As usual, Thanksgiving weekend brings a lull in the transactional market. We’ve yet to see a ton of movement at the top of the free agent class, so there isn’t much to digest on that front. But there has been one quite notable trade: four days ago, the Yankees landed James Paxton from the Mariners, as we wrote up in full at the time. That swap was significant enough to warrant further assessment from the MLBTR readership. After all, it sets the stage for both clubs for the rest of the winter.
For the Yankees, getting Paxton means saving some immediate salary as against a generally commensurate free agent arm. He’s an excellent hurler, albeit one with health questions. Notably, the organization added a high-quality piece at an area of need without adding any ink to the long-term balance sheet. That’s important whether or not the team has designs on any massive free agent outlays, as it will help maintain long-term flexibility.
Of course, the expectation remains that the Bronx Bombers will add another notable rotation piece while also exploring other intriguing assets on the open market. If the organization was operating under any financial limitations, whether via hard limits or soft ones, then it’ll now presumably be able more comfortably to absorb salary as it chases Patrick Corbin or another starter, Zach Britton or some other reliever, or perhaps top-of-the-market stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
Nabbing Paxton obviously didn’t come free, though. The Yankees parted with two hurlers who could’ve contributed to the MLB staff now and for years to come in Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson. Also heading out the door was an increasingly interesting, though not very widely hyped, outfield prospect named Dom Thmpson-Williams.
On the Mariners side, picking up those new pieces helps set the organization up for what it hopes will be a fairly brief reloading period. Sheffield has long been graded a top prospect, though many have come to doubt his upside (and his ability to stick in the rotation at all). Clearly, the M’s like his ability and think he can make good on his promise. While Swanson is not nearly as well-known, he seems to have a legitimate shot at turning into a productive MLB piece in Seattle.
Prioritizing near-term talent may have been a reflection, at least in part, of the sorts of offers that Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto received. But it likely represents a part of his stated strategy to target the opening of a new contention period in 2020 or 2021. There’s no reason to doubt that both of the hurlers will reach the majors at some point in the coming years, so they’ll each have a shot at carving out a role in what the front office hopes will be a cost-effective and capable pitching staff.
So, how do you grade this deal for both clubs?
In New York … (link for app users):
And on the Seattle side … (link for app users):