3 under-the-radar free agents Phillies should sign
3. James Paxton — 1 year, $6 million
The Phillies needs certainly include starting pitching. They lack back-end rotation depth in the 2020 season — despite Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler being among the best 1-2 duos in baseball and Zach Eflin making big strides toward being a reliable No. 3 starter, .
Originally selected in the first round of the 2009 draft by his native-country team in the Toronto Blue Jays, southpaw starting pitcher James Paxton did not sign and was drafted in the fourth round a year later with the Seattle Mariners. Paxton rose quickly in the Mariners organization and made his MLB debut in 2013. Following the 2018 season, the Mariners dealt Paxton to the New York Yankees in a deal that brought them back Justus Sheffield.
Paxton battled injuries in 2020 and was limited to just five starts; he could sign a one-year prove-it deal in hopes to sign a bigger contract the following offseason. Paxton joins Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor, Charlie Morton, and Masahiro Tanaka in a rather crowded starting pitching free-agent market.
Paxton is a perfect hit here in Philadelphia; he posted a 3.54 ERA in 81 starts from 2017-2019, along with staggering 11-plus strikeouts per nine innings. Paxton could be an important part of the Phillies rotation to complement Nola, Wheeler, and Eflin. Also, leaving Spencer Howard as the No. 5 starter wouldn’t be so bad, giving him more experience.
Of course, if Paxton is injured or his fastball continues to decline (dropped from 95.4 to 92.1 last season), this move could be insignificant. That’s why the contract should be cheap and feasible for the Phillies, given the situation on both ends.