It’s almost closing time for MLB’s Hot Stove and folks are beginning to get desperate. We’re seeing minor league deals all over the place and players who once were seeking multi-year contracts are now settling for one-year deals. Many speculated that the Yankees would be in the market for a hitter after trading Jesus Montero to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal, but they’ve understandably played things pretty close to the vest in hopes of getting a bargain.
Well, it appears they are finally ready to strike.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Yankees are in “serious discussions” with free agent Raul Ibanez, who is willing to take less money to sign with them than he would make elsewhere.
Ibanez, who will turn 40 in June, batted .245/.289/.419 with 20 home runs, 84 RBI and a .707 OPS over 575 plate appearances with the Phillies last season. He had a .747 OPS against right-handed pitching.
This seems to jibe with a report by Buster Olney of ESPN.com earlier this afternoon in which he said the Yankees are considering adding a left-handed bat and could sign Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui within the week. Whoever they sign would likely share at-bats with the righty-hitting Andruw Jones out of the DH spot.
Fair enough, but don’t the Yankees already have enough veterans they could shuffle in and out of the DH spot along with Jones? Olney writes that the Yankees would likely look at alternatives prior to the trade deadline if they aren’t getting sufficient production out of the DH spot, so I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have options in the interim. Especially if they are on the cheap.
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.