The Mets made a splash this off-season, signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract. They also picked up Chris Young on the cheap, and manager Terry Collins views him as a starter. That leaves one spot in the outfield between Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr.
According to Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger, it sounds like Young is in the lead and Lagares may be relegated to a bench role or sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.
“As we sit here today Eric Young is the guy you’d like to see at the top of the order,” Collins said.
Collins also said: “Juan had a nice winter but when he gets in here we’ve got to see what our best options are. We’ve got three guys that can play centerfield that we know of and by gosh the best one is going to be out there because it’s a big position. Especially in our park…So we’ve got some jobs out there and if we need one of those guys to get nights off we know we’ll have a quality player to put in there. So we’ll make decisions farther in spring training.”
Lagares was quietly one of the more productive outfielders in baseball last season despite leaving a lot to be desired offensively. Both Baseball Reference (using DRS) and FanGraphs (using UZR) rated Lagares as a significantly above-average defender. Between center field (819 2/3 innings) and right field (84 1/3 innings), DRS credited him with 30 runs saved while UZR credited him with 24. By WAR, Baseball Reference lists Lagares as the 67th most valuable position player in baseball in 2013. FanGraphs ranked him 85th among those with at least 400 plate appearances.
The Mets, however, lack a “true” leadoff hitter, which is why they like Young. Young was even less impressive with the bat than Lagares last season, but he got on base three percent more often and stole a league-leading 46 bases in 57 attempts. Young also offers flexibility, having played all three spots in the outfield as well as second base.
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.