Yankees trade for Jameson Taillon
The Pirates are stripping down all the way to the studs out in Pittsburgh as they undergo a deep rebuild under the helm of old friend Ben Cherington. They traded Joe Musgrove to the Padres last week, and this week they have traded another member of their rotation. This time it is right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon, who was traded to the Yankees for a package of four prospects. Those prospects are Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Maikol Escotto, and Canaan Smith.
I won’t pretend to be some sort of expert on the prospects who were dealt, but this certainly seems to be a quantity over quality deal for Pittsburgh, which is not to say the prospects they got back are not good but rather that there is not an elite prospect in the bunch. Of course, given some of the issues we’ll get to in a second with Taillon, they probably weren’t getting anything near an elite prospect anyway. This has been Cherington’s goal in his trades seemingly since taking over, and it makes sense. The Pirates are in one of, if not the, worst situations in baseball in terms of organization strength both on the major-league roster and farm system. They have faith in their player development staff, though, and are trying to get as many prospects in the system as possible in the hopes that a couple will take those big leaps a team needs from their minor-league system.
On the Yankees sign of thing, they were still in need of rotation help even after signing Corey Kluber. They are getting Luis Severino back at some point this year, but they still lost Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ this winter. Their rotation needed help, and Taillon provides some intriguing upside. When he’s been healthy, he’s often looked like he could be a good number two in a playoff rotation, and for a team with Gerrit Cole that is perfect. That when healthy is doing a lot of work, though. The righty did not pitch in 2020 and made only seven starts in 2019 before undergoing the second Tommy John surgery of his career. There is a ton of risk here obviously, but the potential reward is also quite large, and it ultimately cost four solid, but ultimately expendable for New York, prospects and just over $2 million in salary. New York now has a top three of Cole, Kluber and Taillon, with Severino on the way and a few prospects ready to come up sooner than later.
As for the Red Sox, in theory Taillon is a name they could have used, though I’m not sure I love the fit. Obviously Boston has its own rotation volatility, which they’ve only added to with Garrett Richards. The issue for me with Taillon is that he also costs prospects. I mentioned those four prospects were expendable for New York, but an equivalent package would hurt Boston more, both because their farm system isn’t quite as deep as the Yankees and, more importantly, they’re further away from a contender. I’ve been pretty clear I don’t want the Red Sox to throw in the towel, but at the same time it makes sense to stick to the free agent market as much as possible and try to hold on to prospects, particularly for someone like Taillon who is good but far from a sure thing.
Nationals sign Brad Hand
In addition to the Taillon deal, one of the top relievers in free agency also came off the board on Sunday. That would be Brad Hand, who signed a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $10.5 million. That salary comes in half a million bucks more than any team could have paid him had they simply claimed him off waivers earlier in the winter. As it turns out, all of major-league baseball misread this winter’s market, which has actually been a bit more player-friendly in general, though not anything particularly exorbitant.
With Hand, the Nationals get their closer. We’ve written about Hand a bunch this offseason and I’ve mentioned that he was my favorite option on the board, particularly for a one-year deal. There are certainly some risks here and some trends going in the wrong direction. The southpaw is not getting the ground balls he once did, and his velocity is on the decline. That hasn’t affected him yet, though. Even last season with all of those warning signs, Hand pitched to a 2.05 ERA over 22 innings with 29 strikeouts and only four walks. Going back to 2016, his worst season by ERA saw him come in 28 percent better than league-average, and by FIP he was 22 percent better.
To put it simply, he’s been one of the most consistent relievers in the game, and for a position that is typically so volatile that is a valuable thing. So, I do wish the Red Sox would have been in on this price just as I wished they would have been in when he was on waivers. That said, I’m not going to get too upset about this one because it’s not as though he was the only option on the board. There are still guys like Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Colomé, and Mark Melancon, among others, available in free agency. Boston does certainly need some help in the late innings and I will be quite upset if they neglect to address that need, but for now there are still enough options that I can be patient, even with my personal favorite option signing elsewhere.