James Paxton discussing Dodgers contract sounds like he negotiated against himself

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

The Dodgers securing James Paxton to round out their rotation in late January was, if we're being honest, a little anticlimactic after the offseason the Dodgers put together before signing him. Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow — these are some of the game's biggest stars and most recognizable names. Paxton has had a respectable 10 years in the major leagues, but after all of the rotation additions, including the re-addition of Clayton Kershaw sometime around midseason, Paxton seems a bit like small fish.

His contract reflects that: he'll make $7 million guaranteed over one year, with $4 million in incentives depending on how many starts he's able to make in 2024. Originally, after the signing was announced, he was expected to make $11 million guaranteed, but the contract was reworked for unspecified health issues to that $7 million (possibly $11 million) structure.

Speaking to the media at spring training, Paxton said that there were no glaring, immediate issues that had the Dodgers concerned, but rather that the general issue was "just my body," which isn't a resounding reassurance that he'll be able to keep up with the rest of the Dodgers rotation this year.

James Paxton said Dodgers contract rework was for unspecified medical issue — "just my body"

Paxton made 19 starts for the Red Sox in 2023 for a total of 96 innings, the most he's pitched since 2019. The years 2020 through 2022, with time split between the Mariners and Red Sox, were littered with injuries for him, including but not limited to an elbow injury that led to Tommy John and issues with his knee that ended his season with Boston last year. Paxton acknowledged both in speaking with reporters at spring camp, and there seemed to be no hard feelings about the contract being changed to address some of the team's concerns.

President of baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was also asked about Paxton's condition, and he said that he and the team "feel confident about it." Paxton also added that he has "no doubt" that he'll be ready to go by Opening Day. He'll appear at the back end of the rotation, no doubt, and he could see less playing time when Kershaw and Walker Buehler are back and ready to go. It's not great that the Dodgers' concern for him seems to be rather all-encompassing, rather than focused on any one particular issue, but hopefully he'll be an effective enough stopgap until other starters can rejoin the team.