Houston Astros: The trade proposal that will work for LHP James Paxton

The Houston Astros reportedly have interest in lefty James Paxton as a replacement for Dallas Keuchel looms. What trade will work and how would he fit?

It’s the off season for the Houston Astros and the stove is hot as the franchise will be looking for replacements for some of the seven free agents that will be on the market.  The top free agents are obviously Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez and it’s expected that they’ll go out and hit the market.

The Houston Astros extended a $17.9 million qualifying offer to Keuchel and he has until tomorrow to decide if he wants to accept it or decline it to be a free agent.  He’ll likely do the latter.

Gonzalez already has said his goodbyes on his Instagram account as the Houston Astros have likely signaled for him to move on.

Jeff Luhnow has already indicated that 34-year-old Yuli Gurriel will likely be the team’s utility guy having experienced in just about every facet on the infield.

Yuli as a utlity guy?  Life comes at you fast when the riches of free agency are prevalent.

Granted, this team is going to look a lot different when 2019 comes around but they’ll be competitive and let’s hope they don’t take a step back.  With the core hitting of Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa still under contract along with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, they still have all the tools to have the utmost of competitiveness next season.

But the Houston Astros are already working on Plan B, C or however many letters there are in the alphabet to shape this roster for 2019.

According to MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal, the Houston Astros are currently targeting a starting lefty as Keuchel’s potential replacement in James Paxton:

So once again the Houston Astros are covering their tracks and they’re in competition with other franchises to win him over.  The Seattle Mariners should be “semi-sellers” because of the strong start they had last season but they waned a bit as it came down to crunch time in the standings.  They still had a 11-win improvement year-over-year.   They just extended manager Scott Servais‘ contract through the 2020 season so they have their sights of entering the postseason soon.

It will be an uphill battle for them as the Houston Astros, Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels will be standing in their way.

What’s the benefit of bringing Paxton into the fold?

Outside of the stats that Rosenthal mentioned, just about all that matter are better than Keuchel’s.  His 11-6 record, 3.76 ERA, 208 strikeouts, 67 earned runs, 1.098 WHIP, 3.23 FIP, 11.7 K/9 through 160.1 IP is a hell of a stat line to behold.  Let’s not forget about his 2.9 WAR as well.

Keuchel marginally has a better ERA (3.74) and had more innings pitched (204.1), that’s about it.

Paxton, 30, would be a formidable replacement and this train would continue to roll if the Houston Astros were able to pry him away.

Although Keuchel’s calling card is his sinker that sits in the mid-80s, Paxton blows opponents out of the water with power and it’s his four-seam fastball that can get up to 96 mph that does most of the damage.

He also has a curve with a knuckle grip that sits in the low 80s along with a cutter that holds in the low 90s.  Each of these pitches, according to Brooks Baseball, generate a lot of flyballs, whiffs and swings/misses which is certainly what you need out of pitcher like him.  Let me tell you — velocity won’t be a problem for this guy.

Other than a left pectoral strain in August 2017 and getting hit in the forearm by a Jed Lowrie line

drive this past August, Paxton has been a relatively healthy guy and has had his name in the talks for the AL Cy Young Award many times as of late.

What’s Paxton’s contract situation?

Paxton earned $4.9 million last season and still has two years of arbitration left before becoming a free agent in 2021.  So his cost won’t be problem over the next few seasons which would be all that they would need as the window of opportunity is ever-closing for this team to repeat as World Champions.

As per MLB Trade Rumors, Paxton’s projected 2019 salary with his 4.151 years of service time would be around $9 million, cheaper than $13.2 million Keuchel made last season.  So the Houston Astros‘ mantra is simple — more production at less cost.

What will it take to land Paxton?

I don’t think the cost would astronomically high for Paxton but I think packaging LHP Framber Valdez along with two lower-level prospects (pitcher and outfielder) would get the job done.  At this juncture, Cionel Perez is off-limits unless there’s a have-to-have power hitter that the team could use in their everyday lineup.  *cough* *cough* Paul Goldschmidt.

I love Framber and potential he could have to help this team immediately but if it means being able to win now with somebody that’s more experienced like Paxton, I’d deal him in a heartbeat.

I could only imagine what Brent Strom could do with if the Astros were able to land him and I’d guarantee that he’d able to coach him into his first career Cy Young Award.

We’ll see but I’m definitely ALL for this deal to happen!