By Cliff Corcoran
Evan Longoria, the best player in Tampa Bay Rays history, donned another team's uniform for the first time Friday morning when he was introduced as the new third baseman of the San Francisco Giants. Longoria -- the Rays' career leader in most cumulative hitting stats -- will be joined in the 2018 Giants lineup by another franchise icon changing uniforms for the first time, former Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. In the 25 seasons since Barry Bonds last played for Pittsburgh, McCutchen led the Pirates in most cumulative hitting stats, too, while starting in center field in every one of the Pirates' postseason games during that span and winning the franchise's only National League MVP Award since Bonds in 1992.
The confluence of these two franchise icons in San Francisco got me thinking about how players who had that level of success with one club followed it up after switching teams. Using Longoria and McCutchen as a guide, I put together a list of 156 players who compiled 40 or more wins above replacement (McCutchen's career total, per Baseball-Reference) with one team before finishing their career elsewhere. I then sorted the list according to the bWAR each player accumulated after leaving that team.
The first thing I noticed was that the top of the list was filled with players who didn't much resemble the 32-year-old third baseman Longoria or 31-year-old outfielder McCutchen, the latter of whom will play right field for the Giants. That is to say, the top of the list was dominated by pitchers (Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove, Nolan Ryan, Mike Mussina, Tom Seaver, Fergie Jenkins) or players who switched teams in their 20s (Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Goose Goslin).
Eliminating those two groups, I came up with the following top 10 hitters who switched teams in their 30s, ranked by their total bWAR after leaving the team with which they made their name.
10. Al Simmons, 17.9 bWAR
The Philadelphia Athletics won three consecutive pennants from 1929-31, winning two championships. Per bWAR, the only players in the game who were more valuable than Simmons, the A's left fielder, over those three seasons were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Simmons' teammate Lefty Grove. In his dozen seasons with the Athletics from 1924-32, Simmons hit .358/.400/.590 (148 OPS+) while averaging 200 hits, 38 doubles, 11 triples, 23 homers, 129 RBIs and 107 runs scored per season, winning two batting titles, finishing in the top five in the MVP Award voting four times, compiling 50.8 bWAR and batting .333/.387/.667 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 18 World Series games.
That A's team was stacked with Hall of Famers, but, after a second-place finish in 1932, owner and manager Connie Mack began selling them off, starting with Simmons, who had turned 30 that May. Mack sold Simmons to the White Sox three days after the final game of the 1932 season for $100,000. Simmons hit .337/.388/.505 (134 OPS+) in his first two seasons in Chicago, but, by his own admission, lost his focus playing for a second-division team and fell off in his age-33 season. Sold to the defending champion Tigers, he rebounded in 1936 but subsequently began bouncing around the league. Though he played until the age of 42, twice returning to the A's and reaching the World Series again with the Reds in 1939, his last notable season came with the Senators in '38 at the age of 36.
9. Ivan Rodriguez, 18.1 bWAR
In 13 seasons with the Rangers, Rodriguez won 10 Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers, made 10 All-Star teams, won the 1999 American League MVP Award, hit .305/.342/.489 (113 OPS+), threw out 50.2 percent of attempting base stealers, compiled 50.4 bWAR and was the starting catcher in every game in the first three postseasons in franchise history.
A free agent for the first time after the 2002 season, Rodriguez entered a market nearly as cold as the current one. Plagued by age and injury concerns, Rodriguez didn't sign until late January, when he landed a one-year deal with the Marlins for his age-31 season. He then led the Marlins to a championship, hitting .313/.390/.522 with 17 RBI in 17 postseason games and winning the World Series MVP Award in Florida's National League Championship Series victory over the Cubs. Rodriguez signed a four-year deal with the Tigers and kicked it off with an outstanding age-32 season before his decline began. Rodriguez still made four All-Star teams with Detroit and won three Gold Gloves as a Tiger, but he was no longer an impact player by the time he was dealt to the Yankees. Rodriguez was a replacement-level catcher over his final three seasons with the Astros, Rangers and Nationals. However, his one year with the Marlins stands as one of the great one-off seasons in Major League history.
8. Mark McGwire, 19.2 bWAR
The quiet half of Oakland's bash brothers, McGwire won the 1987 AL Rookie of the Year Award with 49 home runs, a rookie record that stood until Aaron Judge hit 52 last year. He then helped lead the A's to three straight pennants and the 1989 championship, hitting .343/.368/.486 in the 1989 postseason. An All-Star nine times in his 12 years in Oakland, McGwire hit .260/.380/.551 (155 OPS+) for the A's with 363 home runs, including a Major League best 52 in 1996.
In 1997, with the 33-year-old McGwire in the last year of a five-year contract, Oakland sent Big Mac to St. Louis at the Trade Deadline. McGwire hit 24 home runs in 51 games over the remainder of that season, set a single-season record with 70 in 1998, and followed that up with 65 more in 1999. In total, he hit 159 home runs in his first 359 games with the Cardinals, and though injuries brought a quick end to his career thereafter, he hit .287/.449/.723 from the time of the trade through the end of his age-36 season in 2000.
7. Robinson Cano, 20.4 bWAR
In nine years with the Yankees, Cano made five All-Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers, hit .309/.355/.504 (126 OPS+), compiled 45.3 bWAR and helped New York reach the postseason seven times and inaugurate its new ballpark with a championship in 2009. He also finished in the top six in the AL MVP Award voting in each of his last four seasons in New York.
In December 2013, the Mariners signed Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. Cano finished fifth in the AL MVP Award voting in his first year in Seattle. After a poor start to his age-32 campaign, he tore the cover off the ball in late 2015 and throughout '16, hitting a career-high 39 home runs in the latter campaign. He cooled off last year, his age-34 season, but still made the All-Star team, his third in four years with the Mariners, and compiled 3.4 bWAR. He should move up to fifth on this list early in the 2018 season and may finish his career no lower than third.
The other active players who fit into this category of non-pitchers who switched teams in their 30s after compiling at least 40 bWAR for a single team have been less impressive. Albert Pujols fell below replacement level last year at the age of 37, while Chase Utley and Ichiro Suzuki may find their Major League careers ended by this winter's slow market. Once again, there is more optimism to be had with the pitchers, in this case Cole Hamels and Justin Verlander.
6. Home Run Baker, 20.5 bWAR
The third baseman on the "$100,000 Infield" that helped the A's win four pennants and three World Series from 1910-14, Frank Baker hit .321/.375/.471 (153 OPS+) in seven seasons with Philadelphia, compiling 42.3 bWAR and batting .378/.407/.598 in those four Fall Classics. He earned his nickname with a pair of home runs in the 1911 World Series and validated it by leading the AL in home runs in each of his last four seasons with the team (albeit with a maximum of 12).
Mack began tearing down his first great A's team after it lost the 1914 World Series. Baker, after being rebuffed in an attempt to renegotiate his three-year contract, held out for the entire 1915 season, then was sold to the Yankees in February 1916 for $37,500. Baker averaged 4.3 bWAR for the Yankees in his age-30-33 seasons but again sat out in 1920 after his wife died of scarlet fever, leaving Baker alone with two infant daughters. He returned as a part-time player in 1921 to participate in the Yankees' first two World Series, but he retired before they opened Yankee Stadium and won their first championship in 1923.
5. Tim Raines, 20.7
In a dozen years with the Expos, Raines made seven All-Star teams, stole 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons (leading the league four times), won the NL batting title in 1986, hit .301/.390/.438 (132 OPS+) and compiled 48.4 bWAR. Great as he was, he couldn't find work outside of Montreal when he reached free agency after the '86 season.
In his second attempt at free agency, Raines, then 31, signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the White Sox. He struggled in the first year of that deal but rebounded in the second and hit .306/.401/.480 (138 OPS+) in the third, a 6.3 bWAR season that earned him another three-year deal with Chicago. He was never that productive again and began to slow down on the bases and in the field in his mid-30s. Prior to his age-36 season, he was traded to the Yankees, for whom he was a valuable fourth outfielder for championship teams in 1996 and '98. Raines bounced around after that, missing his age-40 season with lupus, but he returned to the Expos at the age of 41 and played in the Orioles' outfield beside his son, Tim Raines Jr., at the end of that season before retiring after a subpar final season with the Marlins at the age of 42.
4. Reggie Jackson, 25.0
After the Mets' shocking decision to take Steve Chilcott with the first pick of the 1966 Draft, the Kansas City Athletics snapped up this Arizona State star. Jackson was in the Majors the next year, and the year after that he and the team were in Oakland. In 1969, Jackson hit 37 home runs before the All-Star break. In nine years with the A's, Jackson made six All-Star teams and helped a franchise that hadn't had a first-place finish since Al Simmons was on the team make five straight postseasons and win three straight championships. From 1968-75, Jackson hit .268/.362/.509 (152 OPS+) while averaging 32 home runs and 18 stolen bases per season, compiling 48.4 bWAR and adding a .271/.344/.475 line and five home runs in postseason play and the 1973 World Series MVP Award.
Like Mack before him, however, A's owner Charlie O. Finley began selling off his dynasty as soon as it failed to repeat, spurred on by the looming threat of free agency. Jackson, who would be part of the first free-agent class after the 1976 season, was traded to the Orioles one week before Opening Day. Jackson held out in Baltimore and started slow after returning, but he finished strong enough to have had a representative, if often overlooked, age-30 season. That winter, Jackson signed a five-year, $3 million contract with the Yankees and reached new levels of fame by helping lead the Yankees to consecutive championships in his first two years in New York, another pennant in 1981 and the postseason in four of those five seasons. Jackson hit .328/.417/.672 with 12 home runs in 34 postseason games with the Bronx Bombers, including three homers on three pitches in the final game of the 1977 World Series, earning the "Mr. October" moniker. When that contract expired, Jackson signed a four-year deal with the Angels and led them to a division title with a Major League-leading 39 homers at the age of 36. Though the Angels would return to the postseason in his option year in 1986, Jackson's bat was inconsistent after his first year in Anaheim and largely absent in the Angels' playoff appearances. He called it quits after one last season with the A's at the age of 41 in 1987.
3. Jim Thome, 25.5
One of a trio of home-grown sluggers in the monstrous lineup of the 1990s Indians, Thome hit .287/.414/.567 (152 OPS+) in his first 12 seasons, compiling 47.4 bWAR. From 1996-2002, he averaged 40 home runs and 116 walks per season, leading the league three times in the latter category and slugging 101 home runs in his final two seasons in Cleveland. Having not played a postseason game since 1954, the Indians made the playoffs six times in Thome's last eight years with the team, with Thome hitting 17 home runs in 55 postseason games over that stretch.
A free agent after his age-31 season, Thome signed a six-year, $85 million deal with the Phillies and kept raking. However, an injury-plagued 2005 season and the rise of first-base prospect Ryan Howard prompted the Phillies to trade Thome to the White Sox just three years into the deal. Thome continued to pound the ball with the White Sox and Twins (with a brief pinch-hitting stint with the Dodgers in between) and in brief returns to Cleveland and Philadelphia. However, as he aged into his late 30s, his playing time and ability to stay healthy diminished. He retired after his age-41 season, playing his final games in the 2012 postseason with the Orioles. In total, Thome hit .263/.386/.538 (140 OPS+) with 278 home runs over 10 seasons after leaving Cleveland as a free agent.
2. Rogers Hornsby, 36.6
Hornsby's numbers with the Cardinals from 1915-26 are mind-melting. In those dozen seasons, he hit .359/.427/.570 (178 OPS+), compiling 90.4 bWAR. Over a six-year span from 1920-25, he won the slash-stat Triple Crown every year, leading his league (and often the Majors) in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging every year. He hit .400 or better three times in that span, including a modern record .424 in 1924. In those six seasons, he hit .397/.467/.666 (201 OPS+) while also leading the league in total bases five times, hits four times, doubles four times, RBIs four times and runs three times. He also led the Majors in home runs twice during Babe Ruth's peak (42 in '22 and 39 in '25), winning the conventional Triple Crown in both seasons. By 1925, Hornsby had been named the Cardinals' manager, and in 1926, despite a relative off year at the plate, he led St. Louis to its first modern pennant and championship, tagging Babe Ruth out on a steal attempt at second base for the final out of the World Series.
A contract dispute with Cardinals ownership that offseason led to owner Sam Breadon giving in to Giants manager John McGraw's long-standing attempts to acquire Hornsby. The result was a trade of soon-to-be 31-year-old Hornsby for the 29-year-old Frankie Frisch. The Cardinals got the better of the deal, not necessarily because of the relative performance of the two players, but because of their personalities. Frisch spent the last 11 years of his career with the Cardinals, winning championships with the Gas House Gang in 1931 and '34. Meanwhile, Hornsby quickly wore out his welcome in New York. He spent 1928 with the Braves, again winning the slash-stat Triple Crown, then was on the move again, this time of his own accord, urging and receiving a trade to the Cubs. In 1929, Hornsby won the NL MVP Award and led the Cubs to their first pennant in 11 years, but a broken ankle wiped out most of his 1930 season. In his first three seasons after being traded from the Cardinals, Hornsby hit .376/.468/.633 (184 OPS+) while averaging 207 hits, 29 homers and 123 RBIs and 9.8 bWAR, but he spent those seasons with three different teams. After 1929, he never again played in more than 100 games or made more than 419 plate appearances. He raked when healthy in 1931, but his career petered out from there.
1. Frank Robinson, 43.4
The NL Rookie of the Year in 1956 with 38 home runs and the NL MVP in the Reds' pennant-winning 1961 season, Robinson hit .303/.389/.554 (150 OPS+) in 10 years with Cincinnati, averaging 32 homers, 101 RBI and 16 stolen bases over that stretch while compiling 63.8 bWAR. Robinson's 1965 season was perfectly representative of that performance, but he turned 30 that August and did appear to lose a step in the outfield. Reds owner Bill DeWitt deemed Robinson "an old 30" and "a fading talent increasingly hobbled by leg injuries," and dealt him to the Orioles.
Robinson proceeded to post the best year of his career in 1966, winning both the conventional and slash-stat Triple Crowns by hitting .316/.410/.637 (198 OPS+) with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs. As a result, Robinson became the only player to win the MVP Award in both leagues. He also helped the Orioles win their first pennant and the first championship in Browns/Orioles franchise history. With Robinson in right field, the Orioles would later win three consecutive pennants, the 1970 World Series and a whopping 217 regular season games in 1969 and '70 combined. Robinson hit .300/.401/.543 (169 OPS+) in his six years in Baltimore, averaging 30 homers per season and adding nine home runs and a .532 slugging percentage in 30 postseason games. He is wearing an Orioles cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Traded three more times after his age-35 season, Robinson hit .252/.365/.463 (141 OPS+) over his final five seasons with the Dodgers, Angels and Indians. In the penultimate year of his playing career, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history and homered in his first at-bat as the Indians' player-manager in 1975. In total, Robinson hit .284/.389/.516 (160 OPS+) over 11 seasons after DeWitt described him as a fading talent, and he is the only player on this list to surpass 40 WAR with both his original team and after leaving that team.
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Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.