LA deal for ex-Yankees pitcher shows nothing impossible for baseball money

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Most Yankees fans may not have remembered James Paxton, who looked heading for oblivion following an injury-riddled 2020 season in the Bronx and then another three similar unfortunate years in Seattle and Boston. However, the 35-year-old is grabbing headlines again following an $11 million contract with the Dodgers.

While the news cycles are consumed by the mega-contracts of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a distinct aspect of MLB’s financial health lurks beneath the surface, exemplified by deals such as the one granted to ex-Yankees pitcher James Paxton. Despite four high-profile free agents—Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger—still awaiting offers, the baseball landscape has already witnessed over $2.5 billion changing hands for a remarkable 97 players, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Dodgers sign free-agent and ex-Yankees arm James Paxton

For ESPN insider Buster Olney, the significance of a deal like James Paxton’s $11-13 million pact with the Dodgers provides a much clearer snapshot of baseball’s current state than the attention-grabbing headlines might suggest. On the “Baseball Tonight” podcast, Olney countered notions of baseball’s decline, stating, “Baseball is dying? Look at James Paxton’s contract.”

At first glance, James Paxton might appear an unlikely beneficiary of baseball’s financial upswing. The former Yankees left-hander with a history of injuries, hasn’t surpassed 100 innings in five years and posted a modest 4.50 ERA with the Red Sox in 2023. Nevertheless, the Dodgers are willing to invest up to $13 million, with incentives like 20 starts potentially augmenting the deal, as reported by the Associated Press.

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AP

James Paxton’s career has been a delicate dance between brilliance and fragility. His once-fiery mid-90s fastball propelled him to All-Star heights, but his two-year Yankees tenure mirrored his overall narrative: after a 150-inning masterpiece in 2019, injuries hampered him, restricting him to just 20 innings in 2020. In total, he has managed only 117 2/3 innings since 2019.

Acknowledging James Paxton’s challenges over the past five years, Olney emphasized that his $12 million deal isn’t an act of charity. “In the back end of the Dodgers rotation, that’s not a contract you just give away,” he stated, underscoring the significant amount of money circulating through the sport.

While the discussion about who spends what is complex and fascinating, there’s no denying the financial prowess currently exhibited by baseball. As reported by Forbes, team values surged 12% to $2.32 billion on average in 2022, and revenues reached an all-time high of $10.3 billion. With successful rule changes like the pitch clock enhancing the game’s appeal, 2023 might witness even more substantial financial figures.

Therefore, while stars like Ohtani and Yamamoto make headlines with their record-breaking deals, it’s essential to recognize that a closer examination of contracts like James Paxton’s reveals a different truth—one where even players with hurdles in their careers can reap lucrative rewards in baseball’s thriving financial landscape.

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