Phillies: Playing the southpaw starters’ sweepstakes

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 14: Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) during the regular season game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners on August 14, 2018, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 14: Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) during the regular season game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners on August 14, 2018, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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If the Phillies have a good shot at Paxton, Klentak will probably take it. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images. /

Moving parts:

After tasting victory champagne, the Houston Astros and their free-agent stars could part ways. Keuchel, almost 31, has earned, at least, a three-summer pact, while Houston is pursuing Paxton from Seattle. On the other hand, Paxton has two campaigns of control, will cost less, and will improve a five-man staff.

For 2019, Paxton’s arbitration estimate is $9 million. He has a mid-90’s fastball and went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA last season. Yes, he’s better than Arrieta and would slot behind Nola. But if the Mariners trade him, how big of a prospect haul will they expect?

Regarding the Snakes, they haven’t gone deep in the playoffs with their current roster and don’t have the financial resources to overcome their shortcomings. Granted, they could make one more run at the brass ring, but time is running out on keeping their stars together with free agency looming. So, do they move Ray?

Receiving an arbitration prediction of $6.1 million for ’19, Ray, 27, has two years of control remaining. Yes, he also has a mid-90’s heater, but he dropped off in 2018 with a 6-2 record and a 3.93 ERA. A strained right oblique disabled him for two months. But would they sell low on him?

Four-seam fastball comparisons:

  • Paxton: 95.5 mph average and 97.7 mph maximum with a curveball, cutter and sinker.
  • Ray: 93.7 mph average and 97.7 mph maximum with a slider and a curveball.
  • Kikuchi: 93 mph average and 97.5 mph maximum with a slider and a curveball.

As for the wild card, Kikuchi, 27, has Scott Boras as his agent. And a national publication is projecting a six-summer contract of $42 million with an additional $8 million for the posting fee to the Seibu Lions of the NPL. But can the Phillies get him?

Unfortunately, Kikuchi has had recurring shoulder problems. He had missed 2010, and his 2013 ended early due to shoulder pain. In fact, he even had some shoulder issues last season but went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA but no diminished velocity. Too risky?