Andy Pettitte never played for the Chicago White Sox but, after announcing his retirement this morning, the left-handed hurler may soon be joined by someone who did. Jermaine Dye spent six seasons on the South Side and 14 seasons in Major League Baseball total. Yet he may soon come to represent a cautionary tale for many aging ballplayers.
Dye, a right-handed slugging outfielder, was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round of the 1993 amateur draft. He went on to play for the Braves, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics before signing a free agent deal with the White Sox that began with the 2005 season.
And what a season it was. For those of you fresh out of comas, the Sox went all the way that year with Dye winning the World Series AL MVP award. Offensively speaking, his 2006 season was even better: He put up monster numbers (1.006 OPS!), played on the All-Star team and even received some AL MVP votes.
But the free agent deal in question ended with the conclusion of the 2009 season, a campaign in which Dye showed signs of the decline that many players begin to hit at age 35. He posted his lowest overall offensive numbers (per OPS+) ever as a member of the White Sox while his defensive shortcomings in right field became increasingly hard to ignore. Since then, things haven't been easy for Jermaine.
In a rather tragic turn of events, Dye turned down a reported offer from the Chicago Cubs in 2010 to perhaps platoon with Kosuke Fukudome in right field. Sadly, no other MLB team came calling thereafter, leaving him the odd man out last season. And, this year, his fate appears the same.
Well, sorta. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is reporting that Dye himself confirmed being in touch with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they wouldn't offer him a major league deal -- only a minor league one. So the two parties made no arrangement, and the Dodgers quickly switched gears and signed Marcus Thames to a big league contract. Quoth Jermaine:
I feel I can contribute to a team in a big way. I guess I’m just shocked that nobody has called. Regardless if a team thinks I have slowed defensively, I think my offensive numbers make a case for themselves.
Is Dye a victim of baseball's increasing emphasis on the importance of defense, as he implies? That's probably part of it. As mentioned, he's also on the wrong side of 35 and may have made the biggest employment mistake of his baseball career by turning down the Cubs offer. (Once you're out of baseball, it can be hard to get back in -- though not impossible.)
That said, there is still time for another big league team to proffer him a minor league deal. But would Dye abandon his hubris and consent? It seems doubtful, as he also told Rosenthal:
I would still like to play, but I think my choices have passed and teams have gone with other people. I will continue to stay in shape and hopefully someone will call. If nothing gets done by the end of the spring, I may call it a career.
If a minor league deal is, indeed, off the table, we've probably seen the last of ol' No. 23. And one wonders whether other older players will heed the lesson of Dye's tale of woe and not be too choosy when looking for jobs once they've exceeded a certain age.