M’s Japanese owner won’t watch team play live in Japan

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There are a number of team owners across the pro sports landscape who would rather not be in the spotlight. Which is fine, and maybe even healthy.

But this feels like a different kind of thing.

According to Art Thiel of the Everett Herald, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, an early innovator at Nintendo and a native of Japan, has never seen his team play live and is not going to make the two-hour trek from his home later this week to see them open the MLB regular season against the A’s in Tokyo.

The reason given? None. There is no reason.

“Quite frankly, a man of his age and stature doesn’t have to explain why he’s not here,” said M’s CEO Howard Lincoln. “He’ll be watching on TV. Given all the years he’s been involved with the Mariners, he’s really looking forward to see the team play. He’s very excited.”

Yamauchi is 84 years old, so health may be a factor. But he has owned the team since 1992 and, as Theil writes, “the Japanese are big on symbolism.” We’re guessing postseason-starved Seattleites are too.

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.