The New York Yankees were involved in the first major deal of the offseason, trading for Seattle Mariners left-handed pitcher James Paxton on Monday. Heading back to Seattle is top-rated Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield, another hard-throwing southpaw.
What does the deal mean from a fantasy perspective? ESPN Fantasy's Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft and AJ Mass weigh in.
Karabell: Paxton to the Yankees seems like a wise move for them and the rebuilding Mariners. Paxton's fantasy value is about the same, as he is moving to a more hitter-friendly park but gets better offensive support. Overcoming injury is another thing. He still hasn't pitched 165 innings in a season, so he is more of a volume risk than most in the top 20 hurlers. The headliner to Seattle is Sheffield and he should get a legit chance, but he's not Walker Buehler as rookies go and the Mariners are not the Dodgers. Look for the Mariners to move others this offseason, as well.
Cockcroft: I'll dial Paxton back a spot or two in my starting pitcher rankings -- surely behind Buehler -- after his trade to the Yankees due to the park factors, as he gives up a good number of fly balls, but this is hardly bad for his value. It just makes a sub-3 ERA a little tougher. Durability is really the one remaining obstacle to his being a top-10 fantasy SP. Sheffield is the winner of this trade for fantasy, not simply because Safeco Field will be an easier park in which to pitch, but because the deal itself cements the Mariners' rebuilding angle. His chances of a 20-plus-start MLB season surely improve.
Mass: Moving from Seattle to New York is pretty much a wash for Paxton in terms of fantasy value. I'd expect a few more hits and runs allowed, but also a few more potential wins given the strength of the lineup that will now be supporting him -- the Yankees scored 174 more runs last season than the Mariners. That said, his ERA through the first three innings of games last season was 4.60, so I'm not sure the added run support will allow him to last any deeper into outings than he's done in the past. New uniform, same pitcher.