Former MLB GM projects Dodgers as next stop on lefty free agent's 'bounce back' tour

Sep 1, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA;  Boston Red Sox starting pitcher James Paxton (65) delivers
Sep 1, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher James Paxton (65) delivers / Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

After not wanting to surrender to the Red Sox rumored demands at the trade deadline, consider the Dodgers in play for left-hander James Paxton's next shot at redemption this offseason.

According to the trade winds posited by Boston insider Peter Gammons this summer in an oddly specific hypothetical, Paxton may or may not have been in play for the Dodgers in July in exchange for right-hander Emmet Sheehan and two additional prospects. That's the kind of deal Los Angeles would've surely turned down, and if that's how preciously Chaim Bloom handled Paxton's deadline fate, while every red flag in the world was screaming, "Sell! Sell! Sell!", it's no wonder he headed back into the shadows in September.

Paxton, ultimately, stayed in Boston, where he watched the Red Sox burn. "Watched" is an apt term, too. He was mostly non-participatory, following up a first half that seemed poised to land him Comeback Player of the Year consideration (5-1, 2.73 ERA) with a second half that showed why betting on a bounce back was such a tenuous leg to stand on (2-4, 6.98 ERA in just nine starts).

Now 35, Paxton is back on the market coming off a $3 million 2023 salary and looking to sell some team on his first half being the baseline (pay no attention to the knee injury that killed his ability to drive down the stretch and got him shut down in September.

Ex-MLB GM Jim Bowden, writing for The Athletic, believes Paxton earned a major raise with his first half prowess and projects a one-year, $8 million deal (with incentives!). Unfortunately, he also projects the Dodgers as the No. 1 best fit once the market doors swing open.

Dodgers Free Agency Target: James Paxton?

The other "best fits" include the Rays, Twins, Cardinals and Angels, and all four of those feel a bit more realistic than Mark Prior's Dodgers taking an expensive chance.

LA's pitching lab typically makes its bets on either starters whose stuff has underwhelmed with room to grow. They don't usually pour assets into starters who've come up short due to repeated, seemingly chronic injuries -- that's reserved for familiar relievers like Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson (kidding, sort of).

The Rays have seen their rotation decimated in recent years by myriad elbow injuries, but might be satisfied with Paxton's first 60 innings, no matter how the next 40 look. The Twins, poised to lose Sonny Gray, might scramble to lengthen their rotation. The Cardinals and Angels are both in desperation mode; Paxton could be one of three or four rotation additions in either city.

Yes, somehow, there the Dodgers are, sitting alongside four better fits, apparently in the mix to be fooled by a clean bill of December health. Our advice? Hang up the phone again, just like the time you kept Sheehan and Co.