James Paxton, New York Yankees Photo Credit: Runner Sports

Yankees Heat Up The Hot Stove, Strike First, Land James Paxton

The Yankees once again sneak in the back door, stealing the kitty when no one is looking. Putting a dominant lefty in the rotation and rolling from there…

The Yankees struck first in the Hot Stove trade market and why should anyone be surprised? You’ve got a team like the Mariners about to combust their roster, so why wait, especially when a premier pitcher like James Paxton is out there? Brian Cashman doesn’t delay. He strikes while the gettin’ is good.

Giving up Justus Sheffield hurts, but it’s not enough to outweigh the presence of a dominating Paxton, a lefty to boot, joining the Yankees rotation. Also moving to the Mariners in the trade are pitching prospect Erik Swanson, plus outfield prospect Dom Thompson-Williams.

James Paxton is not Steve Carlton, a workhorse who regularly threw 300 innings a season on his way to the Hall of Fame. Paxton and his 160 innings pitched in 2018 might raise some eyebrows regarding his ability to remain healthy for a full season, but that’s the job of Aaron Boone and pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, to keep him in the game thru October.

But look what you get in return for that.

James Paxton Strikeout Rates Source: CBS Sports
Source: CBS Sports

“That last number is absolutely gigantic. In striking out nearly one-third of the batters he faced last season, Paxton trailed only Astros co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole among AL pitchers in bat-missing prowess. With a fastball that averages better than 95 mph, Paxton is one of the hardest-throwing lefty starters in the game. He complements that heat with a cutter that absolutely befuddles right-handed hitters. Get this: Righty swingers batted a tiny .202/.254/.364 against him in 2018, a stat line that should prompt opposing managers to use left-handed hitters more often than the 17 percent of total plate appearances they made against Paxton last season.” (Source: CBS Sports)

And here’s the best news. James Paxton just turned 30, is only in his second year of arbitration, and will not be an eligible free agent until 2021. Think the Yankees got muscled out by the Astros with Gerrit Cole. Maybe so, but Brian Cashman brings this one marching home.

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On to the next phase. Is this the end or just the beginning of the Yankees effort to bolster their rotation, not only for the regular season but for the playoffs as well? It depends.

The Yankees certainly don’t need to overspend on a Patrick Corbin, whose price has escalated to the $80-100 million precipices. Or, even a Nathan Eovaldi, who projects to ignite a bidding war the Yankees do not need to enter with James Paxton securely wearing pinstripes.

As of today, right-handed Luis Severino leads off, followed by lefty James Paxton, and then Masahiro Tanaka followed by another lefty, CC Sabathia, with any combination of J.A. Happ, if the Yankees sign him, Jordan Montgomery when he returns from arm surgery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, take your pick to backfill the fifth spot. It looks like I forgot Lance Lynn too.

The heavy lifting is done, though, and once again Brian Cashman has put the Yankees, together with their fans, at ease with one stroke of a pen. Plus, he’s done it cheaply, not impacting Hal Steinbrenner’s wish (though not an edict) to remain under the $206 million threshold before the luxury tax kicks in.

The Patrick Corbin sweepstakes now turn into a watch and see, instead of an all-out bidding war for the Yankees. Remember, Corbin is from the Syracuse area and might be willing to give up a few dollars to play in his backyard in front of friends and family. If not, the Yankees have Paxton, and they can tell Corbin to go his own way without making an offer to up the bidding war.

These are days when you sit back and say wow, it’s great to be a fan of the Yankees. A well-oiled machine with all parts working in sync, a track that’s hard to find that in baseball these days. All that being said, of course, there’s still the Boston Red Sox and 162 games to play…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor

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