Blue Jays pick up option on Josh Thole; decline on Justin Smoak, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan

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It’s all Blue Jays, all the time at HardballTalk today.

The Blue Jays announced this afternoon that they have exercised their $1.75 million club option on Josh Thole for 2015 while declining options on Justin Smoak ($3.65 million), Brandon Morrow ($10 million), and Dustin McGowan ($4 million).

Smoak is the most noteworthy one in this bunch, as he was just claimed off waivers from the Mariners earlier this week. While the Blue Jays declined his option, he is still under team control for one more season and will now go through the arbitration process. He’s expected to fill the role of Adam Lind, who was traded to the Brewers today.

Morrow will receive a $1 million buyout and become a free agent. The 30-year-old has great potential, but injuries have limited him to just 87 2/3 innings over the past two seasons. McGowan has had health issues of his own in recent years, but he managed to throw 82 innings this season between the rotation and the bullpen — his most innings since 2008 – while posting a 4.17 ERA and 61/33 K/BB ratio. However, the Blue Jays opted to cut ties with a $500,000 buyout.

Thole owns an ugly .213/.289/.261 batting line over two seasons with the Blue Jays, but he’ll stick around as R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher.

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.