Starting Pitching can be a fickle beast in the majors. One minute, you'll be sitting there thinking that you have enough starting pitching to make a trade. The next, you're cobbling together bullpen guys and trying to stretch out your remaining pitchers and just hoping to make it to the end of the season. The Mariners have been in both spots in the last two seasons, which makes me wonder if a short-term reunion with James Paxton would be worthwhile for both teams.
I'd love to see Paxton back, as a fan. He was really good with the Mariners, and had some of the most dominant stretches that we have ever seen by a Mariners pitcher. It's not hyperbole either, as he went 6-0 in July 2017 with a 1.37 ERA across 39.1 IP while amassing 46 Ks and walking just six hitters. That's not forget the no-hitter he threw in Toronto, either.
The question that matters the most is, as always, where does he fit in the rotation. The top of the rotation is locked in with Castillo and Kirby. They aren't going anywhere. Then you have Gilbert, who would only be moved if a legit big time bat was coming back. That follows up with Woo and Miller, who are great youngsters but the centerpiece of a many a rumor this offseason. That gets you to 5. Add in Hancock and Marco, plus Robbie Ray around the All-Star break, and you're at 7-8 people who want in that rotation.
Pending any type of trade, I can't see the Mariners bringing him back. Unless it turns into a domino type movement, where one of those guys gets traded, Paxton comes in, and you keep him in the rotation til Ray comes back and move the least effective starter either to the pen or off the team, depending on who it is.
Unless something like that happens, I can't see Big Maple coming back to the Mariners in 2024... as much as I personally want it to happen.