Analyzing the James Paxton Deal


The New York Yankees have traded for Seattle Mariner’s left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton. New York shipped top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield to the Mariners, as well as two promising prospects in right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. This trade, at least at the moment, looks like it was a no-brainer for the Yankees, as they have added a premier lefty arm to their starting rotation.

Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

What Paxton Brings to the Table

James Paxton had his third straight strong season in 2018. He built off of previous 3.5 and 4.6 WAR seasons to post a 3.8 WAR in 2018. The 30-year-old from Delta, Canada posted a 3.76 ERA while tallying a career-high 11.68 K/9, good for fifth highest in the MLB. Paxton also tallied the fifth best xFIP in 2018 at 3.02, trailing only Chris Sale, Jacob Degrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Patrick Corbin.

Paxton is somebody who relies heavily on the strikeout, especially in 2018, as evidenced by his high K/9 numbers, his career high 208 strikeouts, his lower GB%, his 14.4% HR/FB ratio, and his 1.29 HR/9.

FanGraph’s Steamer projections have Paxton slated to have an even better 2019 campaign. Steamer projects Paxton to, over the course of 160.1 IP, record a 3.25 ERA with a 10.44 K/9, a higher 43.8 GB%, a lower HR/9 at 1.01, and a 4.4 WAR. He relies on an arsenal that includes a 95-97 MPH fastball, a 90 MPH cutter, and a curveball. He had all but gotten rid of his changeup, as he used it only .4% of the time this season. Much like the Red Sox did with Eovaldi, it is likely that the Yankees are going to have Paxton use his nasty cutter even more.

Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Why This Trade Makes Sense

At 30 years old Paxton still has two more arbitration years left on his contract. He does not have an albatross of a deal, and he’ll be a free agent after his age 32 season. So, by acquiring Paxton, the Yankees have an exceptional arm that requires almost no long-term financial commitment.

Thus, the Yankees have added a premier arm and still have the flexibility to sign Patrick Corbin. They could even make an attempt at signing Manny Machado if they so pleased. The fact that the Yankees only had to give up one top prospect makes this deal a slam dunk. How it will play out remains to be seen, but for now, the Yankees have plenty to be excited about.

The only thing that may scare the Yankees is the fact that Paxton was in the bottom 2% of the league in a few batted ball categories in 2018: Barrel %, Hard Hit %, and Exit Velocity. Paxton, however, has been towards the bottom in those categories historically and has continued to be a consistent arm.

U.S. Team Justus Sheffield, of the New York Yankees works against the World Team in the second inning during the All-Star Futures baseball game, Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Nationals Park, in Washington. The the 89th MLB baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Why it Makes Sense for Seattle

The Mariners missed the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season in 2018. They do not have many prospects and are starved of young talent. They didn’t land any sort of crazy package, but they did get one top-level prospect in Justus Sheffield and two other players that could improve down the road. For instance, Dom Thompson-Williams led the Yankees’ Minor League system in home runs (22) and Runs Batted In (74). He also swiped twenty bases and scored 63 runs.

The Mariners have the worst farm system in the Major Leagues. They probably could have gotten more for Paxton. Nonetheless, they will likely take this as a good starting point. It is their first step in building a strong and deep farm system that may become the next crop of Seattle Mariners.

The Verdict

The Yankees acquired Paxton without parting ways with Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, Miguel Andujar, or Clint Frazier. For somebody in Paxton who will be inserted at the top of their rotation, the Yankees made a solid deal. Paxton has plenty of gas in the tank and he will be a much-needed addition to a depleted and in-need Yankees pitching rotation.