With a lockout looming, the Red Sox appear on the verge of adding another starting pitcher.
According to a major league source, the Red Sox have reached an agreement, pending a physical, with lefthander James Paxton on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2022 that includes a two-year club option for the 2023-24 seasons. If the option is exercised, the deal could be worth as much as $35 million.
The 33-year-old Paxton made just one appearance — pitching 1⅓ innings — for the Mariners in 2021 before having season-ending Tommy John surgery. That followed a 2020 campaign in which the hard-throwing lefthander was limited to 20⅓ innings with the Yankees by elbow woes.
Prior to those injury-riddled seasons, however, Paxton had emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter, forging a 38-17 record and 3.54 ERA with a 30.1 percent strikeout rate while averaging 27 starts and 149 innings with the Mariners and Yankees from 2017-19. He was one of the harder-throwing starting lefties in the AL, sitting at 95-96 m.p.h. with a cutter and curveball that made him a very uncomfortable at-bat for both righties and lefties.
If Paxton follows a normal Tommy John rehab process of 16-18 months, he could emerge as a rotation reinforcement in the second half of 2022, much as Chris Sale did following his return last August from a surgery that took place in March 2020. And if Paxton’s arsenal resembles that which he featured before his elbow woes, he could emerge as part of the team’s longer-term rotation.
Paxton joins Michael Wacha (one-year, $7 million deal) as starters signed by the Sox since lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez left to sign a five-year, $77 million deal with the Tigers earlier this offseason.
In some ways, with the Paxton deal, the Sox are investing $10 million in a pair of lottery tickets — one on the possibility of a healthy pitcher contributing down the stretch in 2022, the other that he will be healthy enough to make two more years of his services at up to $25 million a worthwhile deal.
If he does not bounce back, the Sox would be able to walk away from the deal after next season without tying up future payroll.