The Red Sox have held trade talks regarding left-hander James Paxton, per a major league source, but they're seeking a significant return for the veteran centered around young, controllable players who can help the big-league team right now and in the future.
They're asking a lot because they can. Virtually every contender is in the market for a starting pitcher, and few who might be available are having better seasons than Paxton, who has returned from multiple injuries to post a 6-2 record and 3.34 ERA in 13 starts.
He's averaging over 95 mph on his fastball and holding opponents to a .145 average on his cutter while topping 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He'll be a free agent in the fall, though, and at age 34, he's not an ideal candidate for an extension, especially given his extensive injury history.
That makes him the perfect rental, but with the Red Sox only 2.5 games out of a wild card spot and looking to add, removing Paxton from an already thin rotation will be a tough sell in the clubhouse, even if it makes sense for the long-term health of the organization.
Trading Paxton for a significant return could pay off handsomely on a buy-low investment. The Red Sox signed the left-hander to a one-year, $10 million deal in December of 2021 while he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He never pitched for the club last year, but he returned on a $4 million player option and has vastly exceeded expectations by striking out over 28 percent of the batters he has faced.
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He hasn't looked as dominant in recent outings, however, including a gutsy five innings on Saturday in San Francisco, when he limited the Giants to one run despite allowing eight hits and two walks.
What's telling about the team's ask is what it says about the state of Chaim Bloom's rebuild. Whereas virtually all of Bloom's deals of veterans to this point have been for prospects, it signals a shift in approach that he's seeking immediate contributors for Paxton.
Given the team's place in the wild card standings, right behind Houston and Toronto, it makes sense that Bloom hopes to ensure that no deal involving the current big-league roster leaves the team unable to compete down the stretch.
If he's going to trade someone as valuable as Paxton, it sounds like he'll need to be blown away.