The stove is officially on fire, boys and girls. The New York Yankees announced on Monday that they have acquired star left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. Three prospects are set to go back to Seattle, headlined by top prospect Justus Sheffield. In addition to Sheffield, the Mariners will acquire prospects Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams.
Paxton, a 30-year-old lefty from British Columbia, has battled injury issues his entire career, starting less than thirty games in every year of his career. To this point in Paxton’s career, he has compiled a 41-26 record and a 3.42 ERA, while striking out 9.5-per-nine. Something else that is important to many Yankee fans after the Red Sox’s championship run: Paxton has a career a 2.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 22 strikeouts and three walks in 25.1 innings against the Sox. Paxton is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season, giving the Yankees something Brian Cashman loves to have: control.
Two years ago, Paxton showed his true potential when healthy. He went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA and a 10.3 SO/9. The Canadian had an HR/9 of 0.60 and finished in the top 1% with a 2.8 barrel %. His production took a hit last season, as he pitched to an 11-6 record and a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts, striking out 208 men in 160.1 innings. Paxton had some struggles last year, finishing with a 9.4 barrel %, an 89.4 average exit velocity, and a 42.1 hard-hit percentage, all ending in the bottom 2% of the league, via Baseball Savant.
This is alarming; however, some of Paxton’s numbers should give the team hope. Via Katie Sharp on Twitter, Paxton is one of six pitchers who threw 150 innings last year who had a K% over 30%, and a BB% below 7%. Who are the others? Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, and Patrick Corbin. Paxton has the tools, headlined a mid-90s fastball with a spin-rate of over 2,280 that he throws over 60% of the time. One of the most telling parts of Paxton’s 2018 game was his 32.1 chase %, about five-points up from his 2017 year. Paxton seemed to abandon the changeup last year, so it will be interesting to see if the Yankees staff look to implement the pitch back into his arsenal.
The headliner for the Mariners is lefty Justus Sheffield. Sheffield, acquired by the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade, had been rumored in many deals at the deadline, including one for Manny Machado, but nothing came to fruition. Sheffield ranked the Yankees #1 overall prospect by MLB.com (#31 overall), has struggled with command issues in the minors, although he has shown flashes of brilliance. In 25 games last year between AA and AAA, (20 starts), Sheffield was 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA; however, he walked 3.9-per-nine. Many, including some in the Yankee organization, view Sheffield as a reliever, with his control and stamina issues so obvious.
Erik Swanson, one of the other pieces going to Seattle, was acquired by the Yankees along with Dillon Tate in exchange for Carlos Beltran at the 2016 trade deadline. Last season, Swanson had a breakout season. Between three levels of the minors, Swanson appeared in 24 games, making 22 starts to an 8-2 record and a 2.66 ERA. Swanson ranked as the #22 prospect in the Bomber’s system, projects to a mid-to-lower rotation option for the future.
The final piece shipped off by the Yanks, Thompson-Williams, hit near .300 with over 20 home runs between A and A+. Thompson-Williams is a lottery ticket prospect that could surprise some in Seattle.
Paxton has the stuff of an ace, and if he can put it all together, the Yankees may be one piece away from fielding one of baseball’s best rotations. That piece could be Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, or a surprise trade option. Cashman got the ball rolling early with the Paxton move, where will he hit next?
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