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MLB hot stove: Yankees expressing interest in Mariners’ lefty James Paxton?

 

The Yankees just re-signed a left-handed starter.  Could they trade for another this winter?

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, New York has inquired about Seattle Mariners’ southpaw James Paxton, who is reportedly on the market.  During the GM meetings earlier this week, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that Seattle has mulled over tearing things down this offseason, in an attempt to restock and rebuild its roster over the next few years.  

On Wednesday, the Yankees brought back 38-year-old veteran CC Sabathia on a one-year, $8 million deal.  With Sabathia as a low-cost, back-end rotation option, the franchise is still looking to acquire at least one other starting pitcher who could complement top staff arms Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in 2019.

“I’ve been having free agent meetings, as many as I possibly can, and I’ve been knocking off a lot of club discussions,” Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman told NJ.com on Thursday.  “So, yeah, there’s a lot of players that are available.  I think teams are more open-minded than ever.  Just at least explore anything and everything.  Tedious, but exciting…

“I just think we’re trying to make smart, efficient decisions in our player acquisition, whether it’s through the draft or the international amateur side, trade acquisitions, free agent signs or waiver claims.  I just feel like we try to make sound, smart decisions and we take very careful steps.”

In a career-high 28 starts this season, Paxton, who turned 30 on Tuesday, went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 160.1 total innings.  The highlight of the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder’s campaign undoubtedly came back in May, when he struck out 16 batters en route to a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.  It was just the second time in major league history that a Canadian-born pitcher has accomplished the feat.

Although Paxton’s numbers aren’t quite enticing at a glance, he does have the makeup of a borderline ace.  Prior to the All-Star break, Paxton made 20 of those 28 total starts, and during that span, opposing hitters posted a measly .218/.273/.376 slash line against him.  Paxton also allowed just 16 home runs and struck out 155 across 119.1 innings of work. 

However, Paxton ran into trouble during the second half of the season.  Due to two separate stints on the disabled list (lower back inflammation, illness), he was limited to eight additional outings, and during those appearances, opponents slashed .240/.282/.416 against Paxton with seven homers. 

As far as advanced metrics are concerned, Paxton’s season was slightly above average.  While he did record eight or more strikeouts in 14 starts, he finished the year with a 108 ERA-plus.  This stat adjusts a pitcher’s earned run average according to the pitcher’s ballpark and the ERA of the pitcher’s league.  An ERA-plus of 100 is considered average.  

Much like Cleveland Indians’ ace Corey Kluber, who is also reportedly available, Paxton is a cost-controlled option.  According to Spotrac.com, Paxton has two years of team control left, and MLB Trade Rumors projects he will earn $9 million in arbitration this winter.  Since Kluber is slated to make $46 million across the next three seasons, Paxton is far more affordable.  But, this does mean that Seattle will most likely demand a bevy of top prospects in a return package. 

This winter’s crop of free agent starters has sufficient depth compared to prior years — reliable veterans like Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, and Charlie Morton headline the market — but there is no bona fide, clear-cut ace available. 

Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings will take place in Las Vegas from December 10-14.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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