It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals are going to be exploring options for a left-handed starter this offseason and James Paxton fits the bill.
One of the main reason the Washington Nationals were huge underachievers in 2018 was the starting rotation’s struggles. Now, they could look to Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton as a huge boost to the rotation.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported on Tuesday that the Mariners are looking at a full teardown this offseason. That could mean that just about anyone is for sale, including their stud left-handed starter.
Paxton is coming off yet another strong season for the Mariners, where he finished with an 11-6 record and a 3.76 ERA. There was also just the small matter of the no-hitter he threw against the Toronto Blue Jays back on May 8th, a huge moment for any pitcher.
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However, for Paxton, the issue throughout his career has always been staying healthy, as his 28 starts in 2018 were the most he’s made in a season. Even then, he still missed about two weeks in July due to lower back inflammation and then another couple of weeks in August because of a left forearm contusion.
But when he’s been healthy, he’s been able to be the Mariners’ ace in the decline of Felix Hernandez. According to FanGraphs, since the start of 2014, Paxton is 25th in the majors and 10th among left-handers in pitching WAR with 13.6, so if the Nationals are determined to add a left-hander, it would be hard to do worse than Paxton.
In MLB Trade Rumors’ recent arbitration projections, they predicted the left-hander would net $9 million this offseason. He is also eligible for one more year of arbitration after this year, so the Nats would be getting him for two seasons.
Given the relative affordability of Paxton Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times suggested that the price tag for him could be fairly sizeable:
"“The Mariners would hope to gain at least one high-level, big-league-ready prospect in a package of players for Paxton. Some MLB insiders believe the Mariners might try to package Paxton and someone such as Seager or Gordon to a contender to get some additional salary relief.”"
That sort of price tag would imply that Carter Kieboom could potentially be needed to get Paxton, assuming Victor Robles is off the table. At first, that may seem a steep cost, but considering how much Chris Archer cost the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline, all be it on a cheaper deal, it would be perfectly fair to ask for the prized infielder.
Given how highly Kieboom is now rated around the league, the Nationals may only need to send perhaps a mid-level prospect such as Daniel Johnson and then a lower-level prospect across to get it done. Johnson was the organization’s minor league player of the year for the 2017 season and is getting close to being big league ready, but has no open spot in the outfield to take.
However, with this deal, the Nats could still have a long-term hole at second base, as Wilmer Difo doesn’t profile to be a starter. So as Divish mentions, the Nats could also take on Dee Gordon in this deal, who has a $10 million annual average on his contract through 2020 and a vesting option for 2021. Adding Gordon would keep the keystone locked down for a few more years until Luis Garcia becomes ready to take over there.
Getting a highly-rated starting pitcher is high up on the Washington Nationals priority list this winter. If they can figure out a fair price, then James Paxton would be an ideal addition to the team.