Getty Images

It has been a fairly quiet offseason for the Boston Red Sox to date, though they struck a rather unique free-agent deal late Tuesday night. The club agreed to a one-year deal with a rare two-year club option with lefty James Paxton, according to multiple reports. The Boston Globe's Alex Speier says the deal includes $10 million in guaranteed money and could be worth up to $35 million.

Paxton returned to the Mariners on a one-year, $8.5 million contract last season, though his Seattle comeback lasted only five batters. The 33-year-old blew out his elbow in his first start and required Tommy John surgery. The typical Tommy John surgery rehab timeline is 14-16 months these days, so Paxton could rejoin the Red Sox sometime in the middle of next season.

Injuries have been a common theme for Paxton, who has never made 30 starts or thrown more than 160 1/3 innings in a season. In 2019, he pitched to a 3.82 ERA with 186 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings with the Yankees, then a forearm issue (a common precursor to Tommy John surgery) limited him to five starts in 2020. Paxton has dealt with many arm and back problems in his career.

When healthy though, Paxton can be dominant. He posted a 3.60 ERA with 667 strikeouts in 568 total innings with the Mariners and Yankees from 2016-19, and he has both a 16-strikeout game and a no-hitter to his credit (in back-to-back starts in 2018, no less). You don't have to try too hard to dream on Paxton returning at midseason and giving Boston a big lift with his repaired elbow.

Last week the Red Sox inked Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million contract, though they lost Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers early in free agency. At the moment, the club's rotation looks something like this:

  1. RHP Nathan Eovaldi
  2. LHP Chris Sale
  3. RHP Nick Pivetta
  4. RHP Tanner Houck
  5. RHP Michael Wacha
  6. RHP Kutter Crawford
  7. RHP Connor Seabold

There is some speculation the Red Sox could move Garrett Whitlock, their top reliever in 2021, into the rotation in 2022, though his injury history and trouble with lefties suggest the bullpen is where he belongs. Still, no harm in trying it in spring training. It's easier to go to camp as a starter then move back to a reliever than the other way around.

The Red Sox went 92-70 in 2021 and advanced to the ALCS as a wild card team. The offense remains outstanding (though looking for a second base upgrade wouldn't be a bad idea) and the bullpen is at worst fixable. That said, the rotation is a little sketchy with Sale one year removed from Tommy John surgery and Houck presumably having a workload limit next year.

Paxton could arrive at midseason to give the rotation a shot in the arm, and if he pitches well, the Red Sox will exercise the two-year option and have him through 2024. Until Paxton arrives though, the Red Sox would benefit from another back-end starter type, someone to push Wacha into a swingman role and protect against Sale's and Houck's workloads.