The Dodgers, having already doled out $461.5 million in new additions to their rotation this winter (and more once Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound), appear to be progressing on adding another starter.
The club is nearing a deal to sign left-hander James Paxton to bolster their staff, league sources confirmed. While no deal was formally agreed upon yet, the source indicated that a deal is close. The potential agreement is expected to be for one year and around $12 million, with the chance to earn more in performance bonuses for games started, the source said.
The deal would push the Dodgers’ total commitments this winter further into the stratosphere at around $1.222 billion between free agency and trades.
Los Angeles, undone by a depleted rotation last October, has acted aggressively to rectify those concerns thus far this winter. Shortly after finalizing an agreement with Ohtani (who is expected to be able to pitch again in 2025), it traded for Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow and inked him to a five-year, $136.5 million contract extension. By month’s end, they’d inked Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history (12 years, $325 million) before he’d even thrown so much as a pitch in the majors. Each deal represented an emphasis on elite potential in October while raising some reasonable questions about enduring the regular season before it — Glasnow has had an injury history and a career-high of just 120 innings pitched, while one of several adjustments for Yamamoto this season will be seeing how (if at all) he must alter his workload after pitching out of a six-man rotation with the Orix Buffaloes.
Paxton, likewise, brings tantalizing upside along with serious questions about how many innings the Dodgers will be able to get out of him to navigate through a season. The 35-year-old left-hander was an ascendant star with Seattle before landing in New York in a blockbuster deal with the Yankees, where he made a career-best 29 starts in 2019. He barely pitched in the years after, totaling just six starts and requiring Tommy John surgery before enjoying a bounce-back campaign with Boston last summer. In 19 starts with the Red Sox last season, Paxton was essentially average by ERA+ (101), fading after posting a 2.73 ERA through the trade deadline and drawing trade interest from the Dodgers.
When right, his stuff is still effective. On a one-year commitment, it reflects the types of moves the Dodgers have favored in previous winters to address their rotation, with smashing successes with the likes of Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney and some whiffs like their brief, disastrous experiment with Noah Syndergaard last summer. It’s a strategy that emphasizes the Dodgers’ spending might to take on fliers with little risk, as well as a pitching development pipeline that is well-regarded around the industry.
“I think for the most part players are pretty dialed into teams and storylines of guys that have gone places and improved,” Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said this month. “We’re fortunate enough that I think most of the time we don’t have to harp on that all that much.”
Paxton provides a familiar risk with a compelling potential reward for a rotation that already will have several pieces pitching partial seasons. While the Dodgers haven’t formally committed to a six-man rotation, they already have a track record of seeking out extra rest whenever possible for their starters and have incentive to make Yamamoto’s transition more seamless. Glasnow vouched for a clean bill of health, but was acquired more for what he could provide in a postseason setting than being a workhorse. Walker Buehler is expected to have a delayed start to the season after his second Tommy John surgery and Dustin May has only just started a throwing progression after undergoing elbow surgery last July. And though the Dodgers have publicly kept the door open for Clayton Kershaw to return should he so choose, the future Hall of Famer won’t be able to pitch until at least August after shoulder surgery.
While the Dodgers certainly have internal options to help them disperse starts, Paxton at least adds another name to the mix.
(Photo: Quinn Harris / Getty Images)