The New York Yankees gave up prized prospect Justus Sheffield, plus other pieces to bring James Paxton to the Bronx for a couple of years, prior to the 2019 season. His first year in pinstripes was positive, despite the fact that he threw only 150.2 innings. He had a 3.82 ERA (3.86 FIP) and missed lots of bats, with an 11.11 K/9.
The 2020 shortened season will be his last with the New York Yankees, unless he can agree to terms to extend his stay. This year is his last of team control, as he is slated to test the free agent waters in the fall.
Should the New York Yankees bring him back? Of course, in a perfect world, in which money and roster spots are endless, it would be a great idea, as Paxton is a supremely talented lefty pitcher, and there aren’t many of those.
However, the Yankees do have a young, controllable and talented southpaw in the rotation that is virtually Paxton’s in-house replacement: Jordan Montgomery.
Again, it would be perfect if the Yankees brought Paxton back to join Montgomery in the rotation for several years to come. However, the team also has other pending free agents, most notably DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka, to deal with.
The numbers’ game says that, most likely, at least one of those won’t be back. It happened to Didi Gregorius last offseason.
The Yankees have a gem in Monty
Fortunately, Montgomery has what it takes to succeed in the majors should Paxton leave. Monty had a fantastic rookie season in 2017, with a 3.88 ERA in 155.1 frames, and a 2.6 fWAR mark. Then, he blew out his elbow in 2018 and lost most of the last two years.
However, almost a year went by since his last appearance, and his arm looks fresher than ever. He even admitted that from an arm strength point, this is the best he has felt in a long time. And it shows.
On Sunday, he dominated the Mets in an exhibition game (5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K). He is approaching the mid-90s, thanks to his talented arm and the work of Yankees’ pitching coach Matt Blake. His curve looks absolutely nasty, he is locating well, he is changing speeds. He is having fun in the mound.
Don’t be surprised if the New York Yankees get a better season from Montgomery this year. It would be sad to see Paxton go, as he is one of the American League’s top lefties, but the club has its internal replacement in Montgomery.