Mariners reuniting with left-handed pitcher James Paxton on 1-year deal
Around this time last year, the Mariners were signing right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker, a former top prospect in the organization who general manager Jerry Dipoto traded away. According to reports, the Mariners will be doing something similar this year – but instead of Walker, it’s the big lefty, James Paxton.
According to Chad Dey of Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Paxton will be returning to the team where he started his professional career. Shannon Drayer Mariners insider for 710 ESPN Seattle, has verified the report.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Paxton’s deal is for one year and $8.5 million, and that the southpaw could earn up to $10 million if he reaches various bonuses.
Left-handed James Paxton and the Seattle Mariners are in agreement on a one-year deal for $8.5 million. Has some reachable bonuses that could take it to $10 million.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 14, 2021
Paxton, 32, was a fourth-round pick by the Mariners in the 2010 MLB Draft after playing in collegiate at Kentucky. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound starter was at one time was one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects along with Walker and Danny Hultzen.
Paxton made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2013 and pitched in parts of six seasons for Seattle. He was one of the team’s top arms when healthy, putting together a 41-26 record over 582.1 innings for Seattle with a 3.42 ERA and 617 strikeouts to 168 walks. He battled injuries while with the Mariners, though, appearing on the injured list multiple times with back, finger, lat and pectoral injuries.
Dubbed “The Big Maple,” the highlight of Paxton’s time with the team was when he threw the the most recent of the five no-hitters in Mariners history. The native of Ladner, British Columbia tossed the gem against the Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming the only Canadian pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter in his home country.
After going 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in a career-high 160.1 innings in 2018, Paxton was one of many veterans traded by the Mariners as they began a rebuild ahead of the 2019 season. Paxton was dealt to the New York Yankees, who sent left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield, right handed-pitcher Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams to Seattle. After the trade, all three players slid into the top 30 of Seattle’s prospects list with Sheffield topping the list and appearing as a top 100 prospect. Now, Paxton and Sheffield will be in the same starting rotation in 2021.
In his first season with the Yankees in 2019, Paxton went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in a career-high 29 starts. In the shortened 2020 season, Paxton made just five starts, throwing 20.1 innings and going 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA before his contract expired. Paxton had injury problems while with the Yankees, as well. A knee injury cost him time in 2019, and in 2020 a spinal injury required surgery early in the year and he later was placed on the 45-day injured list with a forearm strain to end his season.
The Mariners have been quiet overall this offseason, but Paxton joins veteran reliever Ken Giles as two additions this week. Paxton will be able to contribute immediately, while Giles will likely be out for all of 2021 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery he underwent in October.
The possibility of Paxton returning to the Mariners was something Dipoto spoke about on 710 ESPN Seattle in November 2018 shortly after trading him to New York.
“I told him not to forget about us in a couple of years when his time as a free agent rolls around,” Dipoto said, “because my hope is at that point that we’re on the verge of competing for a World Series and James Paxton Part 2 is possible.”