Don’t expect Scott Boras to admit this — or for him to allow Stephen Drew to publicly do so — but Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe has the inside scoop:
Red Sox players say Stephen Drew now regrets not taking the qualifying offer when he had the chance. But the veteran players have turned from the idea that the team needs Drew back. That was the case at the beginning of camp, but not since they’ve had a chance to see Will Middlebrooks re-commit himself.
The first part of that — Drew regretting it — is news. You figure that he did not anticipate his offseason being so long. Or the Mets and Yankees, each of whom could really benefit by his presence, being so loathe to go after him.
The second part — the players no longer thinking the team needs Drew back — is something different. It’s not not news, I guess, but it would be more newsworthy for someone three weeks into spring training to admit that the team, as currently structured, is not fine. To do so would be a tacit swipe at the current players and the front office.
Put differently, a Red Sox player is not going to say now that they need Drew. But if the Sox signed Drew tomorrow, they’d all say “wow, great to have him back. Huge addition. We’re so much better now.”
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.