -- one that could result in a championship.
11 Francisco Liriano: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs already boast a solid rotation in Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jose Quintana, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks. But Arrieta and Lackey (who have both under performed in 2017), are set to become free agents and are likely to price themselves out of Chicago. So don't expect either to be back.
Theo Epstein will have to find a suitable replacement, and Francisco Liriano may be worth a shot. The slider specialist has been awful with the Toronto Blue Jays, posting a horrid 6.15 ERA with a 1.73 WHIP.
But Liriano may just need a change of scenery, and the defending world champions would be a good fit for him. Liriano would get to work under the game's best manager in Joe Maddon -- who is known for turning veterans' careers around. With that nasty slider, Liriano could once again emerge as a weapon in a rotation.
10 Ryan Howard: New York Yankees
382 home runs, 1,194 RBI, a .515 slugging percentage and a former World Series champion. Sure, Ryan Howard isn't quite the feared slugger he once was -- but his 25 home runs in 2016 suggested he does have some power left. It's a surprise nobody has taken a chance on him to this date.
The Bronx Bombers are a great fit for Howard, since they love to mash their fair share of home runs. In fact, Yankee Stadium has been the kindest of ball parks to home run hitters this year -- averaging 1.481 dingers per game.
Howard would join a stacked Yankees lineup that includes rookie sensation Aaron Judge, promising catcher Gary Sanchez, plus Matt Holliday and Brett Gardner. The Yankees are vying for the AL East and are barely hanging onto a wild card spot. Trading for a seasoned veteran like Howard would only increase their championship dreams.
9 Jonathan Papelbon: Boston Red Sox
I'm coming home...I'm coming home...tell the world I'm coming home...YOU GET the point.
So what in the world happened to Jonathan Papelbon? Once among the best closers in baseball, Papelbon has been embroiled in controversy since leaving the Boston Red Sox in 2011. Whether it was an inappropriate gesture towards Philadelphia Phillies fans or choking teammate Washington Nationals Bryce Harper in the dugout, Papelbon has fallen off the MLB map quickly.
Well, perhaps a homecoming to the Boston Red Sox is all Papelbon needs. Currently a free agent, Papelbon just needs to clean up his attitude -- and manager John Farrell is known for getting his clubhouse under control. Papelbon would be a great setup man for teammate Craig Kimbrel, and Beantown may be all he needs for a career revival.
8 Jered Weaver: St. Louis Cardinals
It doesn't seem that long ago when Jered Weaver was once among baseball's elite starting pitchers for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The former 20-game winner consistently won double-digit games, always surpassed 200 innings and kept posting ERAs below 3.00. But things have changed over the years for Weaver.
The 34-year-old joined the San Diego Padres in hopes of reviving his career, but it hasn't gone as planned. Weaver has an alarming 7.44 ERA and is winless in nine starts. Obviously, the 6-foot-7 veteran needs a new home.
The St. Louis Cardinals may as well take a chance on him. Adam Wainwright's health is always a concern, and superstar Lance Lynn is a free agent this winter. The Cardinals took a chance on Lance Berkman back in 2011, and it brought them a World Series. They took a chance on Carlos Beltran, and it led to a 2013 NL pennant. May as well try the same on Weaver.
7 Marco Estrada: San Francisco Giants
Life has been extremely frustrating for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans (check my Twitter handle, @Alexhoegler to confirm this), and a lot of it has to do with all their standout veterans regressing unexpectedly.
Take pitcher Marco Estrada, who started for the Jays in Game 1 of the 2016 ALDS and ALCS -- a sign that John Gibbons trusted him more than any other guy on the rotation. Well, Estrada's been miserably awful in 2017.
He's 4-7 with a 5.52 ERA -- and has one quality start in his last nine outings. The soon-to-be 34-year-old is a free agent this winter. The San Francisco Giants turned Johnny Cueto back into an ace. They're bringing back old friend Pablo Sandoval after a miserable tenure with the Boston Red Sox. So why not take on Estrada and hope he can discover his old form on a team with three championships this decade?
6 Curtis Granderson: Toronto Blue Jays
Remember when Curtis Granderson hit 40 homers for the New York Yankees in 2011 and 2012? Well, the New York Mets were intrigued enough to sign Granderson for four years back in 2013, and it's been met with mixed results.
On one hand, Granderson hasn't lost any power -- hitting at least 20 homers in each of his first three years with the Mets (he's on his way to doing so again in 2017). But Granderson is striking out way too much, and his batting average remains in the .220s.
Nonetheless, the desperate Toronto Blue Jays may as well take a chance on him. Granderson does have lots of speed and could mash plenty of homers in a hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. The Jays have by far the worst offence in baseball. Since GM Ross Atkins prefers to look for bargain players, Granderson may be worthy of a gamble this winter.
5 Ichiro: Kansas City Royals
Though it's been awesome to watch Ichiro continue to play ball into his mid-40s, the reality is that he probably has one season left at best in the majors. The rebuilding Miami Marlins don't give him any opportunity to win a world championship. But most contenders will be hesitant to sign a 44-year-old. This is where the Royals step in and get the Japanese icon.
Ichiro is still among the fastest players in the game, and the Royals will need to fill holes when some of their stars leave for free agency. Ichiro would be a great addition to the small ball Royals -- who as I said earlier rely on fast guys that can round the bases.
It'd be a good addition for the Royals, who may be Ichiro's final chance at winning a title.
4 John Lackey: Seattle Mariners
The three-time World Series champion has been one of the best and most consistent starting pitchers in his career that's spanned one-and-a-half decades. But John Lackey is finally showing his age (38), with the Chicago Cubs this season, holding a mere 6-9 record with a woeful 5.04 ERA.
The Cubs -- who need to slash payroll to re-sign key stars in the future -- will surely let Lackey leave in free agency this summer. And few teams could use Lackey as much as the Seattle Mariners -- whose 4.76 rotation ERA ranks 20th in the majors.
Seattle really needs some help in the rotation, especially with former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez struggling to stay healthy. Lackey is worthy of a gamble, as the Mariners try to shore up the rotation and reach the postseason for the first time since 2001.
3 Jordan Zimmermann: New York Mets
The Detroit Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year deal worth $110 million, believing he'd bring them back to the playoffs while rounding out a stacked rotation with Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer and Anibal Sanchez.
Well, Zimmermann's been a huge disappointment for the Tigers. He went 9-7 last year with a 4.87 ERA, but has fared worse this year. Zimmerman is 6-8 with a 5.81 ERA. The Tigers have already started their tear-it-all-down process by shipping J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now they need to continue that process.
The New York Mets should be willing to take on Zimmermann's contract. Noah Syndergaard's health is suddenly a question mark, and Matt Harvey's exit seems inevitable. Zimmermann just needs a new home. The Mets and their young core would be a great place for him.
2 Jose Bautista: Tampa Bay Rays
Life has changed quickly for Jose Bautista.
After leading the Toronto Blue Jays to the 2015 ALCS -- Bautista reportedly asked for a five-year contract worth $150 million from the Jays before the 2016 season. Bautista struggled quite a bit in 2016, finishing with just 22 home runs, a horrid .234 batting average and mere .818 OPS.
Bautista took a one-year deal worth $18 million from the Blue Jays in hopes of turning his career around. Nope. 16 homers? Solid. 103 strikeouts in 361 at bats? Gross. .222 batting average and .725 OPS? Grossest.
The Tampa Bay Rays like their reclamation projects, though. They've signed the likes of James Loney, Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, Jose Molina, Delmon Young and Hideki Matsui over the years. They found some success in turning those fading veterans around. Perhaps they can make it happen with Bautista, who is surely on his way out of Toronto.
1 Justin Verlander: Washington Nationals
Justin Verlander won both the AL Cy Young and MVP back in 2011. But from 2013 to 2015, Kate Upton's man showed some signs of regression and appeared to be entering his twilight years. Then he won 16 games with a 3.04 ERA last year -- nearly winning the Cy Young after a big bounce-back campaign.
But Verlander is showing his age (34), once again. He's 5-7 with an awful 4.54 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. The Tigers -- who are now listening to offers on Verlander -- could have a solid trade partner in the Washington Nationals.
Verlander has three years left on his deal, and the Nationals would probably be happy to overpay for him. They've got the prospects to make a deal work. Star pitcher Max Scherzer could use another arm behind him, and Verlander would absolutely boost their championship dreams. He just needs a new home, as the Tigers ship continues to sink into the bottom of the AL Central
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