Baseball Daily Dose

Return of the Maple

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: February 16, 2021, 12:56 pm ET

The Mariners dealt James Paxton to the Yankees before the 2019 season as part of a commitment to a rebuild.

A little over two years later, he is heading back to Seattle in hopes of rebuilding his value.

According to multiple reports -- including a tweet from Paxton himself -- the Mariners have signed Paxton to a one-year, $8.5 million contract for the 2021 season. With incentives, the left-hander can make $10 million, with those being based -- unsurprisingly -- on the amount of starts that he makes in the season.

The 2020 season was a lost one for many, and Paxton was no exception. On the contrary. The 31-year-old was able to make just five starts in the truncated campaign, and he didn’t pitch well in them with a 6.64 ERA in 20 1/3 innings pitched. He did post a 26/7 K/BB ratio, however, and a 4.37 FIP suggests that there was some bad -- and small-sampled -- bad luck for him in those outings.

When Paxton has been healthy, he’s been one of the better starters in baseball. In his time before 2020, he owns an ERA of 3.50 and 803 strikeouts over 733 innings pitched against 223 walks. The problem has always been that good health doesn’t seem to follow him for very long. In seven years -- again, we’re not counting 2020 -- he has yet to make more than 29 starts in a season, and his career high in innings is 160 1/3 in 2018. Put simply, this is not an eater of innings.

And that’s not going to change in 2021, even on a rebuilding Seattle club. The Mariners are committed to a six-man rotation again this year, which means that at most, you’re looking at 25-30 starts for Paxton this year. While that means he’s once again looking at a 150-170 inning cap for him, that could be a blessing in disguise. No, he won’t help you win in that category, but it gives him extra rest, and it should allow him to post his usual strong rates in strikeouts with a solid -- if unspectacular -- earned run average. 

He won’t get a ton of chances for wins, either; the Mariners are still likely to be among the worst teams in the American League, but Paxton could be a fantasy steal because of his ability to miss bats, and we’ve seen him succeed in T-Mobile (formerly Safeco Field) park. At the very least, he’s someone that you have to keep an eye on in mixed-league drafts.

Kela, Romo heading to new homes to help bullpens

The reliever market has been one of the few “fast-moving” pieces of the offseason, but a couple of stragglers have found new homes on the west coast.

First, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the A’s are signing Sergio Romo to a one-year deal. The 37-year-old right-hander spent a couple of years with the Twins, but had his $5 million club option for 2021 declined. He was just so-so in 2020; finishing with a workable 1.15 WHIP, but also a 4.05 ERA in 20 innings. With his funky delivery, Romo can be effective against right-handed hitters, and should be a bridge to Jake Diekman -- or whoever wins the closing job in Oakland -- this summer. 

Romo is heading to the AL West, and it looks like Keone Kela will be making his living in 2021 in the NL West division. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Padres are signing Kela to a one-year deal, pending a physical. Kela, 27, made just three appearances last year and allowed a run in two innings, but the previous year he posted a 2.12 ERA for the Pirates with a 33/11 K/BB ratio over 29 2/3 frames. The right-hander has served as a closer in the past; saving 24 games in each of the 2017 and 2018 campaigns. He should be a late-innings option for San Diego, with a chance to earn save opportunities as well. This is the third former Pirate to join the Padres this offseason, joining Joe Musgrove and Mark Melancon.

Cron’s power bat now a member of the Rockies 

It is always exciting when a power hitter joins the Rockies. The reasons should be obvious. That’s why it’s -- dare we say, exciting? -- to report that the Rockies have signed C.J. Corn to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. 

First, pointing out the obvious. Cron is a flawed player. Flawed is an understatement, with all due respect. The 31-year-old was limited to just 13 games in 2020, and he hit just .190. A small sample to be sure, but this is a seven-year veteran with a career average of .257, and an OPS of .776 from a first baseman who provides zero value on the bases isn’t exactly inspiring.

That out of the way, there’s absolutely reason for optimism. First, Coors Field. Can it be overrated in evaluating a player’s upcoming year? Of course, but there’s no denying that it’s a park that is friendly to those who can hit the ball out of the park. And over the last three years, Cron has shown he can do just that. He hit 30 homers for the Rays in 2018, 25 for the Twins in 2019, and slugged .548 with four homers in 52 plate appearances last year before the knee injury that caused his season to end early.

This doesn’t make Cron a frontline first baseman; he’s very unlikely to hit for a high average, and there’s no guarantee that he makes the Rockies because he’s coming in with a non-roster contract. It’s almost impossible to imagine he’s not the everyday first baseman for Colorado, however, and there’s a good chance he’s able to hit 30 or more homers in that role. 

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Shoemaker agrees to terms with Twins

Minnesota made a move to improve the back of their rotation on Monday. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Twins are signing RHP Matt Shoemaker to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Last season, Shoemaker posted a 4.71 ERA in six starts, but the 34-year-old also was able to register a 1.08 WHIP and solid 26/9 K/BB ratio in his 28 2/3 innings over six starts. When he's been healthy, the 34-year-old has generally been effective. As is the case with Paxton -- but to a higher extreme -- injuries have played a major factor in his career. Since throwing 160 innings in 2016, Shoemaker has made a total of 32 appearances over the last four seasons, and has yet to crack triple-digits since that campaign. 

It'd be a mistake to rely on Shoemaker as a draft selection, but he could be a strong DFS or streaming option against lineups when he is able to take the mound. 

Quick Hits: Orioles signed RHP Matt Harvey to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Cardinals signed OF Matt Szczur to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Robert Murray of FanSided reports that Justin Wilson is in "serious" talks with the Yankees ... Mets signed RHP Tommy Hunter and LHP Mike Montgomery to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training ... Jared Hughes announced that he is retiring from baseball ... Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Athletics are re-signing Yusmeiro Petit to a one-year deal ... Brewers signed RHP Brad Boxberger to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Braves signed INF Jason Kipnis to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Bartolo Colon has signed a one-year deal with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League ... Brewers acquired OF Derek Fisher from the Blue Jays for a player to be named later and cash considerations. Fisher was designated for assignment by Toronto last week ... Yankees signed C Robinson Chirinos to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports EDGE and also appears on the Circling the Bases Podcast.