Former New York Yankees left-hander James Paxton returned to the Seattle Mariners for the 2021 season after injuries forced him to miss most of his final campaign in the Bronx. Unfortunately, after just one start last year, he needed Tommy John surgery.
Since the beginning of 2020, Paxton has made just six starts (which have totaled 21.2 innings) and has still yet to make 30 or more in a single season dating back to his debut in 2013.
Yet, somehow, agent Scott Boras convinced the Red Sox to sign the veteran to a one-year, $10 million contract with a two-year, $26 million team option for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. On top of hardly pitching over the last two years, Paxton, entering his age-33 season, is coming off a reconstructive elbow procedure.
The Red Sox, under new general manager Chaim Bloom, have made a number of shrewd moves these last couple offseasons … but we’re just not sure about this one given what we know about Paxton.
The cost for starting pitching nowadays is certainly elevated, but that’s usually predicated on availability or an ability to eat innings — two things Paxton has largely failed to do throughout his career.
We’re not going to fault the Red Sox for attempting to get a cost-effective bargain if Paxton can achieve anything close to his ceiling, but what evidence suggests he’ll even get close?
Scott Boras may have ripped off the Red Sox with a deal for former Yankee James Paxton.
Paxton underwent surgery toward the end of April, meaning it’d be a safe assumption we won’t see him going full speed as a starter until near the All-Star break. And it’s not like he’ll be unleashed at that point. On what planet are the Sox going to get a long enough look at Paxton post-surgery in order to determine if he’s worth $23 million over the following two years?
Even Boras explaining this deal hardly makes sense:
"“The contract swells,” said Boras, who referred to this as a ‘swellopt’ deal. “He’s going to have to show durability for it to happen. He does it with the idea that he has an evaluation of what he’s worth without throwing [the $6 million salary for 2023]. Now if he goes out and throws well and he’s durable, that evaluation [of what he’s worth] is going to go up no matter what. For the player, in the back of his mind, he knows, ‘The key to me is not going out and throwing all these innings. The key for me is to throw optimally, efficiently, and healthily, so I can do one of two things — stay here for two years or go elsewhere.’ I don’t want the club to say, ‘I get to keep a guy for another year without a major commitment.’ “"
So, again, something Paxton has hardly ever proven in his career is what his current contract is predicated upon.
Wouldn’t it have been more worthwhile to take a flier on Carlos Ródon, whose ceiling is much higher than Paxton’s? He’s also not coming off a major surgery. Sure, he would’ve been pricier, but why seemingly throw money into a hole in an attempt to see what Paxton might have left rather than spend more for a potential top-of-rotation option?
Saving money for all the wrong reasons. Wait, that sounds like the Yankees, doesn’t it?