The Chicago Cubs tonight made a big move to bolster their pitching rotation by signing veteran free agent Jameson Taillon. The deal was for four years and $68 million
The Cubs are in agreement on a contract with free agent pitcher Jameson Taillon on a 4 year, $68 million deal sources tell @JeffPassan and me.— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) December 7, 2022
Taillon, 31, is quite familiar to Cubs fans from his days with the Pirates, where he was the second pick of the 2010 draft. The tall, 6’5” right-handed pitcher arrival in the majors was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2014. He made his major league debut in 2016, just after the era of competitiveness for the Pirates ended. But Taillon was a solid pitcher for three years in Pittsburgh. Despite missing time while battling testicular cancer in 2017, Taillon became a real workhorse for the late-teens Pirates teams. He pitched 133 2⁄3 innings for Pittsburgh in 2017 even with missing six weeks for cancer treatment and he threw 191 innings for the Pirates in 2018, putting up a 14-10 record with a 3.22.
But Taillon’s time in Pittsburgh came to an end in 2019 when he underwent a second Tommy John surgery only seven starts into the season. Taillon missed the rest of the 2019 season and all of 2020. During January of 2021, he was traded to the Yankees for four players, of which right-hander Roansy Contreras is the most notable.
Having recovered from his second Tommy John surgery, Taillon re-invented himself into a somewhat different pitcher while still getting the same solid but not elite results. While the velocity on Taillon’s fastball has only dropped from 95 miles per hour on average to 94, he’s working the zone differently. For one, he doesn’t throw his sinker nearly as much and relies more on his four-seam fastball. Taillon also threw more strikes and walked fewer batters with New York. He also changed from a ground-ball pitcher to more of a fly-ball one. Some of these changes to his pitch selection and pitching motion were made with the intention of keeping himself healthy, as he noted in this interview with David Laurila back in August.
Taillon walked just 4.4% of the batters he faced last year, which was tied for the third-lowest rate in MLB. The drop in the walks allowed also meant that he “only” struck out 7.66 batters per nine innings last season, so while he’s not a big “pitch-to-contact” guy, he is someone who is going to need a solid defense behind him, especially in the outfield. Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki should provide that for him.
With the Yankees last season, Taillon went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA. He made 32 starts and pitched 177 1⁄3 innings, which is an impressive workload for this day and age. For his career, Taillon is 51-35 with a 3.84 ERA.
It’s a small-sample size, but Taillon has made four career starts at Wrigley and is 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA over 20 innings. All of those starts were when he was with the Pirates.
The Cubs have targeted pitchers who keep the ball in play and don’t walk many batters recently. Marcus Stroman is the most-notable example (although his pitching arsenal is a bit different), but Adrian Sampson is another who fits into the same mold. Although Sampson’s pure stuff isn’t quite as good as Taillon, he has found career success with the Cubs.
Taillon is more of a mid-rotation workhorse than the elite pitching ace that many were hoping for, but he’s a quality pitcher who should make the Cubs a better team over the next four years.
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