Teams had something of a natural deadline to make moves this winter with the lockout that is expected to start at the end of the day today, on Wednesday, leading to a frenzy of moves around the league. The Boston Red Sox hadn’t done too much during that frenzy, just signing veteran Michael Wacha to a one-year deal worth $7 million. Early Wednesday morning while most of us (myself included) were asleep, they made another move. The team has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with left-handed pitcher James Paxton. The contract is worth a reported $10 million and includes a club option that covers both 2023 and 2024. If the options are picked up, the total value of the contract rises to $35 million.
This is an interesting signing for a pitcher who has been a top-of-the-rotation arm before, but has also dealt with plenty of injury issues over his career. This includes 2021, where the southpaw had headed back to Seattle on a one-year deal but pitched only 1 1⁄3 innings. Paxton has never made 30 starts in a season. Most recently, he was forced out of his only start in 2021 with a forearm injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in late April of this past year. Given that, he is certainly not going to be ready to help the Red Sox to start the season, and likely won’t be fully ready until about the halfway point of the season.
At his best, as mentioned above, the lefty has been a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm. Paxton’s fastball velocity jumped up into the mid-90s as he approached his late-20s, and that helped him take his game to another level. His best season was back in 2017 when he pitched to a 2.98 ERA with a 2.61 FIP. He was traded from the Mariners to the Yankees prior to the 2019 season and he spent two seasons in New York. The last few years has seen his command go in the wrong direction with both walks and homers, so when he does get healthy that will be the biggest area to watch from him.
The Red Sox rotation could probably still use some work on top of this, as Paxton, for as much upside as he may have given his previous work earlier in his career, will only be ready to pitch for about half of the season. As of right now Boston’s starters are Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Michael Wacha, and one of Tanner Houck or Garrett Whitlock.