The already robust market for left-handed starters grew deeper when reports emerged that the Mariners are willing to trade "just about anyone" this offseason, including 30-year-old ace James Paxton, who will immediately become one of the most highly desired arms on the market. He was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA
The already robust market for left-handed starters grew deeper when reports emerged that the Mariners are willing to trade "just about anyone" this offseason, including 30-year-old ace James Paxton, who will immediately become one of the most highly desired arms on the market. He was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a career-high 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018, when he also became the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter with his effort in Toronto on May 8.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.
Reds' starter search reportedly revolves around Paxton, Gray
Nov. 15: The Reds need pitching and are expected to spend aggressively this offseason, but MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that the contract demands of Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- arguably the top two starters on the market -- may be out of Cincinnati's "comfort zone." Instead, Jon Heyman reports for Fancred Sports that the Reds are focusing their search around Paxton and Sonny Gray, who would both come with lower price tags -- in terms of dollars, at least.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams had alluded to the team's need for two pitchers and the Reds' willingness to pursue an arm via trade in an interview with Cincinnati's WLW Radio on Wednesday.
"I think we need to add two pitchers," Williams said. "I said two pitchers. They could both be starters, they don't have to be. There's a good chance we'll target two starters and I think we have to be prepared to pursue both [free agency and trade] avenues.
" ... When you don't have as much money, you're not playing with those guys that go off the board first. You're able to sort of wait and let the other guys spend their money, and then find the value deals. I think this year we feel like we need to be a little more aggressive than that."
According to Heyman, trade partners are, unsurprisingly, focused on the Reds' top three prospects per MLB Pipeline: infielder Nick Senzel (No. 1), outfielder Taylor Trammell (No. 2) and right-hander Hunter Greene (No. 3). However, the Reds might be wary about parting with several top prospects after their experience in trading for Mat Latos in 2011, when they moved four prospects -- Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger.
If Cincinnati were to balk at the prospect price in a trade for Paxton or one of Cleveland's options (Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco), a pursuit of Gray could be a better alternative, though Heyman reports that several teams are involved in talks for him. A reunion with Matt Harvey could also make sense.
Predicting a Paxton blockbuster
Nov. 13: The noise around the possibility of a Paxton blockbuster trade continues to grow. The Mariners, after all, already have dealt catcher Mike Zunino as the start of what appears to be a "reimagining" of the roster heading into 2019. As TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune writes: "And reimagining life without Paxton doesn't appear to be a matter of if, but when."
Paxton, who just turned 30 earlier this month, is coming off his best season yet, having established career highs in innings (160 1/3), strikeouts (208) and strikeouts per nine (11.7). Combine that with two more years of club control, and it's no surprise that a number of teams are interested in adding him as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at Paxton's progression from talented-yet-frustrating pitcher a few years ago to the burgeoning ace he became in 2018. His conclusion? "Paxton is one of those guys every team would want in a short series. He's one of those guys every team would want in a one-game playoff. James Paxton is a potential difference-maker in the rotation."
Given that Seattle's farm system is among the weakest in baseball and that the club's timeline for winning may no longer sync up with their control over Paxton, a trade would make sense -- and the return in young Major Leaguers and/or prospects could be massive. Not to mention, there are plenty of contenders loaded with young talent and holes in their rotation (read: Yankees, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Brewers) who already have been linked as possible landing spots for Paxton.
Astros targeting familiar foe
Nov. 11: Could Mariners ace James Paxton pitch for another American League West club in 2019?
Count the Astros among the teams talking to Seattle about a potential trade for the southpaw, per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who calls the market for Paxton "active." The Yankees were also identified as a party in contact with the Mariners about Paxton earlier this week, meaning there could be an arms race developing between AL superpowers for what would be an impact arm.
Paxton has fared well against Houston, posting a 2.89 ERA across 12 career starts against the division foe. Houston's rotation was historically good in 2018, but could look a little different with Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton both entering free agency and Lance McCullers out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Justin Verlander is also entering the final year of his deal in his age-36 season, and so adding an emerging front-of-the-rotation arm like Paxton -- who does not become a free agent until the end of the 2020 season -- could help Houston stay ahead of the curve.
Seattle would likely want a significant haul (especially from a successful division rival like the Astros) for Paxton, who threw his first no-hitter and struck out a career-high 208 batters last season.
Yankees checking in on All-Star starters
Nov. 9: The Bronx Bombers are known to be looking for two quality starters in addition to ace Luis Severino, righty Masahiro Tanaka and veteran Carsten Sabathia, who signed a one-year deal earlier this week. That search includes the trade market, where MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports the Yankees are among a presumably large number of teams who have contacted the Mariners about talented southpaw Paxton.
Paxton, who turned 30 on Tuesday, represents one of the biggest names on the market now that Seattle has made it known that several of its stars could be available this winter. The lefty features both elite stuff (he struck out nearly one-third of the hitters he faced and threw a no-hitter against Toronto last season) and team control for prospective buyers, as Rosenthal notes, over the next couple seasons. Fellow MLB Network insider Jon Heyman also reported Friday that the Yankees also met with the Indians during this week's General Managers Meetings about possible trades for Cleveland aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.
With varying reports about New York's interest in headliners Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees could pivot instead toward making their rotation one of the game's best in 2019.