James Paxton is still a Seattle Mariners pitcher. This will change. Whether it is a day from now or a week from now, James Paxton will throw pitches for a different team in 2019.
In this series, we have already profiled a potential trade with the Phillies, Yankees, Atlanta, and Houston. Today, we take a look at yet another NL East team, the Washington Nationals. Is there a fit between the Nationals and the Mariners?
The Nationals are a bit of an interesting team. They appear to be a team in a transition. A popular world series pick in spring training, the Nationals never really got off the floor and seriously challenged for a playoff spot. Now they will likely lose the face of their franchise, Bryce Harper, in free agency.
But the Nationals do not appear to be a team that is willing to fold up camp and start over. They have a budding superstar in Juan Soto to replace Bryce Harper. They still have Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and a solid bullpen. And of course, they still have Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner.
While the Nationals may not be ready to tear things down, they may soon not have a choice. With Rendon set to be free agents after the 2019 season, and Scherzer set to add even more mileage to an aging arm, the Nats are a team who need to think about winning this season.
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It is for these reasons that the Nationals make for an intriguing fit for James Paxton. But what could that deal look like? Well, let’s get this out of the way right now: YOU AREN’T GETTING TREA TURNER OR JUAN SOTO IN THIS DEAL. STOP IT.
The Mariners absolutely will ask for Nationals top prospect Victor Robles. The Nationals may relent, but it still seems unlikely. But the Nationals still have the pieces to put together a nice package for Paxton without including these players.
Perhaps a dark horse candidate in the trade is Adam Eaton. Eaton, the former White Sox OF, will enter 2019 at age 30, 2 years older than James Paxton. However, Eaton does have 2 club options after the 2019 season, giving him 3 years of club control at $28.5 million total.
Eaton has struggled to stay healthy in Washington but is a very good player when he is on the field, capable of playing all 3 OF spots (though he is better in a corner). Eaton’s career .363 OBP makes him a great option at the top of a lineup.
But with the Nationals still looking to win in 2019, it may not make much sense to include him in this deal. But here is what we are proposing:
First, the Major League piece coming back in the deal is CF Michael Taylor. Taylor struggled at the plate in 2018 but is just 1-year removed from a .271/.320/.486 season. He swings and misses a lot, but does have good pop and the ability to steal 20 bases on top of plus defense in CF. Taylor is set to make $3.2 million and has 2 years of club control like Paxton.
The title of “the headliner” of this offer would belong to Carter Kieboom, the Nationals second best prospect. A shortstop with a decent chance at sticking at the position, Kieboom has an above-average hit tool and shows a good amount of pop.
He is a good enough athlete to transition to either 2B or 3B and has the arm to make things work at the latter. Kieboom is a good athlete who should be able to steal some bases at the big league level and has a chance to have a plus hit tool. He reminds some (me included) of longtime Rangers infielder, Michael Young. Kieboom could be ready to contribute by late 2019.
To round out our package, we have hard-throwing LHP Seth Romero. Romero was widely considered a candidate to go first overall in the 2017 draft before sliding all the way down to 25th, thanks to off the field concerns.
When right, Romero posses a plus fastball-slider combination and backs it up with an above-average changeup. At 6’3″ 240 lbs, Romero’s size and conditioning, along with some effort in his delivery lead some to believe he will be destined to the bullpen. But his stuff would more than play as a high-leverage arm, and he still has a chance to start going forward.
An easy comparison for Romero is White Sox hurler Carlos Rondon. Romero is the ultimate lottery ticket, but would still likely be the #3 prospect in the Mariners current farm system. If a team can reach Romero mentally, he could become a perennial all-star pitcher, which is a risk worth taking.
All in all, the Nationals get the left-handed compliment they need to Strasburg and Scherzer without giving up Victor Robles. The Mariners get a potential SS of the future, a nice OF to possibly start in CF or pair with Ben Gamel in LF, and a lottery ticket pitcher with good upside.