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Looking At: James Paxton Rumored Suitors

James Paxton managed to pitch just 20.1 innings last season around a back surgery in February and a flexor strain in August. He hasn’t been able to show he can stay on the field thus far, but his good to great numbers do make Paxton an interesting short-term option around the leagues.

 

The Washington Nationals:

This move is entirely dependent on what the medicals say for the Nationals homegrown ace, Stephen Strasburg- another great but injury prone pitcher. Strasburg managed just 5 innings pitched in 2020 after a career (and league) high of 209.0 regular season innings in 2019. What ended his 2020 season early was a nerve issue in his right throwing wrist that made an appearance during “Summer Camp” and reappeared in his second start after sitting out until early August.

At this time, the Nationals do not have a clear timetable for his recovery and they could use a short-term option to shell up a rotation that falls quickly after Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin. This would be a good team for Paxton to sign on with as they should be competitive again in 2021 as he’ll likely take a “prove it” deal this winter. However, I don’t know how willing the Nationals would be to signing a different injury prone player to stop-gap for Strasburg. To me, this seems like an exercise in futility, but a short term deal would mean very little risk involved.

 

The Chicago White Sox:

MLBTR has Paxton going to the Chicago White Sox in their predictions, ending up with a 1-Year/$10 Million deal. However, they don’t provide any depth as to why the White Sox would be interested. Let me fix that.

The Chicago White Sox sported a rotation of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez for the 2020 season. While Lopez was the only started to have an ERA+ under 100, they will be going into another serious postseason push with 3 great but unproven arms. Giolito has cemented himself as a legitimate top rotation piece and Keuchel has a CY Young pedigree with some mikdly successful years following. Past them, the other three arms don’t inspire yet. This also isn’t to count Michael Kopech who spent 2019 on the shelf after Tommy John Surgery and opted out of the 2020 season.

This is where going to get James Paxton would help to serve as another potential top-rotation piece that would help to alleviate some of the pressure on their younger arms. The White Sox aren’t likely to end up with Trevor Bauer and Paxton would be a nice “we’re staying competitive in free agency” move. Plus, he would be the second lefty in the rotation with Keuchel which is a plus too.

 

Quick Notes on Some Other Teams With Some Interest:

Unfortunately for Paxton, his market has been slow to evolve. However, that is subject to change quickly as other potential top free agent arms have been signing or agreeing to qualifying offers. There are two ways this figures to go:

Going into the offseason, Paxton was the 7th ranked starting pitcher by MLBTR. However, he quickly moved up after both Marcus Stroman (#2) and Kevin Gausman (#3) accepted their teams qualifying offer. This placed Paxton behind Bauer, Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi, and Jose Quintana. With Bauer being the top prize, Paxton could wait for his deal to be made and try to be a losing teams “back-up” option to provide another high-talent arm. This does have a risk however if Trevor Bauer is comfortable waiting for his deal to come across. This could make teams impatient as they start signing the 2nd and 3rd-tier starting pitchers, leaving Paxton with fewer options.

We have already seen this and also saw in the 2019/20 offseason as one team has already started to make moves: The Atlanta Braves. They quickly started this offseason with a 1-Year/$11 Million deal to land Drew Smyly and earlier today it was announced that they signed Charlie Morton to a 1-Year/$15 Million deal. Thus this is the other route Paxton could take: sign early and get a deal.

In the early offseason, many more teams have needs and most every team could use rotation help. By increasing his number of suitors it would provide Paxton the likely ability to make his best move.

I’d think most teams would be interested in James Paxton even if few have been truly linked to him so far.

 

Article By: Ethan Semendinger

Date Published: November 24th, 2020

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