Coming into the 2021 season, Mariners fans were elated about the opportunity to see a certain 6’5″, maple leaf tattoo-sporting left-hander retake the mound in Seattle. I hope they had fun during the 1.1 innings it lasted for James Paxton.
During Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, James Paxton (affectionately known as “Big Maple”) left the field early due to significant left elbow discomfort; a grim spectacle for those familiar with Paxton’s injury-riddled career. A couple of days later, MLB Insider Jon Heyman confirmed the seemingly inevitable:
As we look ahead to Paxton’s uncertain future with the Mariners, we take a moment to consider how Jerry Dipoto and the rest of Seattle’s front office tend to approach signing pitchers coming off of Tommy John surgery:
There are plenty of Mariners pitchers other than James Paxton who have already had Tommy John.
Kendall Graveman, Andres Munoz, Ken Giles, Rafael Montero – the list gets pretty extensive. Dipoto appears to have faith that pitchers have the ability to come back stronger than ever before after undergoing TJ surgery, so it doesn’t seem that the injury itself would sway the organization in one direction or the other.
The other factor to consider here: Is Paxton worth a roster spot (and a contract) on the 2022 Mariners?
Contract-wise, one would have to argue that, yes, Paxton would be worth the money. Veteran pitchers returning from TJ surgery typically receive significantly less lucrative contracts than what they were used to signing before their injury, so any type of “TJ discount” for Paxton (who, at his best, is one of the top left-handed starters in the American League) would certainly be an enticing option for Seattle next year.
In regard to a roster spot – that decision comes after 2022 Spring Training. Let the man hit the rubber on a short leash, and, if his spring performance is near, at, or above his excellent 2021 spring, then I’d be hard-pressed in imagining the M’s thinking twice about inserting him as a veteran leader in Seattle’s still young rotation.