Tag: James Paxton

Yankees Agree With J.A. Happ on Two-Year Deal

The 2019 New York Yankees starting rotation is starting to come into focus, as the team has agreed with veteran left-hander J.A. Happ on a two-year, $34-million deal that would bring him back to the Bronx. The deal also contains a vesting option for the 2021 season based on innings pitched.

Happ came to the Yankees in exchange for infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney ahead of the 2018 Trade Deadline. He pitched lights-out for 11 starts in pinstripes, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA (4.21 FIP) as the team captured their second consecutive home-field spot in the Wild Card game.

“He was a performer; took the ball every five days,” Cashman said. “He was a competitor, came as advertised, a real pro. He had a veteran presence within that clubhouse, knew exactly what was necessary and brought it every five days in the most competitive division in all of baseball and the world. He checks all the boxes on that side of it.”

The playoffs were a different animal, though. Happ made just one start, lasting two innings and allowing five earned runs in Game 1 of the American League Division Series in Boston. The big blow in that game was a three-run home run by J.D. Martinez.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had reported earlier in the day that the two sides were in agreement on a deal with three guaranteed years, though he walked that report back to say they were simply gaining momentum.

Happ had also been courted by the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, both teams he has pitched for in the past. The Phillies were hesitant to give Happ more than two guaranteed years, and it appears his recent familiarity with the Bronx plus the prospect of the vesting option prompted his return.

The Yankees may not be done in their pursuit of a starting pitcher, as injuries and ineffectiveness typically rear their ugly heads over the course of a 162-game season. They learned that the hard way when Jordan Montgomery went down for 18 months after just six starts because of Tommy John surgery in 2018.

The team wound up getting 24 starts from Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loáisiga combined, and the team went 12-12 in those games. Sonny Gray, who was acquired to anchor the top of the rotation, started in 12 Yankees losses and was demoted to the bullpen in favor of Lance Lynn after August 1.

“It doesn’t mean we would be out of the market altogether. Obviously the Paxton acquisition gave us the ability to be a lot more disciplined and patient,” Cashman said. “If we pull down another one it will put us in a much stronger position to feel better about the rotation. But that doesn’t preclude us to being open-minded about any options that develop over time.”

With the acquisition of James Paxton and agreement with Happ, the Yankees find their starting rotation in exponentially better shape than last year.

Yankees Pass On Corbin After Washington Offers 6-Year Deal

Washington was the only team to add a sixth year, and that sealed the deal.

The Yankees got dealt their first loss of the offseason Tuesday, as top starting pitcher Patrick Corbin agreed with the Washington Nationals on a 6-year, $140 million contract.

Jon Heyman of Fancred and Billy Witz of the New York Times indicated that the Yankees offer went 5-years, $100 million. Heyman further indicated that the Philadelphia Phillies, the third finalist for Corbin, offered a 5-year deal as well. The finances, however, are unknown at this moment.

By trading for fellow lefty James Paxton, Brian Cashman put the Yankees in a position where they did not have to overpay for Corbin. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, they’ll pivot to pursuing the following “Plan B” pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn. They’re all former Yankees, and they’re all radically different pitchers with distinct contractual demands. The narrative is that the Yankees want the rotation wrapped up by the beginning of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas this coming weekend, so look for some activity there.

Corbin had never pitched for anyone but the small-market Diamondbacks in the NL West. His slider was among the most effective pitches in the majors, yet there was worry should that pitch dim in effectiveness or hitters became more attuned to laying off it. Corbin was just a few years removed from Tommy John surgery and a 5.15 ERA, and only in his 2018 walk year did he perform more like a top-of-the-rotation starter.

There was a lot to like and in a different day perhaps the Yankees would have ignored what gave them hesitation and provided whatever it took to get a deal done. But the Yanks felt they were stretching to go from four to five years in a potential offer, and so when agent John Courtright told them he could get six years, this version of the Yanks essentially said there was nothing more to discuss.

(from Joel Sherman in New York Post)

The Nationals had been aggressive late in their negotiations with Corbin. They added that extra year (and probably some extra money) and that’s what secured the lefty. He’ll be due $23,333,333 annually through the 2024 season. That will make Corbin the 11th highest-paid pitcher for 2019, with his Nationals teammates Stephen Strasburg ($38,333,334) and Max Scherzer ($37,405,562) placing first and second, respectively.


Yankees Tender Contracts to All on 40-Man Roster

All pre-arbitration and arbitration eligible players were tendered contracts by the Yankees by the 8 p.m. ET deadline Friday.

The team and players did not have to reach specific figures by that deadline, but the Yankees were required to at least extend an offer. Players and teams must have exchanged arbitration figures by Jan. 11, 2019, and then hearings will run from Feb. 1 to Feb. 20. Players who are not yet eligible for arbitration (less than three years service time) typically agree to their 1-year split-level deals in early-March. The Yankees agreed to deals with all of their arbitration eligible players ahead of the deadline last year.

Here’s everyone eligible for arbitration this year with their 2018 salary and 2019 projection from MLB Trade Rumors:

  • RHP Dellin Betances
    • 2018 salary: $5.1 million
    • 2019 projection: $6.4 million
  • 1B Greg Bird
    • 2018 salary: $582K
    • 2019 projection: $1.5 million
  • RHP Sonny Gray
    • 2018 salary: $6.5 million
    • 2019 projection: $9.1 million
  • SS Didi Gregorius
    • 2018 salary: $8.25 million
    • 2019 projection: $12.4 million
  • CF Aaron Hicks
    • 2018 salary: $2.825 million
    • 2019 projection: $6.2 million
  • RHP Tommy Kahnle
    • 2018 salary: $1.3125 million
    • 2019 projection: $1.5 million
  • LHP James Paxton
    • 2018 salary: $4.9 million
    • 2019 projection: $9 million
  • Austin Romine
    • 2018 salary: $1.1 million
    • 2019 projection: $2 million
  • RHP Luis Severino
    • 2018 salary: $604.975K
    • 2019 projection: $5.1 million

The two players closest to being non-tendered, in my opinion, were Gray and Gregorius. Gray was awful in 2018, and Brian Cashman is determined to trade him this offseason. Didi Gregorius is set to miss at least the first half of 2019, though the Yankees could work with him on a myriad of contract options as this is his final year of arbitration.

Everyone else, with the exception of the guaranteed contracts for Aroldis Chapman, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, Giancarlo Stanton and Masahiro Tanaka, has less than three years of service time and will have their split-level deals revealed later on. They get paid one salary for MLB service and a much smaller one for the minor leagues.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Gray, Goldschmidt

Though I’m not sure he can top yesterday’s bombshell revealing the Yankees and Seattle Mariners “briefly discussed” a Jacoby EllsburyRobinson Canó contract swap, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic dropped another set of interesting Yankees tidbits in his notes column:

Mariners Wanted Gray in Paxton Deal

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Rosenthal did, however, add further insight into the trade that sent lefty James Paxton from Seattle to the Yankees. The Mariners asked the Yankees to add Sonny Gray to the return for the lefty, which included top prospect Justus Sheffield, fringe 40-man pitcher Erik Swanson and lower-level outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. The Yankees decided to keep Gray, however, telling Seattle that “they had a number of other teams interested in him.”

Rosenthal also cited sources within the Yankees organization who “suspected the Mariners wanted Gray to flip him – perhaps to the Reds, who were trying to land Paxton.” It’s pretty clear that Brian Cashman is waiting for the best deal before trading Gray, who is projected to make $9.1 million in his final year of salary arbitration in 2019. If Cashman was looking to dump Gray for a roster spot, the trade would have been made in advance of last week’s 40-man roster deadline. I’d look for Gray to be dealt prior to this Friday’s non-tender deadline.

Yankees “Not Pursuing” Goldschmidt

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The early offseason news cycle was set abuzz when ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated the Yankees would engage the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He stirred that up even further by reporting the Yankees had pushed Justus Sheffield in those negotiations before dealing him to Seattle for James Paxton. But, it seems Goldschmidt and his one-year deal are not targets for the Bronx Bombers.

The team is already “too right-handed, particularly with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to be out until at least June as he recovers from Tommy John surgery,” per Rosenthal. The Yankees also not focusing on an upgrade at first base at the moment.

Rosenthal did note, however, the Yankees would be willing to add yet another righty to the lineup if it was someone like Manny Machado. He mentioned that “at 26, [Machado] is five years younger than Goldschmidt and would be under long-term control. Goldschmidt is signed only through next season.”

Yankees Acquire James Paxton From Mariners for Three Prospects

One above-average starting pitcher: ✅

The Yankees made their first big splash of the 2018-19 offseason Monday night, as they acquired Canadian left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a package of three prospects.

Seattle picks up former No. 1 prospect LHP Justus Sheffield, No. 22 RHP Erik Swanson and unranked OF Dom Thompson-Williams. The deal was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, and was confirmed by the Yankees just 25 minutes later.

Paxton, 30, was drafted by the Mariners in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, despite being drafted 37th overall in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and not signing. He debuted as a September call-up in 2013 by making four starts with a 1.50 ERA down the stretch. He was an up-and-down starter in 2014, and missed most of 2015 because of a strained tendon in his left middle finger.

The past three seasons (2016-2018) serve as the most consistent body of work for Paxton. He averaged 139 innings pitched across an average of 24 starts, with a 3.52 ERA (2.90 FIP) and 10.4 K/9. His career-high in starts came in 2018, as he pitched 160⅓ innings in 28 starts. His crowning achievement was his May 8 no-hitter against Toronto.

The issue with Paxton is his reliance on fastballs (63.6% of his pitches), and his durability. The Yankees acquired a fastball-heavy starter in J.A. Happ at the 2017 Trade Deadline, and largely allowed him to continue throwing a ton of fastballs. Boy, did that work out well. I figure the Yankees won’t shake up Paxton’s arsenal too much, but there’s likely going to be an uptick from just 36.4% offspeed pitches.

Now, for the durability question. Paxton has only thrown 160 innings once, and it came last year. Here’s his injury history since being a big-leaguer:

  • 2014 (13 starts – 74 IP):
    • Left Latissimus dorsi muscle strain (Out 3 months, 24 days)
  • 2015 (13 starts – 67 IP):
    • Strained tendon in left middle finger (Out 3 months, 15 days)
  • 2016 (20 starts – 121 IP):
    • Left elbow contusion (Out 17 days)
  • 2017 (24 starts – 136 IP):
    • Left forearm strain (Out 28 days)
    • Strained left pectoral muscle (Out 1 month, 4 days)
  • 2018 (28 starts – 160⅓ IP):
    • Lower back inflammation (Out 17 days)
    • Left forearm contusion (Out 17 days)

There’s some fluke injuries there, but the questions will remain until he turns in another season with at least 160 innings. The Yankees have two arbitration years of Paxton, and they have to hope he can put it together.

In four career starts against Boston, Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA and has limited the Red Sox to a .529 OPS. That’s the kind of pitcher Brian Cashman is hoping will take the mound at least 30 times per season for the next two years.

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On the other side of the coin, Justus Sheffield was the much-hyped pitching prospect who came to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade. Sheffield never got his command together (3.9 BB/9 in 2018), and the Yankees ran out of patience with his development. Seattle is still betting on his upside, though Buster Olney of ESPN noted the Mariners could utilize him as a reliever. That’s where the 22-year-old debuted for New York in 2018, allowing three earned runs in 2⅔ innings (10.13 ERA) with three walks and no strikeouts.

Erik Swanson, the teams former No. 22 prospect, came to the Yankees in the 2016 Carlos Beltrán trade. He was on the 40-man bubble ahead of Tuesday’s Rule 5 deadline after posting a 2.66 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) across three minor-league levels.

Dom Thompson-Williams, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2016 by the Yankees out of the University of South Carolina. He hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs in Low- and High-A ball in a breakout 2018 season.

Overall, I’m comfortable with the package the Yankees gave up. Paxton clearly helps the big-league team more than Sheffield, Swanson wasn’t even a lock for the 40-man roster and a 23-year-old outfielder in A-ball is definitely expendable.

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