The Yankees are acquiring James Paxton to be an ace, but did they overpay on a pitcher with a spotty track record of staying healthy?
Brian Cashman entered the offseason with a clear plan to upgrade the Yankees starting rotation. The acquisition of James Paxton from the Mariners gives New York a powerful lefty capable of closing the gap on the Boston Red Sox.
The question is whether or not Cashman overpaid for a pitcher who’s struggled to stay healthy during his career.
Initial reports claim the Yankees will pay a heavy price in terms of prospects to bring Paxton to the Bronx. Justus Sheffield is headed to the Pacific Northwest along with Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams.
The loss of Sheffield, in particular, will sting the Yankees farm system. He was the team’s consensus top prospect.
From the Mariners perspective, dealing for three Yankees prospects is a move designed to accelerate their rebuild. There are no guarantees any of the trio are going to pan out, but the Seattle front office is excited about the infusion of talent into their farm system.
Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, Dom Thompson-Williams
Without delay, let’s take a close look at the deal and see who got the better end of the transaction. The true evaluation won’t come for several more years, but there’s still plenty to discuss at the current moment in time.
The biggest danger of adding Paxton is his inability to stay healthy. He’s never pitched more than 160.1 innings in a season. Last season did mark the healthiest season of his career, but he still only made 28 starts for the Mariners.
Even so, Paxton has legitimate ace potential. It’s tough to acquire pitchers who can go toe-to-toe with guys like Chris Sale in October. If he is healthy in the postseason, this move could turn into a stroke of genius for the Yankees. There’s zero question about his ability, just his durability.
On the other hand, prospect huggers will really miss the idea that Justus Sheffield could develop into a home-grown ace for the Yankees. However, many people inside the organization had soured on Sheffield as a prospect. His lack of command in AAA was a real concern.
His struggles during his cameo in the Bronx late last season didn’t help matters either. There’s still a chance Sheffield could become a star, but there’s also a chance he ends up in the bullpen.
Swanson is a decent prospect, but the Yankees had to make a decision on whether or not to place him on the 40-man roster this offseason. That was always unlikely. His inclusion in this trade just means Cashman won’t need to deal him later on.
Thompson-Williams has a chance to help the Mariners as a fourth outfielder, but he’s largely a throw-in. At 23 years of age, it was pretty clear he didn’t have a future inside the Yankees organization.
Add it all up and this is a quality move for the Yankees. Obviously, Cashman felt like the price for Paxton was much more reasonable than what the organization would have needed to pay for Corey Kluber.
Losing Sheffield is a blow, but this transaction really only costs the Yankees one prospect of note.
Seattle Mariners: A-
The Mariners got the better of this transaction by a razor-thin margin. Getting Sheffield in the deal gives the organization a reasonable chance to replace Paxton’s production over the next several seasons. Sheffield.
There are no guarantees he’s going to turn into an ace, but Seattle will like the chances of him becoming an above-average starter.
If there are any issues with the deal from the Mariners side, it’s that they only really got one prospect of note. They were never going to get Estevan Florial in this deal, but they should have been able to pry one more young, high-ceiling prospect away from New York.
The fact that they didn’t should go down as a bit of a missed opportunity.
Still, this helps speed up the rebuild for the Mariners. Losing Paxton hurts, but his represents a pretty good haul for a pitcher who always spends some time on the disabled list. The fact that they dealt Paxton so early makes it clear they play a big value on Sheffield.