Mariners Deal James Paxton To New York For Justus Sheffield, Two Others
The Yankees went into the offseason with a clear need to address a deficiency in their starting rotation. The Mariners went into the offseason with the goal of reimagining their roster for 2019.
In one swoop on Monday, both teams took steps toward accomplishing their goal when the Mariners sent lefty starter James Paxton to New York in exchange for Yankees' No. 1 prospect Justus Sheffield and two more prospects whose arrows are pointing up.
James Paxton, LHP
Paxton has long been a pitcher with front-line stuff but durability issues. He has made seven different trips to disabled list during his big league career and has had at least one DL stint in each of the past five seasons. His 160 innings this season was a career high. But when he’s healthy, he can dominate. He no-hit the Blue Jays in 2018. The rest of his year was pretty good, too. He struck out a career-high 11.68 batters per nine innings while lowering his walk rate to 2.36. His home run per fly ball rate also spiked to a career-worst 14.4 percent. After allowing 29 homers in his first 422 career innings, he allowed 23 in 160.1 innings in 2018.
He worked primarily with a fastball that averaged just below 96 mph and coupled it with an upper-80s cutter, low-80s curveball and seldom-used changeup.
Core Mariners Prospects Travel In A Pack
The Mariners stationed most of their top prospects at Double-A Arkansas in 2019 so they could grow together as a group.
Justus Sheffield, LHP
Originally acquired in the trade that sent reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland, Sheffield ranked as the Yankees’ top prospect. The lefthander used a mix of three pitches that each ranked as above-average or better to blitz the upper levels of New York’s system en route to his big league debut toward the end of the season.
He starts his arsenal with a fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s, and couples the pitch with a slider and changeup that each grade as 55s on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He throws both of his offspeed pitches in the mid- to upper 80s, and he worked hard in 2018 to take a little off of each of them to add a little bit more separation. He dealt with a minor shoulder injury this year that cost him just one start.
If he can repeat his delivery a little bit better and add some finesse to his arsenal, he could fit in the middle of a rotation. Command and control issues are scouts biggest concerns with him—they led to struggles in his first big league action last September. There are scouts who believe he will fit better as an effective power reliever.
Erik Swanson, RHP
The Yankees acquired Swanson from the Rangers two summers ago in the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to Texas and watched him blossom over the last year. He did so on the strength of a low- to mid-90s fastball that plays up due to its high spin rate and carry through the zone. The pitch is particularly effective when thrown up in the strike zone. He pairs his fastball with a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup that each project as average with more refinement.
Swanson dominated at Double-A Trenton and was very good in Triple-A thanks to improved fastball command, though there’s still a little work to be done when it comes to getting the ball to his gloveside.
Swanson was slated to rank No. 11 on the Yankees Top 30 Prospects list in the upcoming Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Dom Thompson-Williams, OF
After two pedestrian seasons as a professional, Thompson-Williams was by far the biggest breakout hitter in the Yankees’ system. His 22 home runs led the system, his 74 RBIs were tied for the top spot, and he was one of just three players in the organization with more than 20 stolen bases.
The Yankees raved about his makeup and quick-twitch athleticism, which helped unlock his tools. He’s got above-average raw power which showed up with home runs to the pull side and center field in a standout season at high Class A Tampa. He also handled high-velocity arms very well. He’s an adequate defender with an average arm who could stick in center field but split his time among all three outfield spots. If he has to move to a corner, the power he showed this year would help him fit the profile.
Thompson-Williams was slated to rank in the low-20s on the Yankees Top 30 Prospect list before the trade.