The Mariners made their biggest move yet of the supposed reimagining of their roster, sending ace James Paxton to the Yankees for a package of three prospects. Was Justus Sheffield enough of a centerpiece? That and more of the national media's reaction.
The Mariners didn’t cloak James Paxton’s availability in much secrecy, and now he’s gone. In the first blockbuster of the baseball offseason, Seattle sent Paxton to the Yankees for a package of three prospects: 22-year-old left-hander Justus Sheffield, 25-year-old right-hander Erik Swanson and 23-year-old outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.
As far as what the rest of the media are saying …
David Schoenfield of ESPN gives the Mariners a ‘B’ and the Yankees a ‘B+’ ($)
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“Trader Jerry Dipoto is trying to add some younger and cheaper talent without completely tearing down the roster. Sheffield gives Seattle a major-league-ready arm, and Swanson has also reached Triple-A, giving the team two candidates for the 2019 rotation. … Seven years of Sheffield for two years of Paxton has the chance to be a big payoff — if Sheffield pans out. I thought the Mariners would get a second prospect better than Swanson, but the numbers suggest that he could surprise. Still, it’s a little bit of spinning wheels in the mud for a team that has been stuck there for years.”
Keith Law of ESPN is bullish of Justus Sheffield and says Paxton’s injury risk is real, but it’s a real risk worth taking for the Yankees, who acquired a starter who is reaching his peak. ($)
“It isn’t unrealistic to think the Yankees can add five wins if they can get Paxton to make 30 starts next year. … The Mariners did all right here, getting two pitching prospects of merit back in the deal, both of them ready for some sort of major league role in 2019. I’m a Justus Sheffield fan and am definitely higher on him than the industry as a whole. But no matter what you think of him, he is clearly the Mariners’ best prospect now — probably their only top-100 prospect as of today. I’ve seen Sheffield up to 97 with a plus slider and above-average changeup, generally around the plate but with below-average command. He’s a superb athlete and by all accounts a smart, coachable kid, the type of player who, in my opinion, is likely to make substantial improvements. If he gets to even average command, he’s a mid-rotation starter trending to more. The lack of present command led two scouts to call him a “five-and-dive” guy — meaning he’s good for five innings and that’s it. But we tend to ask starters to go only six in most cases anyway. He has the three pitches to start, a good delivery and enough control for it. So while any pitcher can end up in the bullpen, I don’t see a good reason to forecast Sheffield there.”
Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan (of Lookout Landing fame), compares the Yankees’ acquisition of Paxton to that of the Astros and Gerrit Cole last offseason: they just traded for a second ace.
“For a variety of reasons, Paxton has flown somewhat under the radar, but he’s a No. 1 starter, added to a team with a No. 1 starter. … There are a lot of similarities between Paxton now and Gerrit Cole a year ago. The Yankees were interested in trading for Cole. They’ve wound up getting Paxton instead. … The Mariners are certainly worse than they were yesterday, but the hope is that the team can get younger without too deep of a reset. I don’t think the Mariners are looking for a five-year project. I think they’re looking for more of a three-year project. … All things considered, I’m not sure the Mariners got as much for James Paxton as the Pirates got for Gerrit Cole. Sheffield is a polarizing prospect, and perhaps the market viewed Paxton’s health with something of a skeptical eye. But maybe the Mariners got more potential upside than the Pirates did.”
Craig Goldstein, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, answered some of CBS Sports‘ questions about the trade.
“Maybe [Sheffield] ends up as a (Andrew) Miller/ (Josh) Hader-esque multi-inning reliever, and that’s not a bad result! But is it worth two years of a bonafide, if oft-missing ace? … My previous comp for Seattle’s system was Janet from The Good Place’s void. Sheffield is the best prospect in the system now, and it’s not particularly close. Swanson is in the top ten, and probably comfortably so. Thompson-Williams might have a case for back end of the top ten, but that says more about the state of the Mariners system than it does about Thompson-Williams. He shouldn’t really be close to one of these lists in any normal organization.”
Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com says the Paxton trade only signals the start of the Mariners’ rebuild.
“A frontline arm, in-his-prime pitcher with two years of team control left was traded for three prospects. The logical thought process here is a rebuild. … The franchise with the longest playoff drought in baseball has been stuck in the mud for far too long to not do something drastic.”