Action! Finally! SP Jameson Taillon was acquired by the Yankees on January 24, and it is GM Brian Cashman’s first, big, non-returning player acquisition of the season. Now that over a week has passed since the trade, it is time to scrutinize.
The New York Yankees traded P Miguel Yajure (Yankees No. 15 ranked prospect), P Roansy Contreras (No. 19), IF Maikol Escotto (unranked), and OF Canaan Smith (No. 21) in exchange for SP Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Taillon, 29, is a proven veteran with at least a few solid years still in him. Yet still, trading four prospects is a heavy cost, especially letting go of Yajure. He had been developing in the organization for a few years now, making his MLB debut in 2020.
Regardless, Taillon is here now. Yet, the question remains: what does this mean for the 2021 Yankees rotation?
Jameson Taillon’s Talent
To evaluate this addition to the roster, let us first look at the player himself. In four seasons in the MLB, Taillon accumulated a 29-24 record with a 3.67 ERA in 82 games started. His strongest season was likely 2018, where he pitched 191.0 innings and had 179 Ks with a 3.20 ERA. His main pitches are a fastball and sinker that sit at 95mph, along with an 89mph slider, 83mph curve, and an 87mph changeup.
Jameson Taillon relies on command and his movement more than anything else. Specifically, his backdoor sinker is nasty to both righties and lefties, and his slider’s late movement and curveball’s depth has made many players look foolish. Now, there are obvious questions about whether he will keep the same depth, command, and speed on his pitches, post-Tommy John. We likely will not have an answer until we see him on the mound, though it is encouraging that he is on schedule to pitch at the start of the season.
Additionally, Taillon said this offseason that he has altered his throwing motion slightly, which will be interesting to watch as well.
Filling a Vacancy
Though I covered this in my article considering whether the Yankees should have traded for SP Luis Castillo, it is worth reiterating. After Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have few reliable starters. Not consider their effectiveness, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ are all gone. Luis Severino is still recovering from injury and is expected back towards the end of the 2021 season. German has not appeared in an MLB game in over a year. Taillon, between Cole and Kluber, provides a reliable number 2 option.
Taillon’s Injury History
By far the biggest concern about Taillon is his injuries. Coming off of his second Tommy John surgery since college, Jameson Taillon has not been 100% since the beginning of 2019. Yet, there is a reason for optimism. In his first few seasons in the league, Taillon was able to pitch for practically 3 entire seasons. The only major time he took off was five weeks in 2017, after having surgery to remove testicular cancer.
With the Yankees’ injury plague, it is a bit concerning that they acquired a pitcher with an injury history. But if he can stay healthy, he will almost surely dominate.
The Big Stage
Often, players coming to the Yankees from smaller-market teams (Sonny Gray, Happ, Paxton) will struggle due to the added pressure. Jameson Taillon, coming from one of the smallest teams in the league, the Pirates, could have some people concerned. However, aside from a quick adjustment period that any player should receive when switching teams, Taillon should be able to perform.
As mentioned earlier, Taillon has beaten cancer (a great story to read up on, FYI). He has fought through multiple Tommy John surgeries. He was given sky-high expectations from day 1, being drafted second overall in 2010, sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
It would be very surprising if a few heckling New-Yorkers are able to rattle Taillon. Expectations for Taillon should be high, especially considering the capital the Yankees gave up for him. I have no doubt that when he is on the field in 2021 and in the future, he will deliver.