The Seattle Mariners have traded lefthanded pitcher James Paxton to the New York Yankees for minor league pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, the teams announced this evening.
This is a big move by both teams — the M’s, who were rumored to be looking to blow it up and start over, have dealt what is arguably their most attractive veteran trade piece in the 30 year old Paxton, while the Yankees, who were in the market for rotation help, get a starting pitcher under team control for two more years at the price of a former first round pick and a couple of lesser pieces.
Paxton had flashed top of the rotation potential for the M’s, but had issues staying on the mound — he set career highs last season with 28 starts and 160.1 IP, and over the last three seasons has posted a 3.52 ERA and a 2.90 FIP in 72 starts. The Yankees will be slotting him in their rotation and, one would think, will be watching his workload in the regular season as they look to have him sharp for the postseason.
The return for Seattle is surprisingly light. Justus Sheffield, the Cleveland Indians’ first round pick in 2014, arrived in New York, along with Clint Frazier, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen, in the Andrew Miller trade in 2016. Sheffield is the consensus top prospect in the Yankees’ system, but there are concerns that his high effort delivery and struggles to repeat his mechanics will result in him landing in the bullpen. Erik Swanson, 25, went to the Yankees from Texas in the Carlos Beltran trade, and is #28 on the MLB Pipeline Yankees top 30 list. He’s a righty who throws hard and appears to be destined for a relief role. Dom Thompson-Williams is a 23 year old centerfielder who was a fifth round pick in 2016 out of the University of South Carolina, and who spent last season in A-ball.
Given the demand for controllable starting pitching right now, I’m surprised there wasn’t a more attractive package out there for Seattle. Paxton gets dinged for durability issues, and presumably they believe in Sheffield’s ability to stick in the rotation (Baseball America has him at #22 on their top 100, which would seem to suggest BA believes he can, as well), but still, I’d have thought Seattle would have asked for, and gotten, more.