James Paxton
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Report: Astros, Yankees interested in James Paxton

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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.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.