Why I Rank the Mariners Trade of James Paxton #1
Last week, Sodo Mojo Co-Site Lead Colby Patnode wrote an article ranking the Mariners offseason trades. You can read that article here. Out of the 4 ranking the trades, I was the only one who had the James Paxton to the Yankees as the number one trade of the offseason. I am going to tell you why.
In case you missed the trade, the Mariners traded LHP James Paxton to the Yankees for LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson and OF Dom Thompson-Williams. Paxton, 30, is coming off of his best season to date. He posted an 11-6 record, 3.76 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. In 160.1 innings, he has 208 strikeouts. The Big Maple was the Mariners best pitcher in 2018, but the time to trade him was now.
Paxton has never reached 180 innings in his career. He has spent significant time on the disabled list over the past 3 seasons. Though he has not had injuries to his shoulder or elbow, He did land on the DL before the All-Star break with back inflammation. He also missed 2 weeks when he took a line drive off of his throwing arm. In 2017, he missed 2 months with a forearm strain and a LAT strain.
Though you cannot predict injuries, they seem to be a lingering issue with him. The same thing can be said for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw over the last two years. Kershaw has missed significant time over the last two seasons, but the Dodgers have made the World Series both of those years. The difference is the team around the two pitchers. The Dodgers have plenty of depth behind Kershaw, and the Mariners did not.
Entering his age 30 season, the time to move him at his peak value was now. He only has 3 years of club control left, all in arbitration. He is going to make some serious money over the next 3 seasons. With Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto starting a rebuild, replenishing the farm system is a major priority. He did just that with this trade.
Keep in mind, this is my opinion, and every baseball fan ranks guys very differently. Justus Sheffield is one of the top young pitchers in the minors. He ranks number 31 on MLB’s Pipeline. He instantly becomes the number one prospect for the Mariners and could be a difference maker for the team in 2019.
Last year between AA and AAA, he pitched in 116 innings, striking out 123 batters. Opponents hit just .198 against him and had an ERA of 2.48. He did pitch for the Yankees in September, where he did not look so good. But that was only over 2.2 innings. He is just 22-years-old and has 6 years left of team control. This kid is going to have a very bright future in Seattle.
Erik Swanson was a nice piece to pair with Sheffield, and he could be pitching in the Mariners rotation in 2019 as well. Swanson pitched in AA and AAA last season and racked up 121.2 innings with 139 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .210 off of him. He may not make the team out of Spring Training, but he could be a good 4 or 5 pitcher in the rotation for years to come.
OF Dom Thompson-Williams had a monster season in the minors last year. The lefty hit .299 with 22 home runs and 74 runs batted in. He also stole 20 bases. Though he was not ranked among the Yankees top 30 farm hands this year, he surely would have been ranked to start the 2019 season. He ranks #16 for the Mariners, and if he continues his success at the plate in 2019, could see himself rising quickly through the minor leagues.
I ranked this trade solely on Justus Sheffield. I believe the hype surrounding him, and his potential. Of course, this is all based on speculation, as is most of baseball. We can play the “What If’s” game all we want to. What if the 3 prospects all turn out to be busts? What if Paxton gets hurt? What if only 1 prospect turns out to be worthy in the majors?
The fact is, we don’t know. Jerry Dipoto doesn’t know. But my gut says, Sheffield, Swanson, and Thompson-Williams have the potential to be difference makers for this team’s future.
As always, Go Mariners!