As the last days of spring training wind down, teams will begin to pare their rosters down in order to finalize their 25 man opening day roster, and sometimes, those cuts are rather interesting. Today, the most interesting of all comes down, as the Tigers decided they’d rather pay Gary Sheffield $14 million to go away than to keep him around in 2009.
Sheffield, at age 40, might have a tough time finding another job. He hit .225/.326/.400 last year, good for a .323 wOBA. As a DH-only, that’s not particularly valuable. His 2008 season was worth 0.3 wins above replacement, and given his personality, teams aren’t going to be knocking down his door to get that kind of production when his mouth comes along with it.
After all, this is a market where Jim Edmonds, Frank Thomas, and Ray Durham can’t find a job, and all three were more productive and less annoying than Sheffield last year. Upon being released, Sheffield claimed “this isn’t it” for him, but he’s not in a position to make that call. This very well could be it for Sheffield – he’s now joining a glut of Hall Of Famers looking for work and finding slim pickings.
So, if this is it for Sheffield, the question now becomes whether he’s accomplished enough to get into Cooperstown. He’s a career .292/.394/.516 hitter, racking up an impressive 570.9 wRAA and a 62.80 WPA/LI. His wRAA total ranks 34th all time, just ahead of Larry Walker and right behind Jim Thome. According to Sean Smith’s Wins Above Replacement from 1955-2008, Sheffield ranks 52nd among position players in that time frame.
Sheffield was a great hitter in an era of great hitting. Did he do enough to get into Cooperstown? I’m going to guess the answer will turn out to be no. Much like Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez, I think he’ll be viewed as a good but not great player, and the baseball writers will keep him sitting on the sidelines.
Does he deserve to get in? If you had a vote, is Sheffield going to Cooperstown?
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