When reports surfaced that the Mariners were willing to trade James Paxton this offseason, there was one team that immediately came to mind: The New York Yankees.
So, while it's a bit of a shock it comes this early in the offseason, it was not a huge surprise on Monday when news broke that Paxton had been dealt from the Seattle to the Yankees in return for Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams.
Obviously, this trade has huge ramifications; not only for both clubs, but for the respective players that were dealt. Let's take a look at what each team is getting, and their short and long-term prospects.
What the Yankees are getting
When Paxton has been healthy, he's been among the best starting pitchers in the American League. He has a mid 90s fastball that he can throw by hitters with his long extension, a cutter that gives right-handers fits, and when he's operating at his best, his curveball gives him an additional swing-and-miss pitch. He's also improved his command, and the walk issues that plagued him early on are pretty much a thing of the past at this point. Simply put, he's going to miss a lot of bats, and now he's moving to a team that should offer him a chance at plenty of wins while still piling up the strikeouts.
There are still reasons of concerns with Paxton, of course. The chief among them are his health; he threw 160 innings in 2018, and that was easily a career high. It's also worth pointing out that the southpaw turned 30 in November, so the chance of him becoming an innings-eater at this point in his career is unlikely. He's also going to be pitching roughly half his starts in Yankee Stadium -- a park that's far less friendly to hurlers than Seattle's. There's obviously a lot of things to like about Paxton and his strikeouts, but some regression in ERA -- along with the health concerns -- are still things to be cautious about. If it were my call, I'd move Paxton down ever-so-slightly, but there's no denying that if he can have that 200-inning year, he could be a stalwart.
What the Mariners are getting
Sheffield is the headliner of the deal for the Mariners, and for good reason. A first-round pick by Cleveland back in 2014 that was acquired by the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade, Sheffield took a big step forward in 2017, and he carried that over with a strong 2018 that saw him reach the bigs at the end of the year. That time in the bigs wasn't successful, but the sample size was too small to be concerned. He's a 22-year-old who throws three plus pitches, including a fastball that gets up to 97 mph. The slider is the best swing-and-miss pitch, but the change is another one that can miss bats as well. The concern with Sheffield right now is the command, but he should throw enough strikes to be a starter. I believe his fantasy upside increases because he moves to (the stadium formerly known as) Safeco Field, and there's a great chance he'll be pitching in the middle of the Seattle rotation at some point in 2019.
Swanson isn't as heralded as Sheffield, but there's a chance he might be more ready to pitch in the bigs right now. His fastball has loads of spin and movement, and the 94 mph peak plays up because of how easy it comes out of his arm. He also shows an average slider and change, and he locates those pitches for strikes. He doesn't have elite fantasy upside -- we're talking about a fourth starter if everything goes right -- but that might be his floor as well. He should pitch in some sort of role for the Mariners in 2019, as well.
Thompson-Williams has performed well since being a fifth-round pick in 2016, but he's also been old for every level -- he'll turn 24 in April and has yet to reach Double-A -- and the talent suggests he's nothing more than a fourth outfielder at the highest level. That being said, he does have some speed and pop, so if he's a late-bloomer, he could be a potential steal. He's worth monitoring in deeper AL-only leagues, but can be left on the waiver wire for now.