After watching Paxton-Ryu and German-Kershaw last weekend, it’s hard to expect a better pitching matchup for a little while. However, in terms of pure intrigue, today’s Yankees-Mariners game may top it.
Why? Well, the teams will send a pair of southpaws to the mound in Justus Sheffield and James Paxton, who were traded for each other this offseason. Fans love to talk about ‘winning a trade,’ but they rarely get the opportunity to see a duo make an otherwise innocuous start in this kind of circumstance.
There are plenty of reasons for that. A team may not want to trade a top pitching prospect to get a Major League starter because they want to just develop their own prospect. Sometimes that prospect never makes the Show. Other cases, the timing doesn’t line up, or the MLB pitcher wasn’t dealt for a pitcher at all.
But timing, fate, whatever you want to call it, lined up perfectly and made this a start worth circling despite the lack of postseason implications. The game won’t decide the winner and loser of the trade, but it provides a snapshot of two pitchers both on a collision course and veering paths.
The Paxton-Sheffield trade made perfect sense in November. The Yankees got Paxton, a starter they could plug right into the rotation with potential ace upside. They couldn’t wait for Sheffield to blossom and might have wanted to capitalize on his prospect hype.
The Mariners got three prospects with eyes on the future. Sheffield still has the chance to be in the M’s rotation on their next good team — whenever that is — and Erik Swanson is already in the Majors. Dom Thompson-Williams is still a ways off in Double-A. For a Minor League system as barren as Seattle’s a year ago, these three players represent a fresh start.
The headlining pieces, however, haven’t panned out … yet. Paxton has a 4.43 ERA in 120 innings of league-average pitching, putting together ugly first innings and fine results after that. We’ve gotten glimpses of that ace, a tantalizing few outings that provide hope for October and beyond.
And Sheffield is still in the infant stages of his MLB career. This is just his third start with Seattle. He was blasted in the off-its-rocker Pacific Coast League that adopted the MLB ball but dominated the Double-A Texas League. He’s barely 23 and is under team control for a while. Even on his third organization, there’s plenty of time for Sheffield to fulfill lofty expectations.
Regardless of the results today, both teams can still ‘win’ this trade as they are on separate competitive cycles. The Yankees may see Paxton put them over the top in 2019 or 2020. The M’s could have a solid rotation piece (or two with Swanson) for the future, and perhaps one piece of their offensive puzzle. Or both teams could walk away unhappy. Neither team’s future hinges upon these players, yet November’s trade displayed both team’s timelines for contention.
The Yankees and Mariners made sense as trade partners in the offseason. That logic holds true still. Even with so-so returns for the trade thus far, there’s a lot of time left and a fun, though insignificant, game upcoming.