Drayer: How Mariners got Paxton back and what it means going forward

Feb 13, 2021, 9:06 PM
Mariners LHP James Paxton...
After two years with the Yankees, James Paxton is returning to the Mariners for 2021. (Getty)

So Jerry Dipoto was not done. While the announcement will not come until next week as the deal is pending a physical, the Mariners and James Paxton are in agreement on a one-year contract with a base of $8.5 million and bonuses that could take it to $10 million. After two years with the Yankees, the Big Maple is back.

Mariners reuniting with left-handed pitcher James Paxton on 1-year deal

Better late than never. Paxton had been on the radar of the Mariners from the beginning of the offseason. In late November, the 32 year old from Ladner, B.C. threw a bullpen at ATI Physical Therapy in Bellevue in front of representatives from nearly every team in MLB. Among the group: Jerry Dipoto, assistant general manager Justin Hollander and manager Scott Servais. The session went well and fulfilled its purpose with a number of teams expressing interest.

Not knowing what their chances were in landing the left-hander, the Mariners kept in regular contact with Paxton’s agent Scott Boras following the throwing session with the deal coming together in just the past couple of days.

With the Yankees, Paxton pitched well when healthy. In 2019 he put up an ERA of 3.82 while going 15-6 with 186 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings pitched. 2020 got off to a concerning start, however, with the surprise news in early February that he would miss three to four months after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated lumbar disc. Paxton made just five starts following his July return before being shut down with a flexor strain in his left elbow. By all accounts, the injuries are behind him with positive reports coming out of the throwing session at ATI.

It’s worth noting that Paxton has worked out at ATI since 2017. Familiarty with the organization and the area played a part in signing the one-year deal, which essentially is a “prove it” contract. Should he pitch well, Paxton could benefit the Mariners in an attempted run at the postseason, or, like his former “Big Three” teammate Taijuan Walker last year, be traded at the deadline to a contender.

(For now) Paxton now returns to the Mariners to join a rotation that will include one of the players he was traded for, Justus Sheffield, as well as Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Flexen.

With the Mariners going with a six-man rotation, one spot remains open and all of a sudden an interesting position battle has developed with two players who finished the season in the rotation, Justin Dunn and Nick Margevicius, battling it out alongside Logan Gilbert, who Dipoto has said would get the chance to compete for a spot in spring training. This is quite a different picture from a year ago when the young players were given the opportunity to get their feet wet. This year, they will have to earn it.

Paxton becomes the fourth free agent signed to a Major League deal by the Mariners this winter joining Chris Flexen, Keynan Middleton, Kendall Graveman and Ken Giles.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

A closer look: Who is new Mariners right-handed reliever Ken Giles?

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Drayer: How Mariners got Paxton back and what it means going forward