The MLB hot stove is officially underway after the Yankees and Mariners completed a blockbuster trade, one that shipped James Paxton to the Bronx in exchange for a prospect package that included New York’s top prospect in pitcher Justus Sheffield. There’s a lot to this trade, so let’s not waste any time and take a deep look at this blockbuster.
Paxton, 30, had a good, not great 3.76 ERA in 2018. His peripherals (3.23 FIP, 1.098 WHIP, 11.7 K/9) are much more encouraging, and the Yankees will hope that he is finally able to have a breakout season in 2019. Paxton’s major concern is his injury issues; he has never topped 200 innings in his career and his 160.1 innings pitched was a career high. He comes with two more years of control, so New York gets a very talented pitcher who can pitch at the front of the rotation if healthy. That’s a major if though, and with more proven commodities available, such as Madison Bumgarner and Carlos Carrasco, it’s puzzling that New York would give up their prospect for someone with a career ERA of 3.42. Paxton will be a major upgrade for the Yankees and forms a solid 1-2 punch with Luis Severino, but he’s not an ace and New York giving up its top prospect suggests that they are paying the price of an ace. There’s also the concern that Paxton may not be a good fit in Yankee Stadium; he induces more fly balls than ground balls. I’d project around a 3.50 ERA for him in 2019. Once again, good but not worth giving up a prospect with the pedigree that Sheffield has.
This marks the beginning of another rebuilding/retooling phase for the Mariners. They started off the offseason by trading catcher Mike Zunino to the Rays and now have completely given up on contending in 2019. That’s wise; they had to overachieve just to get 89 wins and can’t compete with the Astros in their division. They also didn’t have the salary cap or prospects to make a big splash to compete even if they wanted to, so this was their only realistic choice. They set the bar high for Paxton, despite all of the uncertainty that comes with him, and were able to get his replacement right away in Sheffield. The 22-year-old left-hander put together a 2.48 ERA last season between Double-A and Triple-A and has all the tools to succeed at the next level. His fastball reaches 97 MPH, and he is able to sink it or rise it. He compliments that elite pitch with a slider with such late and nasty break that it at times in virtually unhittable and an improving changeup that induces a lot of ground balls. The only knock on him is that his control can be inconsistent, but he’s improving and is practically MLB ready. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him be inserted in the front of the rotation right away, and his numbers could be near the same as then numbers that Paxton put up last season. He has the makings of an ace, an even if he ends up becoming a middle of the rotation starter, he’ll be one of the faces of Mariner’s rebuild. Sheffield’s not all they got. Seattle also received two other promising prospects: right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. Swanson, 25, compiled a 2.66 ERA in the minors this season. He has a potentially dominant fastball, and he’s added an average slider and curveball to give him a three-pitch mix. He will also be Seattle’s rotation next year, and if he can’t stick as a middle of the rotation starter, he could become a late-inning reliever. Dom-Thompson, 23, had a .299/.363.546 slash line between Low-A and High-A this season. There are questions about his hit tool, but his power from the left side to go along with his above average speed gives him a chance to possibly develop into an everyday outfielder. A three of these prospects rank in Seattle’s top 15, with Sheffield instantly being inserted at #1. With this trade, the Mariners were able to acquire their only top 100 prospect, an MLB ready arm, and an outfielder with a high ceiling if he can develop his hit tool. That’s a terrific swap for Paxton, who is just two years removed from free agency and has been inconsistent, to say the least, especially with injuries.
This trade is understandable for the Yankees; they are trying to win now and needed to upgrade their rotation. However, I don’t believe that Paxton is a good fit and that he was worth the price that the Yankees paid. On the other hand, the Mariners made out really well in this trade and are off to a great start in their quick rebuild phase.
Grade: Yankees 7.6/10, Mariners 9.3/10