Report: Twins interested in Jeff Francis and Edwin Jackson

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With Chris Capuano off the board, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins have turned their attention to two alternatives: Jeff Francis and Edwin Jackson.

While one is a rather predictable target, the other is a bit of a surprise.

Francis, who turns 31 in January, posted a 4.82 ERA and 91/39 K/BB ratio over 183 innings with the Royals this season. The southpaw averaged a career-low 4.5 K/9 while the velocity on his fastball (84.7) was down a couple ticks from his career average. The good news is that his shoulder wasn’t an issue and he managed to make 30 starts for the first time since 2007. However, he may have to settle for a one-year deal this winter.

The Twins have only had initial talks with the agent for Francis, but they should have further discussions at the Winter Meetings next week. The Rockies have also expressed interest in bringing him back, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.

As for Jackson, Morosi acknowledges that he appears to be more of a longshot. The 28-year-old right-hander is one of the top options in a market lacking in quality starting pitchers, so with any luck, he should be able to find a three-year deal. Throw in the fact that Jackson is represented by Scott Boras and the Twins have already said that they plan to cut payroll relative to 2011, and it’s likely he ends up elsewhere.

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.