James Paxton, New York Yankee

Well, that didn’t take long.

Before we even get to our pumpkin pie we have a big Yankee transaction to discuss.  Big in both the figurative and literal sense – the dude’s nickname is “big maple”.

In case you were watching the Chiefs and Rams put up more points than the Jets and Giants have this entire season last night, here’s what you missed:

The Yankees acquired James Paxton from Seattle for Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams.

Let’s start with what the Yankees gave up:  Sheffield was the #1 ranked prospect in the Yankees organization according to MLB.com.  So we can debate what we think he’ll turn out to be, but it’s clear many people who do this for a living think he’s a big deal.

Swanson was ranked 22nd on the same list and Thompson-Williams was not on it.  However, Thompson-Williams did hit 22 HR in A ball last season.  As someone who’s watched a lot of A ball in person over the last 15 years or so I can tell you that 22 HR in A ball is no joke – that’s serious power.

What did the Yankees get?

They got one of the American League’s best pitchers in 2018, period.  Among 38 AL pitchers with a minimum of 140 innings pitched, Paxton was 3rd in xFIP (only behind Sale and Carrasco) and 4th in K%-BB%.  I’ve written about it here previously, so no need to re-hash, but pitchers (to me, anyway) can control strikeouts, walks, and keeping the ball in the park – pretty much every other batted ball result is random.  By those standards (xFIP, K%-BB%) Paxton was one of the best last season.

And we can all see the velocity (5th hardest thrower in the AL), the strikeouts and the no-hitter.  Dude is stud…

When he’s on the mound.  Here’s the problem, as I’m sure you’ve heard:

He just turned 30, he’s had one season with more than 136 IP and in the past 5 seasons he’s been on the disabled list six times.  He’s missed significant time due to a strained lat, a strained finger tendon, a bruised elbow, a strained forearm, a strained left pec, and low back inflammation.

Now those are manageable issues and mild inconveniences for most people.  If you throw a baseball for a living, those are not insignificant issues.

When asked, Paxton said the issues weren’t “reoccurring” and added, “I’ve learned how to make sure those things don’t happen again through exercise or whatever.”

“…whatever.”  Inhales deeply, exhales slowly.  That doesn’t really exude an understanding of the nuances that’ll make one better, long-term.  It’s rare that my “real job” and my hobby collide, so bear with me if I overheat.

6 disabled list trips in 5 seasons is the very definition of “reoccurring”, and for the record, I prefer “recurring”.  And as far as being “sure those things don’t happen again”, it was August – 6 weeks ago in baseball playing terms – that his back gave him problems.  Maybe “sure” has a different meaning than I realize, along with “reoccurring.”

And here’s a fun tidbit for you from the field of my “real job” that may help:  I learned from renowned physical therapist Gray Cook that the most accurate predictor of future injuries was (wait for it…) previous injuries.

Bottom line:  Are the Yankees better today than they were yesterday?  Yes, no question.

But to me, could you have received more in return for what you gave up?  Also, yes – no question.  The Yankees are underestimating the question marks that come with Paxton.

Fun random fact: Paxton was drafted by Toronto with the compensation pick they received from the Yankees for signing A.J. Burnett.

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