The Dodgers’ quest for starting pitching has been the through line of their offseason, and the latest to join the group could be veteran left-hander James Paxton, who is “close” to a one-year deal with Los Angeles, per multiple reports.
Again, nothing done yet, but: Dodgers and Paxton are discussing a one-year deal in the $12 million range, per source— Jack Harris (@ByJackHarris) January 23, 2024
The deal was first reported by Chad Dey.
The left-hander’s 2023 season was bookended by a pair of injuries, missing six weeks at the start of the year with a right hamstring strain, then missed the final three weeks with right knee inflammation.
Paxton’s peak came with the Mariners and Yankees from 2016-19, with a 3.60 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 101 starts, with 667 strikeouts in 568 innings. During those four seasons, Paxton ranked 10th in the majors in strikeout-minus-walk rate (21.7 percent), eighth in FIP (3.16), and 12th in fWAR (15.1).
But in the four years since, Paxton has been limited to just 25 starts with a 4.90 ERA and 4.60 FIP. In addition to the Tommy John surgery and last year’s two IL stints, Paxton also landed on the 60-day injured list with a left flexor strain. In his 11 years in the majors, Paxton has never pitched enough innings to qualify for rate leaderboards.
Paxton in 2023 averaged 95.2 mph on his four-seam fastball, just a shade below his velocity from the three seasons before surgery, mixing in a curveball and cutter as his two most-used non-fastballs.
Paxton had a 26.3-percent strikeout rate and 3.34 ERA in his first 16 starts last year before the knee injury, and told Alex Speier of The Boston Globe in September he was pleased with his season after nearly two years of rehab:
“It was great to get back out there,” he said. “I felt like I was able to show what I was capable of doing again, which was great. Just getting back out there, competing with the guys, getting back out on the baseball field, I’m just grateful to be back at it.
“The whole time, this is what I was thinking about — getting back out there and doing my thing. This is what I love to do. That was the drive, was to get back on the mound and be out there with the ball. That’s what I feel like I was able to do for the most part this year.”
The 35-year-old fits into the one-year rubric the Dodgers have used the last few years on starting pitchers Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, and Noah Syndergaard, with a success rate Jim Steinman and Meatloaf would appreciate.
After their worst starting pitching season of the last decade, finishing 20th in MLB in ERA (4.57), 23rd in FIP (4.63), and 21st in fWAR (9.1), culminating in the three starters combining to allow 13 runs while recording only 14 outs while getting swept in the Division Series, the Dodgers went to work this offseason.
They traded for Tyler Glasnow and signed him through 2027, then signed 25-year-old free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the longest and richest pitcher contract in league history. That’s in addition to signing Shohei Ohtani, a unicorn who won’t pitch in 2024 but is expected to take the mound in future seasons.
Adding Paxton also gives the Dodgers a much-needed left-hander, as he’ll be just the fourth southpaw on the 40-man roster, along with relievers Caleb Ferguson and Alex Vesia, and swingman Ryan Yarbrough.
I do still think the Dodgers should add another reliever, though once the Paxton deal becomes official such a subsequent addition would require a corresponding move to make roster room.