Some team should give Shelley Duncan a chance

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Shelley Duncan would probably have several seasons in the big leagues under his belt had just about any other team drafted him in the second round back in 2001, but instead he’s wasted away in the Yankees’ minor-league system.
Duncan has accumulated 3,812 plate appearances spread over 905 games and nine seasons in the minors, including over 1,000 trips to the plate at both Double-A and Triple-A.
During that time in the minors he’s blasted 170 homers while making multiple All-Star teams, and this season he was named MVP of the International League after hitting .277/.370/.546 with 30 homers and 99 RBIs in 123 games.
Yet not only did Duncan turn 30 years old with a grand total of 68 games in the majors to show for it, the Yankees dropped him from their 40-man roster last week. Duncan has smartly decided that he’ll likely never get an extended shot in New York, so he’s opted for free agency rather than returning on a minor-league deal. It remains to be seen if any other teams view him as a big-league player, because his prime was wasted at Triple-A and he hardly has star potential at this point.
With that said, Duncan deserves a chance to stick in the majors and is perfectly capable of knocking around left-handed pitching as a productive platoon first baseman, corner outfielder, or designated hitter. At the very least he’d make for a nice bench bat after hitting .271/.368/.533 in four seasons at Triple-A. Baseball Think Factory projects him as a .252/.328/.460 hitter in the majors for 2010, which is a higher OPS than seven teams got from their first basemen and 18 teams got from their left fielders this season.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.