Paxton Trade Reveals Mariners Direction

Big offseason news came our way yesterday afternoon, as the Mariners revealed their winter plan by trading star pitcher James Paxton to the New York Yankees for three minor league prospects.

Paxton had two years of club control left, and the Yankees will get him at his age 30 and 31 seasons.

The former Rainiers lefty has been very good when healthy over the last five years, going 41-26 with a 3.42 ERA in 102 career starts for the Mariners. His no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays this year was a career highlight. He’s also coming off his healthiest major league season: he made a career-high 28 starts in 2018.

The Mariners traded Paxton at peak value and added three players to the minor league system – two of whom are pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues.

Left-handed starter Justus Sheffield is considered the top prospect in the deal. The 22-year-old went 6-4 with a 2.46 ERA for Triple-A Scranton last year, striking out 84 batters in 88 innings pitched with 36 walks. He made his major league debut in September, appearing in three games as a reliever for the Yankees. He should open the 2019 season with either Tacoma or Seattle, pending how spring training goes.

Right-hander Erik Swanson also pitched at the Triple-A level last season, posting a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts for Scranton. His stat line is unusual in the pitcher-friendly league: the ERA is kind of high for the International League, and he allowed ten homers in just 72 innings… but he struck out 78 and walked only 14 batters. He’ll pitch the 2019 season at age 25, likely in the Tacoma starting rotation to open the year.

Outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams enjoyed a breakout season as a 23-year-old in the Advanced-A Florida State League during the 2018 campaign. He hit a career-high 17 home runs in just 90 games in the pitcher-friendly circuit, while batting .290 with a .356 on-base percentage. A left-handed hitter, he’ll probably start the coming season at Double-A Arkansas and hopefully we’ll see him here in Tacoma later on.

In interviews following the trade, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said that the club is taking a “step back” in 2019 with the hopes of improving the roster for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He is making it sound like a brief restructuring of the team, and not a total tear-it-down rebuild. We’ll see if he continues to operate this way over the course of the winter – if he moves Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz, we have a total rebuild.

The Arizona Fall League ended this weekend, with the Mariners-fortified Peoria Javelinas winning the league championship. Former (and future?) Tacoma Rainiers manager Daren Brown piloted the club to the title.

Rainiers outfielder Ian Miller hit .246 with two homers in 57 at-bats for Peoria. Encouragingly, he drew 11 walks and posted a .368 on-base percentage. He didn’t run much, going 1-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

Today is the deadline to add eligible minor league players to the major league 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft. At publish time, Seattle has added outfielder Braden Bishop and newly acquired pitcher Erik Swanson to the 40-man.

The team still has five open spots on its 40-man roster. Dipoto will probably be going on a waiver-claim frenzy to fill it up. We have seen this before – it usually results in a handful new Triple-A relief pitchers joining the organization.


  • Stories on the James Paxton trade: the Seattle Times news story by Ryan Divish, a column from Matt Calkins saying a trade had to be made, a “what the national media is saying” round-up, and Baseball America’s look at the prospects acquired by the Mariners.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN writes that the Mariners should trade everybody for prospects (subscription).
  • Here’s the story on the Arizona Fall League Championship Game, in which Atlanta Braves prospect Braxton Davidson hit a game-winning home run for Peoria and was injured in the celebration.
  • The Mariners signed right-handed reliever Ruben Alaniz to a major league contract, despite having never played in the majors previously. Alaniz pitched for Triple-A Durham last year.  He reportedly throws quite hard. He’ll go to major league spring training and has three option years remaining, so we may see quite a bit of him in Tacoma.
  • We have reports that the Mariners have signed veteran PCL infielder Orlando Calixte to a minor league contract. Calixte has spent the last two seasons with Sacramento, and played two years for Omaha prior to that. He’ll turn 27-years-old this winter. Calixte hit .270 with 11 homers for the River Cats in 2018.
  • In the big leagues, the M’s announced that Perry Hill is the new first base coach, and Chris Prieto will be the third base coach.
  • Former Mariners third baseman and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre announced his retirement.
  • In the PCL, the Nashville Sounds changed their look to coincide with their new affiliation with the Texas Rangers. See some of the uniforms here.



4 Responses to Paxton Trade Reveals Mariners Direction

  1. Biotic says:

    Pretty sure he no hit the BlueJays

  2. Jack says:

    One top 100 prospect and two older prospects are all we get for a #1 pitcher who is cost-controlled for two years and can be issued a qualifying offer upon free agency? Disappointed.

  3. Jeff Polite says:

    Nashville uniforms; Home whites, thumbs down! I’m old school; I prefer the team nickname on the front, like they have on their red ones. NASH? Come on! I hope they never change the Rainiers home whites to say, “TAC”; keep them as is. The Sounds road grey and blue are OK, though.

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