The story made sense from multiple angles – the Canadian born pitcher would return to home soil to the team that had drafted him back in 2009 (although he did not sign), a place where he threw a no-hitter against the Blue Jays back on May 8th, 2018, becoming the first Canadian born pitcher to throw a no-no on soil North of the border. He is even called “Big Maple” for crying out loud.
A consistent pitcher since his debut in 2013, James Paxton owns a career 3.59 ERA through 137 starts with 831 strikeouts, 231 walks, and a 1.21 WHIP through 754.2 innings with both the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. While his 2020 season was impacted by a left flexor strain that limited him to five starts and a 6.64 ERA through 20.1 innings, Paxton was one of the premier southpaw starters on the market this past off-season and the Blue Jays were certainly interested. He would go on to sign a one-year deal worth $8.5 million with the Mariners, returning to the team that drafted him back in 2010.
Disaster struck the left-hander in his first start back with the Mariners, as Paxton would be removed in the second inning with what was initially dubbed a forearm strain. He would eventually undergo Tommy John surgery in late April and will be out for the rest of this season and most likely next.
With the Blue Jays already experiencing their own issues with pitchers on long-term IL in Kirby Yates (TMJ surgery) and David Phelps (season-ending surgery), the club would have only added Paxton to the list given his injury outcome.
Paxton was interested in joining the team and the club was reportedly keen on him joining the Blue Jays as well but the front office ultimately never offered the pitcher a contract, confirmed by the the pitcher himself, leading him to sign elsewhere.