CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman indicates that the Yankees have agreements with left-handed hitters Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez that will be finalized after the A.J. Burnett deal is approved by the league.
The Yankees looked at picking up a left-handed option at DH in a Burnett trade and reportedly had a deal done for Bobby Abreu, only to have Burnett reject the trade to Anaheim. They also showed interest in Garrett Jones in talks with Pittsburgh and in Cleveland’s Travis Hafner.
However, since those plans fell through, Ibanez appears set to get the gig. He’ll likely start at DH against most right-handers and take a seat in favor of Andruw Jones against lefties. The Yankees also figure to have Alex Rodriguez and other starters DH once in a while.
Ibanez, 39, hit .245/.289/.419 for the Phillies last season. It was his worst campaign since 2000, but he did play somewhat better after a brutal April. For what little it’s worth, he’s gone 7-for-23 with two homers and two doubles in six games at new Yankee Stadium.
Chavez will be re-signing with the Yankees after hitting .263/.320/.356 in 160 at-bats last season. His inclusion should complete the bench, which will also include Jones, Eduardo Nunez and Francisco Cervelli. Barring an injury, there won’t be any room for outfielders Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell or infielder Ramiro Pena.
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.