Yankees Offseason Trade Target: Mariners Starter James Paxton
The Yankees and Mariners discussed a Brett Gardner for James Paxton swap last winter. Could they revisit those talks this offseason?
The New York Yankees have long been rumored as a trade destination for Seattle Mariners lefthander James Paxton, and given the team’s desire to supplement their rotation it seems possible they could explore the possibility of acquiring him once again.
Last November, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Mariners and Yankees were engaged in talks about left fielder Brett Gardner. Sherman noted that while he was hearing Taijuan Walker was off-limits, Seattle was willing to at least consider moving Paxton.
The M’s might have reversed their position on those two players after the 2016 season. Paxton had easily the best season of his young career, pitching to a 3.79 ERA and 2.80 FIP in a career-high 121 MLB innings, while Walker had a 4.22 ERA and 4.99 FIP in 134.1 frames (allowing a worrying 1.8 HR/9).
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Of course, Paxton’s health remains a ticking time bomb. The oft-injured lefty miraculously only needed one trip to the disabled list in 2016, but managed just 26 starts the previous two seasons because of various injuries. His reputation for fragility dates all the way back to his college days, so the Yankees would need to take a long look at his medical records before trading for him. Of course, those concerns might also be what would make him available this winter.
With a career 3.43 ERA and 3.32 FIP in 286 MLB innings, Paxton has been consistently excellent when healthy enough to take the mound. He saw a big jump in velocity this year, with his average fastball jumping up to 96.8 mph according to FanGraphs. He also mixes in three average to plus secondary pitches- a cutter, curve, and change.
The Yankees are expected to shop Brett Gardner once again this winter to make room for top prospect Clint Frazier in left. Gardy would be a big upgrade over their current options in left and center field Guillermo Heredia and Leonys Martin. The Mariners’ window is closing as Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz enter their decline years, so a Gardner acquisition might make sense for them.
Given Paxton’s strong season, however, the Yankees would probably have to do better than just Gardner to land Paxton. Maybe a young, but less proven starter like Chad Green or Jordan Montgomery might sweeten the pot? Neither is expected to be more than a number five starter despite their Triple-A success, whereas Paxton looked like a legit number two or three at times this year.
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At 27, Paxton may be a little old for the rebuilding Yankees’ tastes, but he does come with three years of team control. The injury history will probably scare a lot of people off, but he was very durable for the most part this year and may have turned over a new leaf.