MLB free agency: James Paxton returns to Mariners on one-year, $8.5 million deal, per report

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The Seattle Mariners have agreed to terms with free agent starting pitcher James Paxton on a one-year, $8.5 million deal, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The deal could reach $10 million with $1.5 million worth of incentives, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

CBS Sports ranked Paxton as the 18th-best free agent this winter. Here’s what we wrote about the southpaw:

There’s an alternate reality out there where Paxton is in a better place after staying healthy and having his normal season. (Heck, we’d all be in a better place under those conditions.) Unfortunately, this aspect of his existence saw him lose three miles off his fastball and pitch just 20 innings before being shut down because of a flexor strain. There’s no telling where the injury leaves him heading forward, meaning the range of potential outcomes here stretches from someone who is an above-average starter to someone who has a Tommy John surgery scar.

Paxton, 32, spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees. Paxton struggled in 2020 before going down with a forearm injury. This past December, the lefty threw for 20 MLB teams in a showcase where he reached 94 mph, so he appears to be fully recovered. Paxton had a 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 186:55 K:BB over 150 2/3 innings over 29 starts for the Yankees in 2019.

He pitched to a 6.64 ERA (65 ERA+), 1.48 WHIP with 26 strikeouts against seven walks in 20 1/3 innings in five starts in the regular season. Now, he’ll make his way back to the Mariners after the club traded him to the Yankees following the 2018 season. Paxton will join a Mariners rotation that includes Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi and Justin Dunn as he hopes for a rebound campaign in 2021.

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