Five Former MLB Stars in Need of a Rebound in 2020

Out with the old, in with the new. Such is the way of life when it comes to baseball, and professional sports in general. One day you're an all-star; the face of a franchise, slugging or slinging your way to a case full of postseason awards and a lucrative contract. The next, you find yourself in the final year of your deal or on a minor league contract, fighting for your last shot at a big league roster spot.

Each of the five players on this list have been either named to at least one All-Star team, or have garnered a major postseason award. All are seasoned veterans past the age of 30, and all are facing a crossroads in their big league careers if they are unable to bounce back in a major way in 2020.

Felix Hernandez, SP, Atlanta Braves, spring training non-roster invite

There was no other way to begin this list than with the King himself, Felix Hernandez. After 15 seasons, 169 wins, six all-star selections, the 2010 Cy Young award, and seven consecutive top 10 finishes in Cy Young voting from 2009-2015, Hernandez finds himself on a minor-league deal with Atlanta. Nearing his 34th birthday, King Felix has over 400 starts and more than 2700 IP on the tires, and is coming off the worst season of his career by a considerable margin.

Hernandez hopes to reinvent himself and extend his career with the Braves, albeit with greatly diminished stuff. His ERA has risen while his ERA+ has declined in each of the past five seasons, along with an ever-increasing H/9 and a WHIP that ballooned to 1.53 in 2019. Spring camp has been good to Hernandez thus far, as he has registered a 1.98 ERA and has yet to give up a home run over 13 2/3 IP. He looks to be a strong contender for a back end of the rotation spot for an Atlanta club that looks to be major contenders in the NL in 2020.

Felix has never reached the postseason, by virtue of being the franchise star of a team with the longest playoff drought in North America. Here's to the King making his postseason debut in 2020.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Seattle Mariners, spring training non-roster invite

It wasn't long ago that CarGo was one of baseball's most electrifying all-around players, hitting for power, average, displaying speed on the bases, and playing all three outfield positions in one of the most spacious and difficult outfields in the game in Denver. From 2010-2016, Gonzalez averaged 36 doubles, 34 homers, and 110 RBIs per 162 games played and put up a 123 OPS+.

2017 was the start of the drop-off for CarGo. In the past three seasons, he's averaged just 104 games played per year, has 33 total home runs, and has an OPS+ of 87. 2019 seemed to represent rock bottom for the former star, as he played in just 45 games between the Cubs and Indians, hitting .200 with 3 home runs in 145 at-bats.

Gonzalez signed a minor-league deal with the perpetually rebuilding Mariners in the offseason, and has mediocre numbers thus far in spring training. At age 34, with seemingly fading abilities and a career that has often been hampered by injury, this could be Gonzalez's last legitimate shot at a big league roster.

Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles, signed through 2022

When you haven't won a pennant in 36 years, it's tough to swallow that you also agreed to arguably the absolute worst contract of that entire time frame. But that's exactly what the Baltimore Orioles are facing when it comes to Chris Davis. Following four seasons in which the mammoth slugger averaged 40 homers and 100+ RBIs a year, the O's locked him up for seven years and a grand total of $161 million dollars. Following a reasonable 2016 campaign in which Davis managed a 110 OPS+ and 38 homers, the bottom absolutely fell out for the slugger.

From 2017-2019, Davis has hit just 54 homers total, one more than his single season total in his breakout 2013 campaign. During that span he's also hit .188 in over 1200 at-bats, the equivalent of just 105 hits per 162 games played. His total OPS+ over the past three years has been 69, and for the uneducated, that's abysmal. For anyone who is not due $23 million a year, that's a pink slip, you're gone. But when you're a former star on a tanking team, you get a second, or perhaps a third chance. But I have a hard time seeing a fourth chance for Davis. No matter what he's paid, another year of embarrassing performance has to lead to being cut, there's no way around it if you're the O's.

So for Davis' sake, let's hope the strong spring he's put together thus far will translate to the regular season.

Rick Porcello, SP, New York Mets, signed through 2020

Few pitchers with as many starts under their belt as Porcello have seen more ups and downs in the career. In a telling microcosm of his big league career, the right-hander's past five seasons with the Red Sox saw a 15-loss and 17-loss season sandwiched around a 22-win Cy Young campaign. Then he followed up 17 wins in 2018 with the worst ERA of his career in his walk year of 2019.

Naturally, there weren't too many teams beating down the door to sign the 31-year-old to a multi-year deal, so he was forced to ink a one-year contract with the Mets in hopes of increasing his stock for a final big contract. Personally, I feel it's not merely about netting a larger deal, it's about having a big league opportunity at all in 2021 for Porcello. He is a starter who has always seemed to have expectations around him, when in 11 big league seasons he's only managed an ERA under 4.00 three times. He's allowed nearly a hit per inning over his career, and his career ERA+ is below average.

So why does it always feel like we're expecting something greater from Porcello? He eats innings, that's for sure. Probably why he's posted double-digit losses six times in his career to go along with two nine-loss years. Or maybe, he's just not that good. Either way, Porcello's time in the big leagues could be short if he doesn't right the ship with the Amazins' in 2020.

Wade Davis, RP, Colorado Rockies, signed through 2020, mutual option for 2021

While we're on the subject of up and down careers, let's take a moment to remember that before he became the most dominant closer in baseball for several seasons, Wade Davis was a mediocre starter coming off a 5.32 ERA with Kansas City in 2013. This after a fairly successful year out of the bullpen with Tampa Bay in 2012. Davis made the switch to full-time reliever in 2014 and took the league by storm. In back-to-back pennant-winning seasons for the Royals, Davis had an absurd 0.97 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a goofy 420 ERA+ across 140 appearances. He was lights-out personified, and backed it up with strong campaigns in 2016-17.

Then came Coors Field, and a nice contract with the franchise where pitcher's careers go to die. Davis was subpar in 2018, and then the wheels fell off in 2019. His ERA and WHIP ballooned into orbit, and now he heads into his age 34 season in the last year of his deal, hoping to prove he can still hack it as a big leaguer. Does he have anything left in the tank? Or will we simply have to lean on the memories of Kansas City, when he coupled with Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland to form one of the most shutdown backend bullpens in recent memory.

May the Coors gods be ever in his favor.

So there you have it, former stars fighting for their baseball lives and one last shot at glory. You can't play forever, but you can certainly give it a shot.

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