Seattle Mariners Should Pursue James Paxton in Free Agency Again

Alex Van Dyken
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 29: Starter James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 29, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 4-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 29: Starter James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during a game against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 29, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 4-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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Many years ago, back in the dark times under the leadership of Jack Zduriencik. There were three young pitchers emerging from the minor league depths. They became “The Big Three”, they were meant to come up and join the already established Felix Hernandez, but that dream never happened. One by one they got injured or traded till the last one standing was James Paxton.

One of the “Big Three” pitchers was Danny Hultzen, who started to have shoulder problems during the 2013 season and never reached his potential of being drafted number two overall. Taijuan Walker, the second of the “Big Three” pitchers, faired better and at times looked very promising but could never make it a whole season without some injury.

He was traded away in 2016 as part of the deal that brought in Mitch Haniger (The team leader?). The last one, James Paxton, made it a couple of years longer but was also never able to make a full season. He too was traded away in 2018 in the trade that brought Justus Sheffield to the team. But Paxton was not gone for long.

Prior to the 2021 season, Paxton returned to Seattle on a one-year deal to try and prove that he was healthy again. It did not go as he had planned after 1-1/3 innings pitched he was taken out of the game with elbow discomfort. A week or so later he had Tommy John surgery, ending his season.

While his season was defiantly a disappointment, his stuff looked good throughout spring training and into the first 24 pitches. His fastball was averaging mid-90s and was flirting with some higher speeds yet. This showed a lot of promise. Now imagine him not trying to pitch a whole game as a starter but rather going out to mound with the job of getting only a couple of guys out in one outing. This could be a new possibility for him and something that would be a more viable option as he ages.

Mariners Should Sign James Paxton, but as a Relief Pitcher

Okay, so here is my thinking. Over the last few years, Paxton’s strikeout rate has been high, striking out over 11 batters per nine innings pitched. Most pitchers that make the switch from starter to reliever add a few MPH to their fastball. This could be huge for Paxton. If James Paxton can transform himself into a relief pitcher, he could be one of the most dominating lefties in the pen.

The main reason Paxton should make the switch is because of his inability to stay healthy as a starting pitcher. His arm is incapable of pitching for long periods of time.  Now that he is 34 and trying to recover, I believe the most logical thing for him to do is to transform into a relief pitcher and try to be healthy for a full year. Pitching to a handful of batters in one inning is much less strenuous on a pitcher’s arm than pitching for multiple innings.

Next. Seattle Mariners Should Pursue Jon Gray in Free Agency. dark

Here is my proposal… The Mariners should try and bring James Paxton back as a relief pitcher and sign him to a two-year, three million dollar deal. It’s a low-risk deal that could pay off big if he can come back healthy. At the end of the two years if Paxton wants to try and work back to being a starter that could definitely be a possibility. But right now, the best and probably the only place he can be useful is as a relief pitcher. He needs to prove to whatever club he ends up with, that he can stay healthy before anyone will throw some serious cash his way.

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