Josh Hamilton and Rangers agree to two-year, $24 million deal

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Josh Hamilton and the Rangers won’t have to worry about arbitration again, as the two sides have agreed to a two-year contract. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the deal is worth $24 million.

Hamilton was seeking $12 million for this season, while the Rangers countered at $8.7 million. That makes the midpoint $10.35 million and he likely would have been in line for an even bigger figure next season, so the contract is a fair one for both sides that gives the Rangers some cost certainty in case he has another MVP campaign.

And perhaps just as importantly, it also allows the Rangers to avoid bringing up his history of substance abuse in a hearing, which potentially could have gotten very ugly.

If they hadn’t reached an agreement there was a hearing scheduled for Monday, but various reports during the past couple weeks have consistently said negotiations were going smoothly. Hamilton, who hit .359 with 32 homers, 100 RBIs, and a league-leading 1.044 OPS in 133 games last season, will be 32 years old when he’s eligible for free agency following the 2012 season.

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.