All quiet on the Holliday front

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While Jason Bay and many of the second-tier free agents are getting serious play, things have been pretty quiet on the subject of this winter’s No. 1 free agent, Matt Holliday, during the first two days of the winter meetings.
The Cardinals haven’t given up on re-signing Holliday yet, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this morning that the parties were described as being “on different sides of a gulch” to “in a different universe” when it came to negotiations.
The Red Sox are known to have talked extensively with agent Scott Boras, and it’s safe to assume that Holliday’s name came up several times. However, the team is continuing to negotiate with Jason Bay as well. It’s possible that GM Theo Epstein won’t make a real run at Holliday until he knows what Bay is doing.
There’s nothing to indicate anyone besides maybe the Cardinals have made Holliday an offer. The Mets will most likely be interested at the right price and it’d be foolish to rule out the Yankees until the day that Holliday puts pen to paper, but there are no other obvious potential suitors at the moment. The Mariners and Giants prefer to spend elsewhere, and the Angels have repeatedly said they’re not interested. All signs point to Holliday remaining unsigned through Christmas and likely into next year.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.