The New York Yankees are preoccupied this free agency with DJ LeMahieuâ€™s contract negotiations, but that doesnâ€™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, donâ€™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:
â€œHeâ€™s far into bullpen [sessions] and is throwing bullpens for select teams,â€ Boras said. â€œObviously, he was not completely rehabilitated when he made an attempt to help his club and come back. Now, heâ€™s certainly got his back strength back to 100% and heâ€™s back throwing off the mound and doing well.â€
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.