Baseball, as the saying goes, is a young person’s game. And yet, through the years, various players have remained relevant well past their perceived expiration dates.
Legendary pitcher Satchel Paige appeared in a big league game in 1965 at the age of 59...and tossed three scoreless innings with a strikeout for the Kansas City Athletics.
None of the guys on this list of the 10 oldest current MLB players measures up to Paige’s Father Time-defying feat.
But they’re all on a big league roster (or at least a minor league contract) with a reasonable shot at contributing in the 2021 season, gray hairs and all.
All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.
1. 1B/DH Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
Date of birth: Jan. 16, 1980; Age: 41; Debut: 2001
A no-doubt Hall of Famer, Albert Pujols enjoyed all of his best years with the St. Louis Cardinals and is now playing out the thread with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Halos owe the three-time MVP $30 million in 2021, the final year of a mostly disastrous contract to which they signed him following the 2011 campaign.
It’s tough to believe he’ll get much interest unless he has a serious turn-back-the-clock season, but his HOF resume speaks for itself.
2. LHP Rich Hill, Tampa Bay Rays
Date of birth: March 11, 1980; Age: 40; Debut: 2005
Injuries have always been the knock on lefty Rich Hill. He’s never reached 200 innings in a season in his career and hasn’t eclipsed 58.2 frames since 2018.
When he’s healthy, however, he’s still an effective starter, as evidenced by the 3.03 ERA he posted in eight starts for the Minnesota Twins in 2020.
Now, the penny-pinching AL champion Tampa Bay Rays are hoping he’s got more gas sloshing in the tank after trading away ace Blake Snell.
3. DH Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Date of birth: July 1, 1980; Age: 40; Debut: 2005
Better known as the ageless wonder, Nelson Cruz posted a .992 OPS and finished sixth in AL MVP voting last season for the Minnesota Twins.
The Twinkies rewarded their fountain-of-youth-sipping designated hitter with a one-year, $13 million deal in the hopes he can continue to anchor the offense.
4. LHP Oliver Perez, Cleveland
Date of birth: Aug. 15, 1981; Age: 39; Debut: 2002
Oliver Perez has embodied the phrase “crafty left-hander” over the course of his 18-year MLB career.
The last three years have been productive ones in Cleveland. In 2020, Perez posted a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings out of the bullpen.
Now, entering his age-40 campaign, he’s got a minor league invite and another shot at a productive season.
5. RHP Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Date of birth: Aug. 30, 1981; Age: 39; Debut: 2005
A three-time All-Star who has finished in the top three in Cy Young Award balloting on four separate occasions, Adam Wainwright is keeping it going with the St. Louis Cardinals, the only MLB club he’s ever known.
After posting a 3.15 ERA in 65.2 innings and tossing a pair of complete games for the Red Birds in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Wainwright agreed to a one-year, $8 million pact with the Cards.
He’ll turn 40 before the postseason (assuming St. Louis gets there) and will have a chance to prove the old adage that age isn’t anything but a number.
6. C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Date of birth: July 13, 1982; Age: 38; Debut: 2004
Speaking of Cardinals icons, St. Louis also re-upped catcher Yadier Molina to a one-year, $9 million contract.
Protracted negotiations between the two sides led to speculation that Molina might retire. Instead, the nine-time All-Star will return for at least one more run.
He’ll be 39 years old in July, an age when most catchers have hung ‘em up. Then again, Molina isn’t most catchers.
7. 2B Robinson Cano, New York Mets
Date of birth: Oct. 22, 1982; Age: 38; Debut: 2005
Robinson Cano will miss the 2021 season after a second failed PED test.
Yet, the New York Mets second baseman is owed $24 million in 2022 and 2023, which means the Mets would have to swallow an awful lot of cash to simply cut him loose.
Bet on Cano making at least one more comeback attempt with the Queens contingent next season as he approaches his 40th birthday, even if it will come with the requisite doubts and asterisks.
8. LHP J.A. Happ, Minnesota Twins
Date of birth: Oct. 18, 1982; Age: 38; Debut: 2007
After going 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA for the New York Yankees in the truncated 2020 season, veteran lefty J.A. Happ ditched the Bronx and inked a one-year, $8 million deal with the Twins.
He was an All-Star as recently as 2018 between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, and has a chance to be a key piece in the middle of Minnesota’s rotation entering his age-38 go-round.
9. RHP Darren O’Day, New York Yankees
Date of birth: Oct. 22, 1982; Age: 38; Debut: 2008
After posting a 1.10 ERA in 19 appearances for Atlanta in 2020, right-hander Darren O’Day inked a one-year, $1.75 million pact with the Yankees.
O’Day owns a 2.51 ERA over the course of his 13-year big league career and notched an impressive 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2020.
10. RHP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Date of birth: Feb. 20, 1983; Age: 38; Debut: 2005
A surefire future Hall of Famer, Justin Verlander will miss the 2021 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
This is the final year of his contract with the Houston Astros, meaning he’ll enter the offseason as a soon-to-be 39-year-old coming off major surgery.
Still, surely some club will take a flier on a guy with two Cy Young Awards and an MVP in his trophy case.