Six weeks after calling up George Springer from Triple-A the Astros are set to promote another stud hitting prospect to the big leagues, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that first baseman Jon Singleton is on his way up from Triple-A.
And here’s where it gets even more interesting: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Astros and Singleton have agreed to a long-term contract that guarantees him at least $10 million and could be worth up to $35 million. Handing out long-term deals to inexperienced players has become increasingly popular in recent years, but to do so the day you call a prospect up from the minors is taking things to another level.
Houston reportedly tried to do that same thing with Springer before calling him up and Pittsburgh is said to have tried to do the same with Gregory Polanco, but both of those prospects balked at the idea. Passan says if the Astros pick up all three options in the deal they’ll control Singleton through his first year of free agency.
Singleton was acquired from the Phillies in the mid-2011 trade for Hunter Pence and ranked as a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com heading into this season. He’s improved his stock further by hitting .267 with 14 homers and a .941 OPS in 54 games at Triple-A as a 22-year-old, making big strides with his strike zone control to lead the Pacific Coast League with 42 walks.
Houston’s first basemen have been awful this season, hitting a combined .181 with five homers and a .561 OPS in 58 games, so it won’t take a whole lot for Singleton to provide a big upgrade. Meanwhile, after struggling initially Springer is hitting .259 with 10 homers and an .844 OPS in 41 games overall, playing a huge part in the Astros’ recent turnaround.
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.