James Paxton is a significant upgrade for the Yankees rotation, but it’s tough to gauge just how much he will help the team in 2019.
Credit Brian Cashman for conducting his business under the cover of darkness. The Yankees were linked with interest in James Paxton before Monday, but the trade still came out of nowhere.
Now that the Yankees have acquired the talented southpaw, it’s time to ask just how much he will help Aaron Boone’s team next season.
Obviously, the big variable here is health. Paxton has not exactly been a workhorse during his MLB career. He threw a career high 160.1 innings in 2018, but Cashman and company will certainly be hoping he can build up to somewhere closer to 200 innings in 2019.
The organization will still be careful to manage his workload if any injury issues pop up.
As such, we’re going to project Paxton to repeat his performance from last season. That’s a reasonable bet for a 30-year-old pitcher without much history of wear and tear on his arm. In some ways, his previous injury issues have protected him from overuse in Seattle.
The next obvious question is how effective Yankees fans should expect Paxton to be in those innings. Last season he posted a very respectable ERA of 3.76. However, his FIP of just 3.23 shows that poor fielding in Seattle cost him some production.
The Yankees aren’t exactly blessed with an infield full of gold glovers, but the outfield should help save some runs. It’s reasonable to think he can slightly improve his ERA next year.
In a perfect world, he could elevate his level of play all the way to the 2.98 ERA he posted back in 2017. If he’s able to continue striking batters out at a high rate, it’s possible he could get back to that level. Paxton struck out a career high 11.7 batters per nine innings pitched last year.
His ability to miss bats will help overcome pitching in Yankee Stadium for approximately half of his starts.
A reasonable stat line to expect from Paxton next season is to pitch about 160 innings with a 3.50 ERA. The Yankees will hope that puts him in line with what Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka will provide. Ideally, one pitcher of that trio will step forward and become a legitimate No. 1 starter.
Severino’s age still makes him the favorite to ascend to that position, but it’s possible Paxton can grab the spot for himself.
Assuming that 3.50 ERA over 160 innings would give Paxton a WAR of somewhere around 3.5 for the full season. That would represent a significant upgrade over what the Yankees got out of the back-end of their rotation last year.
Just how much of an upgrade Paxton can provide will also depend on which spot in the rotation he’s intended to replace.
In the end, Paxton should be worth around three extra wins for New York in the regular season. If Cashman can swing a deal for another pitcher of Paxton’s caliber, it could allow the Yankees to mount a serious challenge for next year’s AL East crown.
Paxton’s addition doesn’t completely close the gap between the Yankees and the Red Sox, but it’s a step in the right direction for Cashman and company.