1. James Paxton, LHP New York Yankees
If you don’t want James “Big Maple” Paxton back in a Mariners uniform, you can log out right now. But aside from the obvious fan affection for James Paxton, a reunion actually makes quite a bit of sense. And yes, familiarity with Paxton is one of the reasons why.
You know Paxton works in your clubhouse. You know he works with your media. And you know what you’ll get every time he takes the mound. Now, do you know how often he’ll take the mound? Actually, you do but you can’t say when he’ll make those starts.
Injuries are always going to be a concern with Paxton. It is a part of his reputation. Paxton is a great pitcher who you’ll have to figure out how to survive without for 4-6 weeks every season. But when you do get a healthy Paxton, you get a 4-5 WAR starting pitcher, a true #2.
Paxton was quite good in his first season with Yankees, making 29 starts and posting an 11.11 K/9 and a 3.86 FIP in 150 innings. We did see his BB/9 jump by nearly a full walk and his solid FIP was actually the highest it had been since 2015.
But James Paxton still has nasty, swing and miss stuff led by his mid-to-upper-90s fastball and wicked slider/cutter to go along with a good curveball as well.
Paxton would likely slot in at the top of the 2021 rotation and has the goods to go toe-to-toe with most teams ace on any given night. Yes, the injury concerns are real and they have to be dealt with. But with starters like Marco Gonzales to soak up innings and a deep farm system capable of spitting out replacement level arms or better, the Mariners are in a decent position to weather that storm.
Because of the injuries and the age (32 entering free agency) Paxton could actually be a tremendous bargain that is winter and could conceivably sign for a lower AAV than Odorizzi, Stroman, and Bauer.
Offering Paxton a 4-year deal worth $110+ million protects the team, as even if Paxton gives you just 140 innings, he will provide that value and then some. And if by chance he ever gets to 180+ innings, you’ll likely have a true #1 starter at good #3 money.
Paxton is such a good fit and Seattle represents the closest MLB team to his home in British Columbia, a fact that Paxton himself as listed as a huge selling point. GM Jerry Dipoto even said publicly that when he told Paxton about the trade to New York, he told the lefty to keep Seattle in mind in 2-years.
Obviously, a lot can change in two years. But if that sentiment remains on both sides, there is absolutely the potential for a win-win situation for the team and the player. And, of course, a big win for the fans as well.