Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Yankees Get Jameson Taillon from Pirates for Prospects

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates continue their offseason tear-down by trading away RHP Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees. Taillon, 29, was a fan-favorite in Pittsburgh and is entering the 2021 season after recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. In exchange for Taillon, the Pirates received a package of prospects including RHP Miguel Yajure, RHP Roansy Contreras, OF Canaan Smith, and 2B/SS Maikol Escotto. This comes just a week after the Pirates traded Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres for five prospects.

What the Yankees Are Getting

The Yankees add some much-needed rotation depth in Taillon, with James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka currently treading water on the free-agent market and J.A. Happ recently signing in Minnesota. Taillon joins former Pirates teammate Gerrit Cole in the Bronx, who signed a massive 9 year, $324 million contract last offseason. Taillon will likely slot into the number three spot in the Yankees’ opening day rotation barring any future acquisitions, as Domingo German is serving his 81 game suspension, Corey Kluber’s recent signing with the team, and Luis Severino is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ever since he was drafted second overall in 2010, Taillon has dealt with poor injury luck. Taillon missed the entire 2014 minor league season after underwent his first Tommy John surgery, and then missed the entire 2015 season with a sports hernia. Despite not playing for two consecutive seasons, Taillon returned better than ever in 2016. Through 61.2 innings in AAA, Taillon was lights out, posting a 2.04 ERA and 1.95 FIP. His AAA performance earned Taillon his first call-up to the MLB, where he continued his superb performance with a 3.38 ERA in 104 innings. During the 2017 season, he was placed on the IL in May when he began treatment for testicular cancer.

Thankfully, Taillon made a quick recovery and finished the season with a decent 4.44 ERA and 3.48 FIP in 133.2 innings. 2018 was Taillon’s first full season in the MLB, where he earned a very good 3.20 ERA in 191 innings. At this point, it looked as if the Pirates had found an ace, but those hopes were soon silenced when Taillon was shut down for the remainder of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season with a forearm injury that required Tommy John surgery. While Taillon has shown in the past that he can rebound from injuries, it is hard to project what his 2021 season may look like.

With all of the injuries Taillon has faced, his 2018 season is the most recent season Taillon has pitched enough innings to draw any conclusions from, so let’s take a look.

Source: Baseball Savant

Just by glancing at Taillon’s statcast profile, you can see how good he was in 2018. Taillon specializes in creating ground balls, as shown by his 46.2% ground ball rate, which placed him 16th among qualified pitchers in 2018. This allows him to earn the great Statcast numbers shown above while only having a league-average strikeout rate.

Source: Baseball Savant

Taillon has five pitches in his arsenal and added a slider during the 2018 season. By looking at the above image, Taillon’s curveball clearly seems to be his best pitch, and he doesn’t throw it as much as he should.

In 2018, Taillon’s curveball had an elite whiff rate of 37.8%, over 10% higher than any of his other pitches. Taillon’s curveball has great movement numbers, having over 3 inches above average both horizontally and vertically. While he did only throw it 87 times in 2019, Taillon’s curveball saw significant decreases in pitch movement and whiff rate. The sample size is small, but this seems rather concerning, especially since he will be coming back from an injury in 2021.

Source: Baseball Savant

What the Pirates Are Getting

The Pirates have acquired another significant package of prospects from this trade: Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Canaan Smith, and Maikol Escotto, and their prospect pool has quickly become one of the deepest in baseball. Between the Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon trades this offseason, the Pirates have added 11 prospects, with 9 of them being ranked within the trading team’s top 30 by MLB Pipeline. With the Pirates getting the first overall pick in the 2021 draft (and perhaps 2022 as well), they could have a bright future ahead of them.

Miguel Yajure is the highest-ranking prospect by MLB Pipeline (ranked 14th among Pirates prospects) in the Taillon trade. Yajure, 22, made his MLB debut in 2020, pitching 7 innings with a 1.29 ERA. Prior to the 2020 season, the highest level that Yajure had played at was AA, where he pitched 11 innings. Yajure underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 but rebounded well with a 3.90 ERA in Single-A during the 2018 season, and a 2.26 ERA in AA during the 2019 season. Yajure has the highest floor out of the prospects involved in the trade, but his ceiling isn’t very high. He projects to be a back-end starter in the MLB.

21-year-old right-handed pitcher Roansy Contreras is the next player heading to the Pirates in this trade. Contreras, ranked the Pirates’ 19th best prospect by Pipeline, most recently played in Single-A during the 2019 season. During his year-19, Contreras pitched 132.1 innings, producing an ERA of 3.33 and a K/9 of 7.69. As a flyball pitcher, Contreras doesn’t strike out many hitters, which is a bit concerning. Scouts have had conflicting opinions about Contreras, but if he can improve his command he could become a good major league pitcher.

Canaan Smith is a 21-year-old outfield prospect, who is ranked the Pirates’ 26th best prospect by Pipeline. Coming off of a rough 2018 in Low-A, Smith rebounded in 2019 with a 154 wRC+ in 528 PA during his 2019 season in Single-A. Smith gets on base, steals bases, and has good plate discipline. If he can add some more power to his profile while maintaining good discipline, Smith could become an impact player in MLB.

Maikol Escotto is the final player involved in this trade and is certainly the most intriguing. While unranked by Pipeline, the 18-year-old is ranked the Yankees’ 20th best prospect by Fangraphs. Escotto arrived in New York as an international signing in 2018, making his Dominican summer league debut in 2019. Through 218 plate appearances in 2019, Escotto hit 8 home runs with a wRC+ of 167. Escotto will make his US debut in 2021, and will likely push himself up prospect lists with his good power and speed. Escotto has the highest ceiling of anyone in this trade and is certainly worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Conclusion

The Yankees made a good move by trading for Taillon. Taillon has proven himself to be a reliable starting pitcher but has a lot of uncertainty attached to him with his injury history. I could see this trade working out very well for the Yankees if Taillon can stay healthy. The Pirates also got an interesting return. As seen from the Taillon and Musgrove trades, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington seems to have the mindset of acquiring as many prospects as possible, with the hopes of developing them into major league contributors. It’s a risky mindset considering the Pirates don’t have the best track record with player development (just look at Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows), but with a new regime in Pittsburgh, it may be a different story this time around. Maikol Escotto is an exciting player, and very well could end up being the best player in the trade if the Pirates can develop him properly. Overall, both teams did well in this trade.

Owen Daley

Rookie writer for Max's Sporting Studio. Pirates fan, but nowadays I enjoy watching other teams