Red Sox left-hander James Paxton has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 tear in his left latissimus dorsi muscle, manager Alex Cora announced Thursday. He has been shut down from throwing and his season is now over.
This diagnosis comes exactly one week after Paxton was forced to exit his first rehab start in the Florida Complex League after facing just two batters due to left lat tightness.
While the Red Sox were initially hopeful that Paxton’s injury was minor, an MRI later revealed a Grade 2 tear, thus ending the 33-year-old southpaw’s season before it really even started.
Paxton originally signed a unique one-year, $6 million contract with Boston back in December. The deal includes a two-year, $26 million club option that the Red Sox can pick up at the end of the season. If they decline, Paxton could then exercise a $4 million player option for the 2023 campaign.
Given that he had undergone Tommy John surgery while with the Mariners last April, the Red Sox likely were not banking on Paxton pitching key innings for them in 2022. The veteran lefty was shut down for a period of time earlier this spring due to posterior elbow soreness, which further delayed his rehab. Still, he could have provided the Sox with some sort of boost down the stretch were it not for this latest, season-ending setback.
It should now be interesting to see how the Red Sox decide to roll with Paxton, who turns 34 in November, this off-season. Committing $26 million to a pitcher who has been limited to just six starts and 21 1/3 innings since the start of the 2020 season would certainly be risky.
At the same, time, however, Paxton has proven to be an effective starter in the major-leagues when healthy. From 2016-2019, for instance, the Canadian-born hurler pitched to a 3.60 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 101 total starts (568 innings) with the Mariners and Yankees.
If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. elect to decline Paxton’s two-year player option, it would then be interesting to see how the Boras Corp. client responds. He could choose to exercise his player option and return to the Red Sox on a prove-it kind of deal next season. On the flip side, he could choose to test the free agency waters again over the winter.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) on Thursday. “We saw the guy making progress and getting to the point that he was actually getting to throw real games and that happened. As far as his arm and all that, we were very excited about it. Now it’s just see what we decide and what he decides. So we’ll get there when we get there.”
(Picture of James Paxton: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)