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With James Paxton back, Yankees join Mets as teams fleeced by Mariners

James Paxton is now teammates with all three players the Mariners traded him for. (AP)

The last time James Paxton was a member of the Seattle Mariners was the winter of 2018. Now that he’s rejoining the M’s on a one-year deal, that offseason is a very interesting one to look back on.

Drayer: How the Mariners got James Paxton back

Paxton was shipped by the Mariners to the New York Yankees for three prospects in the second of a series of big trades that offseason by general manager Jerry Dipoto as Seattle kickstarted a rebuild. The first of those deals sent catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays, and while you could argue that deal with the Rays didn’t work out so well, the Mariners made not just one but two trades shortly after that probably don’t sit well with fans of either team from the Big Apple these days.

When it comes to the Paxton deal, Seattle got promising starting pitcher Justus Sheffield, right-hander Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams for the big lefty. And even though Swanson is trying to make a move to the bullpen work and Thompson-Williams hasn’t made the majors, Sheffield looked great in 2020 and the Mariners now lay claim to all four players involved in the deal.

Now combine that with the next big trade Dipoto made that winter – the one where the New York Mets took All-Stars Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz for five players that included top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. Yeah, Mets fans are still mad about that one, especially since Canó is suspended for the entire 2021 season for his second failed test for performance-enhancing drugs, and their neighbors in the Bronx can join them now too.

“We spend a lot of time scrutinizing trades that didn’t work out as planned,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil said Monday on Danny and Gallant. “… Man, what Jerry Dipoto did two years ago when they traded Edwin Díaz and Robinson Canó to the Mets and then traded James Paxton to the Yankees, those deals could not have been better.”

The Mariners had a good year in 2018, finishing 89-73, which was their best record since 2003. Instead of building on that team, however, they went the rebuild route, which O’Neil said looks like the right call in hindsight especially with how the trades with the Mets and Yankees worked out based on “the timing and understanding of where the Mariners franchise was.”

“They could have come back and gone for it again,” he said. “They could have said, ‘OK, we’ll re-sign Nelson Cruz. We’ve still got Robinson Canó, who’s a productive player, and we’ve got James Paxton, who is a potential front-line starter.’ And they decided, ‘You know what, we’re in danger of going off a cliff if we do that. Let’s deal them now.’ James Paxton comes back (now), you have Justus Sheffield, you rebooted your farm system in decent part because of that trade with the Mets in getting Jarred Kelenic, who you think is going to be a star.

“The Mariners made the right decision right there. Not just to reboot it but in the players that they got and the guys that they got rid of.”

To hear O’Neil’s full comments, listen to the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below. Underneath that, let’s take a look at exactly where things stand with each player involved in the Mariners’ 2018 trade with the Yankees.

November 2018: Mariners-Yankees trade

Mariners got:

• Justus Sheffield, LHP: In his first full MLB season in 2020, Sheffield posted a quality start in six of his 10 outings, allowing two runs or less in seven of his last eight games, six of which saw him make it through at least six innings. While that surprisingly didn’t get the southpaw any votes in the Rookie of the Year race, he is still just 24 years old and firmly planted in the middle of Seattle’s rotation.

• Erik Swanson, RHP: Now 27, Swanson showed an ability to throw hard in his nine outings out of the bullpen in 2020. Some of those appearances were very good (he pitched a perfect inning four times), but the rest were not, and he finished the year with a 12.91 ERA. The good news for Seattle is that half of his perfect outings came in his last two appearances.

• Dom Thompson-Williams, OF: He hit .234 with 12 home runs, 24 doubles, four triples and a .689 OPS in 115 games for Double-A Arkansas in 2019. The 25 year old is not on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 list for the Mariners farm system following the canceled 2020 minor league season.

Yankees got:

• James Paxton, LHP: “The Big Maple” posted a 4.16 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 212 strikeouts and 62 walks in 34 regular season starts for New York in 2019 and 2020 combined. He started three postseason games in 2019, including a win over the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series where he outdueled that year’s Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander by allowing just one run on four hits and four walks while striking out nine in six innings. Injuries have been an issue throughout his career and continued in his time with New York. Prior to the 2020 season he underwent back surgery to remove a peridiscal cyst, and his season was cut short in September due to a flexor strain in his left forearm. It was reported Saturday night that he has agreed to return to the Mariners on a one-year deal.

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