Yanks get Taillon, trade 4 prospects to Bucs

January 24th, 2021

It has been nearly a decade since and were the Pirates’ rising stars, their bond strengthened by sharing a spring apartment that hosted countless deep chats about pitching. They dreamed about leading a rotation toward October, which is exactly what the Yankees are banking on.

The Yankees acquired the 29-year-old Taillon in exchange for four prospects on Sunday, reuniting the former Bucs and hoping to bolster their staff with a right-hander who has flashed an electric arsenal over the years. Taillon is expected to be ready for Opening Day after recovering from a second Tommy John procedure.

“I told Gerrit, ‘Dude, I want to run it back with you now,’” Taillon told MLB.com on Sunday. "I'm at a different place in my life. You’re at a different place in your life. We never got that full chance to do it together.’ It’s crazy how the world, and the baseball world specifically, works. But we now have that chance.”

Yankees get: RHP Jameson Taillon
Pirates get: RHP Miguel Yajure (Yankees' No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline), RHP Roansy Contreras (No. 19), OF Canaan Smith (No. 21), SS Maikol Escotto

New York parted with right-handers Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith in exchange for Taillon, who missed all of the 2020 season. Yajure was the Yankees’ No. 15 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Contreras was rated No. 19, and Smith was No. 21.

The Yankees sought Cole’s input as they evaluated Taillon, with the ace providing positive reports about the hurler’s character and demeanor. Cole and Taillon shared a rented apartment for several springs in Bradenton, Fla., having struck up a friendship in the low Minors.

Taillon projects to slot behind Cole and right-hander Corey Kluber, who agreed to a one-year, $11 million contract last week, but that deal has not yet been announced. New York’s rotation also figures to include left-hander Jordan Montgomery, with a final spot up for grabs among a group that features right-handers Deivi García, Domingo Germán, Michael King, Nick Nelson and Clarke Schmidt.

“I’m good to go on my end,” Taillon said. “Getting on board with a team like the Yankees, they’re playing for October, so they’ll get to manage my innings and my workload. They’ll be able to set me up properly. Those are all conversations we need to have, but I’m ready to freaking go.”

With Contreras and Yajure sent to Pittsburgh, two spaces were cleared on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, one of which will be occupied by Taillon. The reported deals of Kluber and infielder DJ LeMahieu -- who agreed to a six-year, $90 million contract on Jan. 15 -- have yet to be formally announced by the club.

As the Yankees aim to keep payroll below the $210 million luxury tax threshold this coming season, Taillon’s salary appears to fit nicely. Taillon is set to earn $2.25 million this season. Having thrown four bullpens this winter, Taillon said that he is pleased by his progress.

“My stuff feels great, the delivery feels great,” Taillon said. “I feel like I’ve been blessed with another baseball life. I haven’t taken an Aleve or Advil or anything for my arm since surgery. I haven’t been sore one day. I haven’t been concerned about my arm one day.

“Fastball’s there. Spin rate’s gone up. Curveball is sharp. Slider’s improved. None of that matters until I face hitters and go out and prove it, but I’m super-excited with where I’m at. I’m excited to jump on board with their staff and see what they can do to make me even better.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Taillon first underwent elbow surgery in 2014, when he was on the brink of joining Cole in the Pirates’ rotation. He debuted in 2016 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts.

Taillon’s 2017 season was interrupted by a battle against testicular cancer. He persevered, returning to the mound five weeks after surgery to throw five scoreless innings. Taillon’s best season to date was 2018, when he finished 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA, along with a 1.18 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 191 innings over 32 starts, leading the club with a 4.9 bWAR.

“Joining the Yankees, it’s a perfect opportunity. I’m giddy about it,” Taillon said. “I know I’ve heard amazing things about Matt Blake, their pitching coach. I’ve heard [manager Aaron] Boone is great. As far as the organization goes, just top notch -- nothing matters except winning. I’m ready to put my bullets toward a winning team. I’ve put in a ton of work over the last couple years to reinvent myself and put myself in position to contribute to a team like this.”