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Report: Blue Jays offered Edwin Encarnacion four years, $80 million before signing Kendrys Morales

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that, prior to signing slugger Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million contract, the Blue Jays offered a four-year, $80 million contract to free agent Edwin Encarnacion. Heyman adds that the Jays are still interested in bringing Encarnacion back even after signing Morales.

Encarnacion, who turns 34 years old in January, hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI in 702 plate appearances this past season. He’s been one of baseball’s most productive hitters over the last five seasons and has even made some strides defensively at first base. Encarnacion just completed what turned out to be a four-year, $37 million contract, so the Jays’ most recent offer represents a significant pay raise.

With Morales in the fold, the DH spot is mostly spoken for in Toronto, so bringing Encarnacion back for full-time work at first base would push Justin Smoak back to the bench and likely would make him a trade candidate.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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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.