It appears that the coming week may represent the finale of Josh Willingham's career. According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Kansas City Royals' slugger has told those close to him that he will be "100 percent retiring" following the season.
The 35-year-old Willingham has had a fruitful 11-year big league career. Originally drafted by the Marlins in the 17th round of the 2000 draft, Willingham didn't reach the majors until he was 25, and didn't earn a full-time gig 2006, when he took over as the Marlins' left fielder at age 27. He had a strong three-year run as a regular with the Marlins, averaging a .266/.361/.477 slash line with a 118 OPS+, 22 home runs, and a 2.2 WAR from 2006 to 2008. After the 2008 season, Willingham was dealt to the Nationals, where he was even better (128 OPS+) in two seasons in Washington.
In 2010, Willingham was traded to the Oakland Athletics, where he continued to produce, posting a 121 OPS+ in his one season with the team. Following the 2011 season, Willingham was granted free agency and subsequently signed a three-year $21 million deal with the Twins. He responded with easily the best season of his career, as he hit .260/.366/.524 in 2012, setting career-highs in home runs (35), RBIs (110), OPS+ (143), walks (76), and WAR (3.2), while also taking home an AL Silver Slugger award.
Willingham's last couple years with the Twins hasn't gone nearly as well as his first. Over the past two seasons, he has suffered a myriad of injuries (including a fractured wrist that cost him two months this season), playing in 111 games last season and just 91 this year. With the Twins in last place and Willingham still a competent offensive producer (.218/.349/.401 this season), he was sent to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitching prospect Jason Adam in early-August. Down the stretch run, he has hit for a 112 OPS+ with the club despite dealing with a nagging groin injury this month.
The Royals are currently tied with the Athletics for the first Wild Card spot, and are three games ahead of the next best team, so it's looking increasingly likely that Kansas City will be making the postseason for the first time since 1985. This bodes well for Willingham's goodbye, as he has yet to play in the playoffs despite having a decade-plus in the league.