While he’s a step down from fellow Mariners prospects Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen, James Paxton is regarded by many to be among the minors’ top 20 or so pitching prospects. He’s also the one of the trio working in the Arizona Fall League right now, and the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker noted several Royals scouts watching him recently.
Paxton, 23, went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA and a 110/54 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 innings for Double-A Jackson this year. He pitched well in his first two AFL starts before struggling his last two times out. Overall, he has a 6.75 ERA and a 14/6 K/BB ratio in 10 2/3 innings.
Baker speculates that the Mariners would view Paxton as expendable if the right big-league hitter came along. And the Royals are likely in the market for a hitting-for-pitching deal. Still, there’s no obvious fit here. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and top prospect Wil Myers are all clearly more valuable commodities than Paxton, and the Royals lack players from the next tier. They do have Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, but they’re not the kind of power hitters the Mariners are looking for.
Perhaps there would be some potential for a bigger deal. The Royals could use a second baseman, and the Mariners have three guys who could well be most valuable at second in Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin. They’re content to use Seager at third and they haven’t given up on Franklin at shortstop, but if they’re willing to pair someone from that group with Paxton, it would seem to bring the bigger Kansas City talents into play. Butler for Seager and Paxton could work out well for both teams.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.