On Monday, when the Dodgers made their agreement with James Paxton official, they rounded out their five (maybe six?)-man rotation and were able to consider the bulk of their offseason work done. A few more bullpen arm additions may come ahead of Opening Day, but the loudest concerns were with the rotation's depth, and have since been addressed by signing Paxton.
The one-year deal was originally reported to be worth $11 million, with performance-based incentives that could up it to $13 million. Even though Paxton will fall lower down in the rotation, and might even even starts to the bevy of young starting pitching talent the Dodgers have in their pipeline, $11 million was a bit of a steal, especially compared to the money some other Dodgers starters will be making.
However, Fabian Ardaya and Ken Rosenthal reported for The Athletic (subscription required) on Wednesday that the Dodgers were lowering Paxton's guaranteed salary to $7 million due to an "unspecificed health concern." He'll still be able to make $13 million if he performs, but his base rate will be much lower than originally planned.
Dodgers downgrade James Paxton contract due to injury concerns
Paxton has had a rough history of injury since 2020. He underwent a spinal surgery at the beginning of the calendar year, and although he was able to make it back to the Yankees by Opening Day, he went down again in August with a strain. The next year, after moving to the Mariners, he only threw 1 1/3 innings before his elbow gave and Tommy John ended his season in April. In 2022, he went to the Red Sox and was recovering from the operation, but a separate issue kept him seated through the entire season.
When he was finally able to give the Red Sox innings in May 2023, after hamstring strain kept him out in April, he did perform well. He put up a 1.74 ERA in June, but things took a downturn from there. He ended the season with a 4.50 ERA over 96 innings, and the Red Sox let him walk in free agency.
Given his history, it's sort of unsurprising that the Dodgers demoted Paxton's deal, and it only makes the now-$6 million in incentives even more enticing and motivating for him to come through for the team. If it doesn't work out, the Dodgers will have a very cheap starting pitcher who could be replaced by younger, more untested arms in a pinch; if it does, Paxton makes more money and helps the team succeed.