Posted on November 20, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Yankees have pulled off the first bold move of the MLB offseason. On Monday, the Bronx Bombers struck a deal with the Seattle Mariners to acquire left-handed ace James Paxton. In exchange, the Mariners will receive three prospects: pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson, and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. Sheffield is considered the biggest prize of the three prospects going to the Mariners.
The Yankees began the offseason knowing that they needed to remake their starting rotation. Even after re-signing C.C. Sabathia, New York was still in the market for at least one or two more starters. Rather than going the free agent route, the Yankees have made a trade for Paxton, who has two more years of arbitration before reaching free agency. However, his salary should come at a better value than the top-flight starters on the free agent market.
The 30-year old Paxton has spent the last two seasons overtaking Felix Hernandez as Seattle’s ace. In 2017, he went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA. He followed that up in 2018 by going 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA. Paxton also threw a no-hitter against the Blue Jays in his native Canada back in May. One caveat with Paxton is that he has missed time in recent years due to a series of injuries. In fact, he’s never thrown more than 160.1 innings in a season, which he did this past season. However, there’s no denying that he’s a frontline starter when healthy.
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At the moment, Paxton would appear to be the leader of New York’s rotation in 2019 alongside Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Sabathia, of course, will take up a spot in the back end of the rotation. With the Yankees likely to trade Sonny Gray, the fifth spot in their rotation appears to be vacant. The Yankees could fill it with one of their promising prospects or look to make another offseason acquisition.
As for the Mariners, they trade away two years of Paxton to help replenish a farm system in need. Sheffield gives them one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He posted a 2.56 ERA in 88 innings at triple-A last season. Even if he doesn’t make Seattle’s opening day roster, he should be in the majors at some point in 2019 and figures to be a mainstay in Seattle’s rotation for many years to come.
In Swanson, the Mariners get another pitcher who’s close to being big league ready. He dominated double-A early in 2018 before posting a 3.86 ERA at triple-A. If he pans out, Swanson could be a reliable back-end starter. Thompson-Williams, meanwhile, posted impressive numbers at A-ball this past season and boasts an intriguing blend of power and speed. Of course, he may be another year or two away from playing in the majors.
From here, it’ll be interesting to see where the Mariners go with their offseason. There have been rumblings of a potential fire sale in recent weeks. They already traded catcher Mike Zunino and trading Paxton could be the next step in something larger. Without the lefty leading their rotation, the Mariners aren’t exactly set up to compete in 2019.
Of course, the highlight of this trade is Paxton going to the Yankees. He gives New York the frontline starter they coveted since the end of the season. However, trading for Paxton may be the first of several big moves the Yankees make this winter.