The United States has done well in the 2017 World Baseball Classic as it advanced to the second round with a 2-1 record. While the U.S. roster is chock full of All-Stars, it is noticeably lacking baseball’s best talent, namely Mike Trout.
Trout, who debuted in 2011, declined to participate in the WBC in 2013 as well as ’17. However, his interest in the international competition has increased after watching this year’s games and now says he’ll “probably do it” when the WBC comes back around again, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Trout said, “I mean, definitely, in the future, for sure. If I get the opportunity to do it again, I’ll probably do it.” Asked to elaborate on why he declined his most recent invitation, the WBC was likened to the Home Run Derby. To that, Trout responded, “Yeah, that hits it on the nose.”
The 25-year-old phenom is entering his seventh season in the major leagues. He won his second career American League Most Valuable Player Award after hitting .315/.441/.550 with 29 home runs, 100 RBI, 123 runs scored, and 30 stolen bases in 681 plate appearances. Trout is unequivocally the best player in baseball and is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players to ever live. The U.S. is clearly not competing at full strength with Trout absent from the roster.
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.