Could James Paxton be the Next Kendall Graveman for the Mariners?

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 06: James Paxton #44 of the Seattle Mariners pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at T-Mobile Park on April 06, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 06: James Paxton #44 of the Seattle Mariners pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at T-Mobile Park on April 06, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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Kendall Graveman had a truly incredible story with the Mariners. After falling victim to severe elbow damage and subsequent Tommy John surgery in late 2018, then battling through a benign tumor in his neck in 2020, Graveman became a force in Seattle’s bullpen this season after beginning his career as a starter. Could James Paxton, another starter rehabbing from Tommy John, have a similar comeback next season?

James Paxton was a dominant starter who could experience a similar career trajectory as Kendall Graveman.

Before coming to Seattle, Graveman wasn’t just any starting pitcher; he was the opening day starter for the Oakland Athletics in 2017 and 2018. Similarly, Paxton has his own history as an ace, never posting above a 3.82 ERA in his four seasons as a full-time starter between the Mariners and New York Yankees.

With Paxton sidelined for the rest of this season, it’s unclear what his demand will be come free agency in 2022. This offseason, he signed a 1-year, $8.5 million contract with the Mariners after seemingly expecting more (but not receiving it) earlier in the winter. Now that he’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, it’s unlikely his demand next year will be even close to what it was this year.

Coming off of Tommy John in 2020, Graveman earned a 1-year, $2 million “prove-it” deal from the Mariners; I believe this is very similar to what Seattle would be willing to offer Paxton next offseason. However, the Mariners might want to jump ahead of the curve and slot Paxton into the bullpen immediately, instead of trying to force him back into the starting rotation.

With the crafty Anthony Misiewicz currently serving as the only left-handed pitcher in the Mariners bullpen, Paxton could make an electric addition as a power lefty; his fastball was touching 97 mph in Spring Training this year, and his slider/sinker combo can be a devastating secondary option.

With an onslaught of starting pitchers making their way to Seattle potentially as early as next year, a solid current bullpen composed of mostly right-handers, and witnessing Kendall Graveman’s successful transition from the starting rotation to the bullpen, James Paxton and the Mariners may be inclined to seriously consider a new role for the big lefty next season.

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