The Nationals have the option of moving Michael Morse over to first base following the acquisition of Denard Span this week, but manager Davey Johnson really wants the club to re-sign Adam LaRoche.
Per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Johnson hosted a charity event last night to benefit Lighthouse Central Florida, a non-profit organization offering services to people affected by vision loss and blindness. Many big names were in attendance for the event, including the likes of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and Larry The Cable Guy (?), but Johnson was especially interested to see LaRoche, who made the trip from Kansas. The Nats’ skipper has kept in touch with LaRoche during the offseason, even buying some beef from his cattle ranch, and told him to “bring his pen” when he came to the charity event last night.
“I wanted him here to sign the damn contract,” Johnson said. “I’m eating his beef, and I wanted to put an order in for next year, too. After we win the World Series.”
Can we make “eating his beef” into a thing? It should really be a thing.
LaRoche and general manager Mike Rizzo declined to comment on any specifics regarding negotiations, but Johnson yelled into the microphone for them to “GET TOGETHER” when speaking on stage. So far the Nationals have been unwilling to offer more than a two-year deal while the Red Sox, Rangers and Orioles have been mentioned as possible alternatives for LaRoche.
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.