Cubs agreed to four-year, $68 million deal with right-handed starter Jameson Taillonaccording ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and Jeff Passan. Taillon is represented by Excel Sports Management. Taillon was one of the best remaining options in the starting pitcher market.
Carlos Rodon is the only ace that is still unsigned, while players love Kodai Senga, Chris Bassit, Nathan Eovaldi and Noah Syndergaard join Taillon at the next level. The Cubs are widely expected to dip into free agency to tend to their rotation, and it looks like they will indeed to hook an arm mid-rotation.
Once finalized, the deal will send Taillon back to NL Central. He spent much of his career there, as he entered the professional ranks in 2010 as the Pirates’ 2nd overall pick. He appeared among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in each of the next five years, his progress through the minor league ranks being delayed by Tommy John’s surgery. In 2016, he entered the big leagues, with 18 3.38 ball ERA starts.
This kicked off a run of a few solid black and gold seasons. Taillon had 57 starts over the next two years, posting a 3.71 ERA. He missed some time in 2017 battling testicular cancer but quickly beat the disease, remarkably only missing about a month. Taillon avoided the injured list until the end of the 2018 campaign thereafter, but his elbow blew seven starts in the 2019 season. He underwent Tommy John’s second surgery of his career in August, spending the entire next season to rehabilitate.
It proved an unwelcome end to his time in Pittsburgh, as the rebuilding Bucs sent him back to the Yankees in the 2020-21 offseason. New York has transferred four young players, including Roansy Contreras, to disembark Taillon. It was a bit of a gamble on his return to health post-surgery, but he did indeed return as his old mid-rotation self. Taillon’s two seasons in the Bronx were surprisingly similar to his years in Pittsburgh.
During his two-year pinstripe run, he worked to a 4.08 ERA in 321 2/3 innings. The Texas native posted a 21.9% strikeout rate, which is in line with the league average and walked less than 6% of his opponents. His ground ball and hard contact rates allowed were in the middle of the pack, but he hammered the strike zone and handled hitters on both sides of the dish reasonably well. His business has also returned to just below preoperative levels. Taillon’s fastball has clocked around 94 MPH in each of the last two seasons, as he relies on a mid-’80s slider and low-’80s curveball as secondary throws.
Taillon turned 31 last month, so he should still have a few good seasons ahead of him. There’s definitely a risk in investing in a pitcher with two Tommy John surgeries on his medical records, but he’s avoided any arm issues for the past two years. His only stint in IL was a brief absence with a calf problem at the end of the 21 campaign.
The Cubs find themselves halfway between retooling and full-fledged wrestling. They’re coming off a second straight losing season, but president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer suggested the front office plans to actively bolster the MLB roster. To this end, they have already agreed terms with the former MVP Cody Bellinger on a rebound deal to play center field, and it looks like Taillon will follow.
Getting started was one of the biggest questions on the list. Chicago signed Marcus Stroman to a three-year warranty during the last off-season. He will be in the starting five, although he could retire at the end of next year. Kyle Hendricks is under contract for another season and would have a rotation spot if healthy, but is recovering from a capsule tear in his throwing shoulder. justin steel earned a rotation spot with a strong rookie season. The back is completely up in the air, with players like Keegan Thompson, Adrian Sampson and recruits Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad and Caleb Kilian all jockeys for work. Adding a stable mid-rotation pitcher like Taillon makes a lot of sense for a team without a lot of certain innings.
This is all the more true since the signing of Taillon will not cost the Cubs any choice in the draft. New York oddly chose not to offer him a qualifying offer of $19.65 million at the end of the season, allowing him to enter the market unhindered.
MLBTR predicted a four-year, $56 million contract coming into the offseason, so Taillon’s deal comes a little over the top. The rotation market has generally been stronger than expected so far. Zach Eflin and Tyler Anderson the two landed three-year contracts in the $40 million range, while Taijuan walker agreed to terms with the Phillies on a surprising four-year, $72 million guarantee earlier tonight.
Ken Rosenthal and Stephen Nesbitt of The Athletic were the first to report that the Cubs were making a strong push for Taillon (link). MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweeted that the parties were close to an agreement. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and Jeff Passan announcement the deal was completed and added financial terms.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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