Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Mariners left-hander James Paxton is drawing considerable trade interest around the league, with the Astros and Yankees among the most interested in making a deal. While it’s not yet clear whether the Mariners intend to pursue a full-blown rebuild this offseason, dealing away one of their most valuable players (especially one on a fairly team-friendly contract) certainly points them in that direction.
Paxton, 30, is coming off of his sixth season with Seattle. He followed a career-best run in 2017 with another strong performance in 2018, turning in an 11-6 record in 28 starts with a 3.76 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 11.7 SO/9 through 160 1/3 innings. The left-hander also decorated his season with his first career no-hitter, a 99-pitch affair against the Blue Jays in which he issued just three walks en route to a 5-0 win.
Although 2018 wasn’t without its share of bumps and scrapes — Paxton missed over six weeks when he sustained a flare-up of lower back inflammation, then bruised his forearm on a line drive, then contracted pneumonia — he’s still expected to command a hefty return in any potential trade this winter. Both the Yankees and Astros are well-positioned to offer such a return for the lefty, and it’s no secret that the AL contenders have been looking to bolster their own rotations in advance of the 2019 season, too. Multiple reports suggest that the Yankees are in on every viable starter from Patrick Corbin to Corey Kluber, Dallas Keuchel, and Carlos Carrasco, while the Astros will seek to replenish a rotation that weathered the loss of Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. to Tommy John surgery.
MLBPA player representative Max Scherzer sent out a short statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. On Tuesday, ownership proposed a “sliding scale” salary structure on top of the prorated pay cuts the players already agreed to back in March. The union rejected the proposal, with many worrying that it would drive a wedge in the union’s constituency.
Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive subcommittee along with Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Cory Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Collin McHugh.
After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.
Indeed, aside from the Braves, every other teams’ books are closed, so there has been no way to fact-check any of the owners’ claims. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, for example, recently said that 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenues come from “gameday operations” (ticket sales, concessions, etc.). But it went unsubstantiated because the Cubs’ books are closed. The league has only acknowledged some of the union’s many requests for documentation. Without supporting evidence, Ricketts’ claim, like countless others from team executives, can only be taken as an attempt to manipulate public sentiment.
Early Thursday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLBPA plans to offer a counter-proposal to MLB in which the union would suggest a season of more than 100 games and fully guaranteed prorated salaries. It seems like the two sides are quite far apart, so it may take longer than expected for them to reach an agreement.