Yankees pull of blockbuster trade, acquire lefty James Paxton from Mariners for Justus Sheffield and two prospects


The Yankees have acquired left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton from the Mariners, the team announced on Monday. Top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, outfielder Don Thompson-Williams and right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson were shipped back to the Mariners in the deal

Paxton, 30, is a very talented pitcher with a history of injury issues. Since 2014, Paxton has made 13, 13, 20, 24 and 28 starts, respectively, per season. Last season was close to his first full-time campaign, at least. He pitched to a 3.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 208 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings. He also had two complete games and a shutout, which was a no-hitter. 

I don’t think we can call Paxton an ace, but the Yankees have one in Luis Severino. Paxton in Yankee Stadium as a lefty is a good fit here. Paxton joins with Masahiro Tanaka to give the Yankees a nice 2-3 in the rotation before CC Sabathia as the four. They probably aren’t done making moves for the rotation, otherwise Sonny Gray is the fifth starter and that’s a marriage that needs to end for everyone involved. 

As for the return, Sheffield was ranked in August as the 22nd best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. In 88 Triple-A innings last season, Sheffield had a 2.56 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 84 strikeouts in 88 innings. He got a cup of coffee in the majors and didn’t fare well, but he was 22 years old and it’s a 2 2/3 inning sample. If there’s a concern here, it’s with walks. Sheffield walked 50 in 116 innings across all stops last season. 

Thompson-Williams, 23, hit .299/.363/.546 with 17 doubles, 22 homers and 74 RBI in 100 games between two Class-A stops. 

Swanson, 25, had a 3.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 78 strikeouts in 72 1/3 Triple-A innings last season. MLB.com ranked Swanson as the 22nd best prospect in the Yankees’ system prior to this trade. 

This looks like a trade that could benefit both sides. The Yankees are obviously in win-now mode and would like to run down the Red Sox. Paxton has big upside, fits the ballpark and fills a current need. He’s under team control for two more seasons. The Mariners are likely to start rebuilding and Paxton was one of the pieces that made the most sense in a deal. It looks like a nice return if Sheffield is what many expect him to be, too. 

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