Many teams are desperately searching for value as the price for pitching skyrockets this winter. One avenue front offices have gone down is the high-upside, mid-30s veteran with an injury history. James Paxton is the latest pitcher with that profile to join a new team. According to Jon Heyman and Marc Feinsand, Paxton will sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year, $12 million deal.
Dodgers, who have spent $1B plus this winter, are making progress on Paxton
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 23, 2024
Paxton/Dodgers deal would be for one year and roughly $12 million, per source.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 23, 2024
Tommy John surgery limited Paxton, 35, to just 1.1 innings in 2021 and wiped out his 2022 season. Injuries have been a concern throughout his career, but Paxton bounced back nicely in 2023. In his first season pitching for the Red Sox, “The Big Maple” struck out 101 batters in 96 innings with a roughly league-average walk rate.
While his 4.50 ERA and 101 ERA+ look mediocre, Paxton started his season strong and faded at the end. That’s understandable for a pitcher who went two calendar years between MLB outings.
James Paxton Signs With The Dodgers
In his first 16 starts (86.1 innings), Paxton produced a 3.34 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 23 walks. In his final three starts, he threw 9.2 innings with a 14.90 ERA, eight strikeouts, and ten walks.
Additionally, Paxton was among the hardest throwers last season despite being a mid-30s arm with a lengthy injury history. With an average fastball velocity of 95.2 mph, he would have ranked in the top 29 percent of the league if he qualified.
— MLB (@MLB) May 13, 2023
He averaged under 94 mph in his final two starts, possibly due to understandable fatigue. Thus, evaluators might feel Paxton produced a great season, but a fatigue-induced bad three starts sullied the overall results.
However, others might use underlying metrics to counter that argument. Paxton ranked in the middle of the pack (if he had enough innings to qualify) in various statistics that measure the quality of contact a pitcher gives up, how well the pitcher generates whiffs, and how well he gets batters to chase pitches out of the zone. If these rates are poor but the overall production is good, the pitcher might be getting lucky and regression is expected.
The Dodgers had to decide whether Paxton’s struggles were due to fatigue or natural regression. Paxton signs with Los Angeles as a low-risk, high-reward option that provides excellent value from this winter’s crazy pitching market.
Main Photo Credits: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports