Yankees News/Rumors: Don’t rule out a James Paxton return to the Bronx

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, James Paxton
Oct 18, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Houston Astros during the first inning of game five of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are preoccupied this free agency with DJ LeMahieu’s contract negotiations, but that doesn’t mean they are completely ignoring starting pitching. They have to replace James Paxton, JA Happ, and Masahiro Tanaka, who together opened up $52 million in available cap.

However, general manager Brian Cashman has committed to a long-term approach this off-season. He wants to wait until the latter months of free agency to address positions of need, allowing the more expensive players to shake out and more cost-efficient options to bubble to the surface. Ultimately, acting too early could result in overspending, something the Yankees are trying to refrain from after a tumultuous COVID-19 riddled season.

With Cashman looking to save money, don’t expect the Yankees to make any splash moves and bring in a player like Trevor Bauer unless LeMahieu walks for a better deal. One player to keep your eye on is a familiar face in James Paxton, who is preparing to make a comeback following a flexor strain he suffered in 2020.

Super-agent Scott Boras told MLB.com this past week regarding Paxton’s return from injury:

“He’s far into bullpen [sessions] and is throwing bullpens for select teams,” Boras said. “Obviously, he was not completely rehabilitated when he made an attempt to help his club and come back. Now, he’s certainly got his back strength back to 100% and he’s back throwing off the mound and doing well.”

Paxton only made five appearances in 2020, pitching a total of 20.1 innings. He finished with a 6.64 ERA and a career-low 32.1% ground ball rate. Honestly, it is not even fair to consider the 2020 numbers in a grander sample size. Looking at his 2019 season is more justifiable for a future contract. He finished with a 3.82 ERA with 11.11 strikeouts per nine and 15 wins.

The New York Yankees might take the cheaper route:

When healthy, Paxton is a phenomenal lefty pitcher who can offer significant value to any team. The Yankees don’t have many lefty arms, so his talents are extremely valuable, especially when he is playing at the top of his game. Paxton signed a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Yankees last season, but an injury ended his campaign prematurely and severely limited the Bombers in the starting rotation, forcing them to rely on younger arms.
If Paxton is, in fact, 100% healthy, the Yankees could probably land him on a cost-efficient deal, and they know exactly what he brings to the team when he’s healthy. This would be a move I would welcome.