Reuben Gasee of Jays Journal will be doing an article series of mid-tier free agents the Blue Jays should pursue. This article will take a look at James Paxton.
If all pans out, the Toronto Blue Jays could actually have quite a solid rotation. Hyun Jin Ryu is the ace of the team who just finished third in American League Cy Young voting. Nate Pearson is expected to be an ace caliber pitcher although he does need a bit more developing and experience facing major league hitters.
That would leave Tanner Roark, who struggled mightily in 2020, as the fifth starter in the rotation in which the Blue Jays would hope he would put up better numbers in 2021.
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Other than Ryu, the other four come with too many question marks which makes it a need for the Blue Jays to add starting pitching.
I wrote a piece on the Blue Jays adding former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber but they could go in a different direction and bring home James Paxton.
Paxton, a Canadian who hails from Ladner, British Columbia, is quite a good pitcher himself when healthy and can even pitch at a level that ace caliber starters do. The 2020 season is not necessarily one that portrays the value of how Paxton is as a pitcher as he was only able to make six starts posting a 6.64 ERA with an opponent average of .284.
He dealt with a forearm strain during the season which limited him to the amount of starts he was able to make. Also, prior to start of the delayed baseball season, he underwent surgery to remove a cyst in his back which required recovery time of 3-4 months. This could have perhaps played a factor in his dismal 2020 campaign that he would like to put behind him.
Despite Paxton having a bit of an injury history, prior to 2020, he never posted an ERA above 4.00 and went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 2019 striking out 186 in 150.2 innings.
In 136 career starts, Paxton holds a 3.58 ERA with 829 strikeouts compared to 684 hits given up in 753.1 innings pitched. Those are the kind of numbers that teams look for at the top of their rotation.
While there haven’t been many rumors in regards to Paxton as a free agent, he did recently throw for about 20 teams where his fastball reached 94 MPH.
As Paxton is looking to showcase himself and rebound from a forgettable 2020, he could be brought in on a one year deal with incentives for games started with a club option for 2022.
One thing that works in the Jays favour is that the Canadian born Paxton who’s nicknamed the “Big Maple” and has a maple leaf tattoo on his forearm, may not need much convincing to pitch for Canada’s only franchise as he was born and raised in this country.