The New York Yankees took their first step toward gaining the AL East back from rival Boston when they landed pitcher James Paxton in a trade with Seattle on Monday. The Yankees finished 100-62, eight games behind the first-place and eventual World Series champion Red Sox. Paxton, a left-hander, was considered the best pitcher available this offseason. New York gave up three prospects, including their No. 1 overall, left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield.
Risk? It’s a win-win for the Yankees who add a top of the rotation pitcher in Paxton even if the 30-year-old has had some injury issues. Paxton, who has spent his entire MLB career in Seattle, made his major league debut at the end of the 2013 season. In 2014 and 2015, Paxton was limited to just 13 starts in each season due to injury. In 2017, he spent 10 days in May on the disabled list and went on the DL again in August with a pectoral muscle strain.
The Yankees gave up Sheffield, a 22-year-old who went 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA in 20 starts in both Double-A and Triple-A last season. The other two prospects given up by the Yankees were right-hander Erik Swanson (3-2, 3.98 ERA in Triple-A) and OF Dom Thompson-Williams who hit .299 with 22 homers and 20 stolen bases in Class A.
Yankees Rotation The Yankees signed veteran C.C. Sabathia to a one-year deal in the first move to address their starting pitching rotation. Sabathia went 9-7 in 29 starts last season. The ace, of course, is right-hander Luis Severino who went 19-8 with 220 strikeouts in 2018. Masahiro Tanaka was 12-6 and Paxton, who was 11-6 last season, gives New York a solid No. 3 or even No. 2 in the rotation. If Jordan Montgomery develops, the Yankees pitching staff could be among the American League’s best. Montgomery went 2-0 with a 3.62 ERA in six starts early last season. Yankees GM Brad Cashman likely isn’t done yet addressing the pitching rotation.
Gray Area Even if Paxton is just a little better than Sonny Gray, the Yankees have done well. Gray was obtained during the 2017 season but never turned into the pitcher the club needed. Paxton went 23-11 over the past two seasons and is just 41-26 in his six-year career. He missed the better part of two seasons with injuries and has yet to pitch 200 innings in a single season. Maybe that’s a good thing though. Paxton is 30 years old and will be under the Yankees control for two more seasons.
Cashman Continues In addition to another starting pitcher, it is likely that Cashman searches for another reliever to shore up the bullpen. He will also have to deal with shortstop Didi Gregorius who had Tommy John surgery at the end of the season. Gregorius, who has begun the rehab process already, will miss part of the 2019 season. How much time he will miss is still to be determined. Cashman would like to have a quality insurance policy in place in case Gregorius’s absence lasts longer than anticipated.