So far in free agency, the Red Sox have been small-time players. Connections to big tickets haven’t gone beyond #interest, while the only players they’ve signed have been for shorter money. Add another to the list: the Red Sox on Tuesday night agreed to a deal with veteran lefty James Paxton, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Chad Dey.
Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported the details of Paxton’s contract, which is for one year and $10 million. However, it also includes a two-year club option for 2023-24, which could make the deal worth as much as $35 million.
The Red Sox have good reason to structure the deal this way. The 33-year-old Paxton pitched only 1 1/3 innings for the Seattle Mariners in 2021, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. So he won’t even be available until sometime in the second half of the 2022 season, at the absolute earliest. The oft-injured Paxton has pitched just 172 1/3 innings combined since 2019, and has never pitched more than 160 1/3 innings in a season (2018).
Paxton has nonetheless proven in his career to have the upside of an effective lefty when healthy. From 2013-19, Paxton had a 3.50 ERA with a 3.28 FIP, struck out 803 batters in 733 innings, and posted a 56-32 record between the Mariners and Yankees. Unfortunately, his ERA skyrocketed to 6.65 from 2020-21 (albeit in just 21 2/3 innings). But Paxton hasn’t necessarily lost zip on his fastball, either; according to Fangraphs, he had an average velocity of 94.9 mph on four-seam fastballs in 2021. If the Red Sox eventually pick up Paxton’s two-year option, that means he proved valuable down the stretch for a 2022 team expecting to contend in the American League.
The lefty joins Michael Wacha as the two free-agent pitchers to sign with the Red Sox in the offseason. Both signings are low-risk financially. But if Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom is going to rely on Paxton and/or Wacha to deliver as a top guy in the rotation, there’s considerable risk associated with that.
It’s still early in the 2021 offseason, with plenty of big names still available in free agency. But baseball is on the verge of a lockout, with the deadline for a new CBA passing at midnight Thursday night, and the Red Sox don’t appear to be in a hurry to add a big-money contract before that happens.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at email@example.com.