The Seattle Mariners may be close to a rebuild, tearing down their team and selling off parts. And if they do, they’ll have a lot of interest in 30-year-old starter James Paxton. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Sunday that the Houston Astros, who are in need of a starting arm (or two), have been discussing a Paxton trade with the Mariners.
#Astros on list of teams talking to #Mariners about a trade for LHP James Paxton, sources say. Market described as “active,” including HOU, NYY and a wide variety of other clubs. Paxton in his career against HOU: 2.89 ERA in 71 2/3 innings, .605 opponents’ OPS.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2018
Paxton would help Houston tremendously, but they’re not the only ones interested. The New York Yankees are also reportedly interested in trading for Paxton.
Paxton could solidify Astros’ rotation
When you think of MLB rotations that need help, the Astros do not come to mind. Their starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers Jr. had a combined 3.16 ERA in 2018, the best of any rotation in all of baseball. But they’re facing a lot of uncertainty for 2019. While Verlander and Cole are locked in for next season, Keuchel and Morton are free agents and may not return. And McCullers will miss the entire year after having Tommy John surgery.
That’s why Paxton is so tempting to the Astros. Keuchel and Morton were always going to be free agents, but McCullers’ injury was a surprise. They’re in the unenviable position of replacing his 3.86 ERA and 142 strikeouts, not to mention his innings. It just so happens that Paxton had an even better season than McCullers did: 3.76 ERA and 208 strikeouts. Plus, Paxton would be under team control for the next two years, and is projected to make $9 million in arbitration in 2019. That’s less than Keuchel made in 2018, and $2 million more than Morton.
If reliever Collin McHugh is moved back into the starting rotation, which GM Jeff Luhnow has said may happen, the Astros would need to fill just one more rotation spot through the free agent market. That’s the perfect scenario for the Astros, a team that’s not known for spending freely (or spending much at all).
The Yankees may also be interested in Paxton
Paxton may make sense for the Astros, but they’re not the only team interested in him. The Yankees have also reportedly checked in with the Mariners.
#Yankees among teams that have spoken to #Mariners about a trade for LHP James Paxton, sources tell The Athletic. Paxton has two years of control left and is projected by @mlbtraderumors to earn $9M in arbitration next season. NYY also on free-agent LH starters Corbin, Happ, etc.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 9, 2018
The Yankees have the same kind of rotation problems that the Astros do: a lot of question marks. Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka are both returning, and C.C. Sabathia agreed a one-year, $8 million contract on Tuesday. But J.A. Happ is a free agent, and Sonny Gray is on the trade market according to general manager Brian Cashman. That leaves the Yankees two starters short of a full rotation.
Unlike the Astros, the Yankees aren’t shy about opening up their wallet for a free agent. They’ve been connected to Cleveland Indians pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, who would both cost them money and prospects in a trade. Paxton isn’t as good as either of them, but he would cost somewhat less in prospects and be cheaper to keep if they did trade for him.
The Mariners may decide not to tear things down and try to make it work with the players they have. But it looks like the Yankees and Astros are going to make it hard for them to hold on to Paxton.
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