NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 17: James Paxton #65 of the New York Yankees pitches during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium on August 17, 2019 in New York City.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

This season hasn’t even started and the talk about the 2021 offseason has already engulfed the New York Yankees and James Paxton.

Allison Case

The New York Yankees pulled out the stops to bring coveted lefty James Paxton from the coffee capital of the world to the Big Apple back in November of 2018. Now approaching the 2021 offseason, he is going on the open market.

While the regular season for 2020 hasn’t even begun, when it does, it will be Paxton’s audition for the free-agent market, one that he will likely pass with flying colors.

Ever since his arrival, Paxton put on a show in the Bronx, going 15-6 and striking out 186 in 150.2 innings of work. Down the stretch of the 2019 season, Paxton rattled off 10 straight wins, easily stepping into the ace role come the playoffs.

With Luis Severino out for the majority of the season, it was up to Paxton and fellow 2021 free agent Masahiro Tanaka to anchor an uncertain rotation.

Despite a concerning injury history, Paxton stepped up and showed the Yankees he was worth the trade. And that injury history has continued, with an IL stint in early May for his knee and a day-to-day concern heading into the playoffs. This offseason was when the big news came out, with Paxton undergoing a microscopic lumbar discectomy and having to miss the start of the 2020 season.

The injuries are still a factor as you simply can’t erase that history. However, the need for Paxton after this season becomes incredibly important.

Tanaka is another Yankees pitcher who will hit the market following this season and with that, the Yankees will have Gerrit Cole, Severino on the mend from Tommy John surgery, and Jordan Montgomery as their staples.

While Severino brings promising numbers pre-Tommy John, the expectation cannot be the same returning from that same surgery in 2021, especially since the timing is not clear. The Yankees need another solid starter to back up Cole without having to break the bank or trade away the farm system.

Big Maple also brings a pretty consistent performance in terms of innings. In seven of his final 10 regular-season starts for the Yankees, he went six-plus innings. He gave depth when the Yankees needed it most and put together some solid performances against AL East opponents, perhaps the most important statistic of all. Paxton went a dominating 8-3 against the division during his first time in the AL East.

While Paxton has only had one complete season, the anticipation for more is right on target. Sure, there may be concerns there but when you look at the free-agent pitchers on the market, Paxton is the best bet.

Not only does he have experience playing in the Bronx and has proven himself in pinstripes thus far, but he also seems to enjoy his time there as well. If the Yankees decide not to pursue Paxton this offseason, their options are limited and their rotation will be both unimpressive and incomplete.

When the offseason rolls around, regardless of how 2020 goes, the Yankees need pitching. Paxton is the best option out there and the short-term Yankee should be their top priority.

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