Not every postseason hero gets to stick with their team forever — Francisco Cabrera had a nice moment, but 91 plate appearances after his big hit, he was gone — but Cody “death to inside fastballs” Ross isn’t likely to be one of those short term guys. Brian Sabean tells the Merc that the team is looking to keep the arbitration-eligible Ross after this season.
It helps that, even though Ross is making his national debut in many important ways this week, he’s a decent ballplayer. After a nomadic first few years in the bigs, Ross established himself in Florida, where he showed some nice pop. He doesn’t get on base particularly well, but compared to Aaron Rowand he’s practically Kevin Youkilis in terms of plate discipline. Moreover, given that Andres Torres has probably been playing over his head and given that Pat Burrell has nowhere to go but down, the Giants have to have someone they can rely on in the outfield going forward.
The question, though, is whether Sabean decides to simply do a one year arbitration-avoiding deal on a guy who can probably be counted on for a good year, or if he’s going to take those dingers he hit off Halladay and Oswalt a bit too seriously and think he has a multi-year contract-deserving superstar on his hands in Ross.
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.