When it was announced that defensive whiz Jose Iglesias would miss most (or all) of the season with stress fractures in both of his legs, the Tigers said they were content with considering internal replacements at shortstop. That search apparently included the coaching staff, as Tigers manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com that the team discussed the possibility of a comeback for 46-year-old first base coach Omar Vizquel:
“We talked about it.”
OK, so they’ve mostly joked about it. Mostly. But in a spring in which the Tigers have suffered injuries that will cost them their shortstop (Jose Iglesias), primary set-up man (Bruce Rondon) and platoon left fielder (Andy Dirks) for all or most of the season, just about nothing is off the table anymore.
Even a comeback by their 46-year-old first-base coach, who last played 85 games in a season at short in 2007.
“He probably could do it part-time,” Ausmus said of Vizquel, who finally retired after the 2012 season, after 24 seasons in the big leagues. “But then I’d have to go find a first-base coach.”
The manager laughed. And you would have thought that was the end of this discussion. Except Ausmus then picked it up again, musing out loud that Vizquel “could probably handle it. I don’t know if he could play 150 games. But he could probably be a platoon shortstop if he got himself in shape. He certainly still has the hands.”
While it’s an interesting tidbit, there’s nothing to indicate that a comeback for the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner is a serious consideration. Still, it puts things in perspective about where the Tigers stand at shortstop without Iglesias. Andrew Romine was acquired from the Angels yesterday, adding him to an underwhelming group which includes Danny Worth, Hernan Perez, and Eugenio Suarez. It’s not an ideal situation for a team with designs on the World Series.
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.