On Sunday, new Athletics slugger Adam Dunn told reporters that the 2014 season “was probably going to be it“. He had yet to play in a game with his new team. Dunn homered in his first at-bat as an Athletic, finishing 2-for-4 with three runs scored on Monday. On Tuesday, he singled in a run as a pinch-hitter.
According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Dunn has apparently had a change of heart:
Dunn homered again in a losing effort against Mariners ace and AL Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez this afternoon. He is now 38 home runs shy of 500 for his career, a milestone only 26 players in baseball history have achieved. If he can hit another 4-5 home runs, he can make it achievable in 2015 with a strong season, or chip enough of it away that he can play in 2016 and achieve it. But who knows how important that is to him.
This season, the 34-year-old has 21 home runs, 57 RBI, and a .226/.345/.444 slash line. Though a veteran of 14 seasons, Dunn has never played in a post-season game.
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.