Mariners’ Twitter is abuzz after Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported that former Seattle pitcher James Paxton reached out to the team about coming back to the pacific northwest and the team was not interested.
By now, you all know the report. James Paxton wanted to come back to Seattle on a 1-year contract and the Mariners said “no thanks”. Of course, the Mariners mob, who was already sharpening their pitchforks and collecting their torches, was already on edge after reports surfaced the owner John Stanton had put the clamps on GM Jerry Dipoto’s budget for the off-season. The team has only spent about $7 million to upgrade their 2021 roster and it appears that Dipoto won’t get much more than that.
So when word gets out that the Mariners didn’t sign a former fan favorite who expressed a desire to return to Seattle, the conditions were perfect for an overly loyal fan base to explode with anger. And honestly, I get it. I have no difficulty understanding the frustration. I have spent many minutes on our podcast laying into Stanton and asking why anybody should trust a word he says about spending in the future when he apparently pulled a 180 on his GM halfway through the off-season. But rather than pile this onto the heap, let’s look at this particular action separately. Why did the Mariners say no to James Paxton?
Now, there are several factors we do not know and are unfair to speculate on. Divish’s comment was one sentence in a 3-hour podcast. We do not know when in the off-season Paxton reached out. We do not know how much Paxton was asking for. These are crucial factors. If Paxton reached out in December asking for $12 million, that is certainly a lot different than if he reached out last week asking for $4 million. Until we reach clarity on those factors, it’s not fair to use them in our critique.
What we can do is look at the pitcher Paxton has been and ask why the Mariners may not want to go down that road. The most obvious detraction from Paxton is his lengthy injury history. Mariners’ fans are well aware of Paxton’s injury history and those concerns cannot be ignored. Paxton made just five starts in 2020, dealing with the ever scary elbow injury and a significant drop in velocity. A pitcher with Paxton’s history will inevitably make these situations scarier than they might have otherwise been.
But why would this deter Seattle? Remember, Seattle is running out a young rotation and will ask these arms to jump from 50-60 innings in 2020 to 150-160 innings in a year. That is quite a bit of strain, especially for young arms like Justus Sheffield, Nick Margevicius, Justin Dunn, and eventually Logan Gilbert. Signing another player to take a rotation spot is wise, but snagging an arm you feel confident is going to make his 25 or so starts is a legitimate hill to die on for Seattle.
Now, one could argue that between Robert Dugger, Ljay Newsome, Ian McKinney, and others, that Seattle can cover any starts that Paxton might miss and the team should be chasing upside. And that is an argument I can, and have, gotten on board with. However, it doesn’t mean that Seattle will, or even have to, agree. If the team prefers floor to ceiling in 2021, it is a rational approach to take.
Without more information about when the conversation took place or what the details of it are, it’s a bit unfair to heap a ton of flack on the Mariners. But when you raise the expectation of the fan base and then pull the rug out from under them, these are the reactions you’re going to get. The reaction of Mariners fans surrounding this move is a self-inflicted wound. And it is one that can still be remedied by opening up your wallet and adding a few quality players to round out your roster. But fans aren’t exactly eager to trust John Stanton and based on his actions (and lack of accountability for his role in this issue), it isn’t difficult to see why.
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