The Mariners are set to retool this offseason, leaving few to no untouchables on their roster. Left-hander James Paxton has emerged as arguably their highest-profile trade candidate early this offseason, and he’s drawing interest from an array of teams, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Astros are part of that group, Rosenthal reports.
As World Series contenders who are seeking starters, the Astros are a logical match for Paxton. Although the club had an elite rotation in 2018, it could lose both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, and it just found out Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Those factors leave aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole as the Astros’ only rotation locks at the moment, though it seems they’ll return veteran Collin McHugh to a starting role after he thrived as a reliever last season. But those three are only signed through next season, whereas Paxton’s controllable through 2020.
Even if the Astros do move McHugh back to their rotation next season, they’ll still be short on established starters. Swingman Brad Peacock and a series of youngsters – including Forrest Whitley (perhaps the game’s best pitching prospect) and Josh James – are among their other rotation possibilities.
Notably, Seattle and Houston are in the same division, which in theory could make a trade unlikely. However, if the Mariners don’t see themselves as near-term contenders in the AL West, their mindset should be to take the best possible offer. The Astros may be in position to make the most generous proposal for the 30-year-old Paxton, given that they own one of the majors’ best farm systems. Houston will face plenty of competition, though, including from the AL rival Yankees.
While the flamethrowing Paxton comes with a troubling injury history and has never approached the 200-inning mark in a season, he’s still among the game’s top starters on a per-inning basis. Paxton’s affordable control only adds to his value, as he’s projected to earn a reasonable $9MM in 2019.