Mauer's backup doubtful for Opening Day after wrist surgery

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While the Twins work on a long-term contract extension for Joe Mauer his presumed backup, Jose Morales, recently underwent surgery to “stabilize a tendon in his right wrist.”
Morales is hoping to resume baseball activities in mid-March, but even if he avoids a setback that doesn’t leave much time to be ready for Opening Day. In fact, Morales told MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier that being on the active roster for the start of the season is “a little optimistic.”
The injury dates back to the final few games of last season and perhaps explains why Morales finished 3-for-27 (.111) with 11 strikeouts after previously going 34-for-95 (.358) with just 14 strikeouts. Unfortunately rather than getting treatment immediately he opted to rest the wrist until deciding last month that surgery was needed.
Obviously having Mauer means the Twins’ backup catcher rarely plays, but they let veteran Mike Redmond depart via free agency because they were confident in Morales’ ability to take over the job. Drew Butera is third on the depth chart right now, but he’s a career .214 hitter in the minors and Ron Gardenhire has already made noise about using 22-year-old stud prospect Wilson Ramos as Mauer’s backup until Morales is ready.

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.