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2023 Cubs player profiles: Jameson Taillon

Sixteenth in a series. Signing Taillon was a big step in the right direction for the Cubs, though the results remain to be seen.

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Texas Rangers v Chicago Cubs
Taillon shoves
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Jameson Lee Taillon was born November 18, 1991 in Lakeland, Florida. He was the second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Taillon pitched for the Pirates for 3½ years, amassing a won-loss record of 29-24 over 466 innings, with a 3.67 ERA, after surfacing in 2016, post-Tommy John surgery. He also had testicular cancer in 2017 and had one testicle removed, and missed part of 2019 and all of 2020 due to surgery to repair a flexor tendon as well as UCL revision.

In 2021, he was traded to the New York Yankees for RHP Miguel Yajure (Yankees’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline), RHP Roansy Contreras (No. 19), OF Canaan Smith (No. 21), and SS Maikol Escotto. Contreras has already impacted the Pirates’ major-league roster. Taillon was 22-11 for the Yankees, a much better team. Indeed his 14-5 record in 2022 was his career-best, but the Yankees did not renew his contract and he entered the free agent market.

Taillon signed with the Cubs December 19, 2022, inking a four-year, $68 million deal that keeps him on the team through 2026. In Spring Training, he was virtually unhittable, but he sustained a groin injury and is just getting back to the Cubs. So far he is winless but that won’t last — he is pitching reasonably well and will get better as his timing and location improve.

Though Taillon was born in the USA, both of his parents are Canadian, and he holds dual citizenship. He is reportedly fully healthy as of this date and the Cubs expect his usual steady work as he slots into the third spot in the starting rotation, ahead of lefthander Drew Smyly, the subject of the next profile.

The Cubs have taken Taillon into the lab and messed with his grips a little bit, hoping to make some of his pitches even more effective. He’s added the Cubs’ currently fashionable ‘sweeping slider’ (The Athletic sub req’d), which was also in use on the Yankees staff.

“They showed me the grip, showed me some cues and told me what the end goal is,” Taillon said. “You want to create topspin so it catches properly and takes off. They presented it to me, I threw my bullpen that night, took some video of it and got my TrackMan information. That kind of kicked off the process. It started as just try it out. I didn’t expect it to be great that first day, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be from the start.” — Sahadev Sharma, from the above.

According to the Chicago Tribune, there were two reasons (aside from money) that Taillon decided to head to Chicago: “custom videos to sell him on the Wrigley Field experience, fans and history of the city and an in-person conversation with assistant general manager and vice president of pitching Craig Breslow.”

“I was impressed with every team for sure, but the Cubs felt genuine in that regard,” Taillon said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. “They reached out early. They reached out often. ... Everyone I talked to, it just felt easy.”

The Tribune reports Taillon “also received positive feedback from former New York Yankees teammates Anthony Rizzo and Scott Effross and former Pittsburgh Pirates teammate Trevor Williams on their Cubs experiences.” — Mike Rosenstein.

The results remain to be seen — as in almost all of the profiles, ‘we await developments’. But the 6’6” Taillon should loom large in the Cubs’ plans.