Scott Boras, you will not be surprised to hear, believes that the Yankees should sign Rafael Soriano. From Jon Paul Morosi’s latest:
“If the Yankees didn’t sign Soriano, they wouldn’t have won the AL East,” Boras said flatly. “This is the value of depth. If the Yankees signed Soriano (after the 2010 season) when Rivera was 40 and healthy, why wouldn’t you sign Soriano when Rivera is 42 and coming off knee surgery? … When you know Mariano Rivera will be there for only one more year — at his age, coming off an injury — you can’t expect him to be what he was two years ago. There is a need there. You want to secure a great talent for future years. Soriano has proven he can be effective in New York. The team knows more about him. His value has gone higher.”
There is good sense in there. And, yes, the Yankees may sign Rafael Soriano. Anything can happen. But just assuming they will sign the big name free agents because they have the money like they used to is to ignore their stated and, thus far, carried out goal of getting payroll down compared to where it used to be so as to avoid the luxury tax.
The alternative to Soriano is to go with Rivera, who is coming back, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, and Cody Eppley, perhaps substituting one or two of them — or augmenting — with lower tier relievers and hoping that they can do what so many successful teams do and just capture lightning in a bottle on low price relievers.
Soriano would likely be a good pitcher for the next couple of years, but the make-do plan is not the worst plan in the world. Bullpens are crapshoots. And while there is no guarantee that Rivera is his old self when he comes back, the Yankees will start shooting craps from a pretty good position in 2013.
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.