The Red Sox are declining their two-year, $26MM team option on left-hander James Paxton, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Alex Speier of the Boston Globe). The southpaw will now have to decide whether to trigger a $4MM player option to return to Boston or if he wishes to test the open market.
This was a no-brainer for the Red Sox, as the 6’4″ hurler missed the entire 2022 season. Paxton blew out his elbow during his first start of the 2021 season with the Mariners, requiring Tommy John surgery. That cost him the rest of the year, but the Sox signed him to a complex $10MM guarantee last winter. The deal paid him $6MM for this past season and guaranteed him the option to lock in a $4MM salary for next year if Boston didn’t trigger a pair of $13MM club options covering the 2023-24 campaigns.
It was a high-risk, high-upside dice roll for the Red Sox that hasn’t panned out. Boston had hoped Paxton would be able to return late in the season and contribute to a possible playoff push, but he suffered a Grade 2 lat tear while rehabbing and didn’t wind up throwing a big league pitch. With all of 1 1/3 innings pitched over the past two seasons, there was no chance the Red Sox would commit an additional $26MM on a bounceback.
Paxton’s now left with an interesting decision. He may be hard-pressed to find a $4MM base salary on the open market after two essentially lost seasons, but it’s possible he declines the option in search of an incentive-laden deal. Even if the 34-year-old doesn’t find an offer that quite matches the $4MM guarantee he’d be foregoing, he could seek out a deal that contains additional bonuses based on his number of innings pitched or starts in 2023 if he’s confident he’ll be healthy by Spring Training.