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Paxton's free-agent value on the rise

November 11, 2020

James Paxton's second season with the Yankees did not go as well as his first (3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 in 150 2/3 IP), because the injury-prone southpaw again dealt with various ailments -- including back surgery last winter and a left flexor tendon strain during the season --

James Paxton's second season with the Yankees did not go as well as his first (3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 in 150 2/3 IP), because the injury-prone southpaw again dealt with various ailments -- including back surgery last winter and a left flexor tendon strain during the season -- that limited him to five starts (20 1/3 IP). Paxton's strikeout stuff holds appeal, but teams will be wary of his durability.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors on the left-hander, who turned 32 on Nov. 6.

Paxton moves up FA starter board

Nov. 11: As Paxton moves closer to throwing for talent evaluators, he’s also moving up the list of free-agent starters. Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman came off the board Wednesday, accepting $18.9 million qualifying offers from the Mets and Giants, respectively.

MLB Trade Rumors initially ranked Paxton seventh among free-agent starting pitchers, but he jumps into the top five with Stroman and Gausman out of the picture.

The 32-year-old lefty has shown ace-level upside during his career, but he has had trouble staying healthy, maxing out at 160 1/3 innings in 2018. He made just five starts in 2020, missing the final month with a left flexor strain. Paxton also underwent back surgery in February.

Paxton’s agent, Scott Boras, told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the southpaw has been working to strengthen his lumbar region. Boras also said that there’s been a “great deal of interest" in Paxton.

Boras: Paxton drawing 'great deal of interest'

Nov. 10: Paxton is drawing interest -- and is getting close to throwing for free-agent suitors -- his agent, Scott Boras, told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Tuesday.

Boras told Morosi that, "There's a great deal of interest" in Paxton, who is a free agent after playing the last two seasons with the Yankees.

The 32-year-old left-hander was limited to five starts in 2020 due to injury, mainly a left flexor strain, and he last pitched on Aug. 20. But it's the back surgery he had last offseason that has apparently been a focus of his current strength training, according to Boras.

When healthy, Paxton is one of the hardest-throwing left-handed starters. His average fastball velocity was 95.4 mph in both 2018 and '19. But he dipped to 92.1 mph in 2020, so Paxton's velocity will certainly be something evaluators want to see when he starts throwing again.

Paxton-Nats a perfect match?

Nov. 6: With Stephen Strasburg's timetable for return uncertain, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand suggests the addition of Paxton could be the perfect match for him and the Nationals. Paxton endured an injury-prone 2020 campaign in which he had a 6.64 ERA, meaning he might be willing to sign a short-term deal to rebuild his value. And Washington could use rotation help while Strasburg remains out, and after he's back, Paxton could shore up the back of the rotation, which has been in flux. More >

Boras: Paxton 'back to normal' as he enters free agency

Oct. 27: The 2020 season was a lost campaign for James Paxton, who underwent back surgery in February that caused him to miss all of the original Spring Training and then saw his season cut short in August with a Grade 1 strain of his left forearm. Those setbacks didn't come at an ideal time for the impending free-agent pitcher, but his agent, Scott Boras, is trying to get the word out that Paxton will be fully healthy for 2021. Per Boras, Paxton still hadn't completely recovered from that back surgery by the time the Yankees' season began in late July.

“He made every effort to try to contribute this year," Boras told NJ Advanced Media's Brendan Kuty (subscription required) earlier this month, "but the back rehab just wasn’t there yet and he just needed more time to where he could really go through his normal mechanics of 2019."

Paxton "needed a few months more of rehab" in order for him to return to the high-velocity, high-strikeout lefty starter that fans have become accustomed to seeing, Boras claimed.

“Getting the velocity, getting the balance and being able to torque his back the way it was, just after the surgery, he just needed time," said Boras of Paxton. "That’s all. We’re seeing him back to normal now in his throwing. You can really see the difference.”

The talented Paxton's career has included its fair share of injuries along the way, though the southpaw was able to clear 150 innings in both 2018 and '19. He has averaged a 30% strikeout rate since the beginning of the 2017 season, and routinely ranks among the hardest-throwing left-handed starters when healthy. However, given his injury history and diminished performance in 2020, Paxton could be looking at shorter-term offers as he tests the market this winter.