James Paxton has exercised his $4 million player option for the 2023 season, the Red Sox announced earlier Wednesday afternoon.
This decision comes less than two days after the Red Sox declined Paxton’s two-year, $26 million club option for the 2023-2024 seasons. The veteran left-hander had until Thursday to decide whether he would exercise his player option, which he wound up doing, or decline it and become a free agent.
Paxton, who turned 34 on Sunday, originally signed a one-year, $6 million deal with Boston last December. At that time, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound southpaw was still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he underwent that April. As such, his contract included a uniquely-structured dual option.
The Red Sox were initially optimistic that Paxton would be able to return to action before this season’s All-Star break. But his rehab was slowed by posterior elbow soreness in early May. By August 18, though, Paxton began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League.
Just two batters into his start against the FCL Rays at JetBlue Park, Paxton was forced to exit with left lat (latissimus dorsi muscle on the back) tightness. That was later diagnosed as a Grade 2 lat tear, which ended Paxton’s season before it really even started.
When healthy, Paxton has proven to be an effective starter at the major-league level. He posted a 3.50 ERA across 131 starts (733 innings) in his first seven seasons with the Mariners and Yankees from 2013-2019. But he has been limited to just 21 2/3 innings of work over the last three seasons and has not thrown a pitch in a big-league contest since last April.
Taking those factors into consideration, it made very little sense for the Red Sox to commit $13 million to Paxton in each of the next two seasons. They instead turned down the Boras Corp. client’s two-year club option, but were hopeful he would pick up his player option.
“We have enjoyed having him here,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) at the GM meetings in Las Vegas. “We signed him with the hope that he’d be pitching postseason baseball for us at Fenway and we’d still love to see it through and see that happen.”
Paxton will now earn a modest $4 million in 2023 as he looks to re-establish his value before hitting the open market again next winter. If healthy, the native British Columbian will join a starting rotation mix in Boston that includes Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, Tanner Houck, and Garrett Whitlock, among others.
(Picture of James Paxton: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)