Seattle Mariners trade B.C.-born ace pitcher James Paxton to Yankees

The New York Yankees hooked up with Seattle for a trade on Monday, acquiring pitcher and Ladner, B.C. native James Paxton for top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield and two other minor leaguers.

'They seem very committed to winning, and so am I,' says left-hander from Ladner

The Yankees have acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners for fellow left-hander Justus Sheffield, New York's top prospect, and two other minor leaguers. (Ben Margot/Associated Press)

James Paxton spent the first two months of the 2016 season in the minor leagues after an awful spring training caused his demotion.

When he returned to the majors, he quickly emerged as the Seattle Mariners' ace, and now the New York Yankees hope he can bolster the thin rotation that contributed to the Yankees' loss to Boston in the American League Division Series.

New York acquired Paxton, the 30-year-old left-hander from Ladner, B.C., from the rebuilding Mariners on Monday for top prospect Justus Sheffield and two other minor leaguers.

"I think I'll be a great fit. They seem very committed to winning, and so am I,'' Paxton said.

On May 8, lefty James Paxton became the first Canadian to throw a no-hitter since 1945. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

New York sent the left-handed Sheffield to the Mariners along with right-hander Erik Swanson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.

Paxton turned 30 on Nov. 6 and went 11-6 with a 3.76 earned-run average in 28 starts last season, including a 16-strikeout start against Oakland on May 2 and a no-hitter at Toronto six days later. He struck out 208 and walked 42 in a career-high 160 1/3 innings, allowing 23 home runs.

Paxton, from Ladner, B.C., is 41-26 in six major league seasons, making six trips to the disabled list in the past five years — most recently for 2½ weeks with lower back inflammation earlier this year.

"I continue to try to work toward being healthy for an entire season,'' he said. "All the injuries that I've had haven't reoccurred. I've learned how to make sure those things don't happen again through exercise or whatever.''

The Maple Grove — Paxton's fan club — has been a colourful and noisy fixture at Safeco Field during the pitcher's time with the Mariners. (Twitter)

When he went to triple-A two years ago, he worked with former big league pitcher Lance Painter, who told him to drop his arm angle back to three-quarters. When Paxton returned to the Mariners, he studied reading swings with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr.

"It's taken me a little longer I think in my career because I have had so much time off,'' Paxton said. "But having those larger chunks the last couple years has really allowed me to come into my own and really make some big strides, and I look forward to continuing to make big strides in my game. And I think that my best baseball is still to come.''

A proud Canadian, Paxton is also known for keeping his composure as a bald eagle mistakenly landed on his shoulder prior to a start at Minnesota in April.

The handler for an American eagle that was to fly to the pitcher's mound during the national anthem pats Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton after the eagle chose to land on his shoulder instead. (Jeff Wheeler / Star Tribune via The Canadian Press)

Paxton made $4.9 million US last season and is eligible for salary arbitration. He can become a free agent after the 2020 season.

In his one game at Yankee Stadium, Paxton entered with a 10-start unbeaten streak and allowed two-run homers to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar in the first inning of a 4-3 loss on June 21 this year.

Seattle decided to rebuild after going 89-73 and finishing third in the AL West, 14 games behind division-winning Houston and six back of Oakland.

"Clearly we've opted 2019 be a year that we take a step back hoping to take two forward,'' general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "When I say 2020 and 2021, it's simply gauging the ages of the players we're building around here.''