After last night’s debacle, breath had been held around James Paxton and his health. The news is both reassuring and devastating.
Paxton missing any amount of time can be considered a disaster for a rotation that has been absolutely atrocious outside of him. Pectoral strains tend to be around a three-week injury, which is around 4-6 starts. Paxton made it through more than six innings last night, a feat that has barely been seen from starters outside of Pax the last several weeks. His absence puts any confidence in the Mariners as a playoff team in doubt, and means a laughable load will be placed on the offense to carry the team.
In Paxton’s place will be Andrew Moore, the organization’s top pitching prospect, who struggled in his taste at the MLB-level. With Pax’s temporary exit, Moore is, if nothing else, the most likely candidate to make it through six innings left in the rotation. A notoriously quick worker, Moore had three effective first starts, going 6, 8, and 7 IP with 3 Rs each time, but was unable to generate many swings and misses. His 6.7% whiff rate would be tied for last among qualified pitchers. The qualified pitchers he’d be tied with, Ty Blach and Alex Cobb, both have been successful pitchers this year. Moore has not enjoyed the same consistent success, suffering mostly due to longballs. Of anyone still left in Tacoma (literally Sam Gaviglio and Christian Bergman, Moore has the best potential, but his struggles since returning to Tacoma don’t suggest a massive adjustment. The Mariners will need to hope Moore can recreate more of the 8.57 and 7.97 K/9 rates he’s enjoyed in AA and AAA this year, or at least avoid giving up the big flies he’s been susceptible.
This is the best move available to the team in terms of giving them a chance to win, and the 23-year-old Moore is the best available arm in AAA. He may well improve on his results from earlier in the year and certainly gives the team the best chance of working deep into the game to give relief to the bullpen, but it is undeniably worrisome for the M’s to have to replace Paxton and have no likely source of upside anywhere in their active rotation. A move from Dipoto to acquire another pitcher may or may not be coming in the next week, but for this to be a playoff team they’ll probably need one. Whether that’s a wise choice is another question entirely.