Sunday's MLB: Yankees get Jameson Taillon from Pirates for 4 prospects

Ronald Blum
Associated Press

New York — The Yankees made another high-risk offseason addition to their starting rotation, acquiring right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday for four prospects.

Pittsburgh received right-handers Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yajure, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith.

A person familiar with the trade talks tells The Associated Press the New York Yankees made the second addition to their starting rotation of the offseason, agreeing to acquire right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pirates for four prospects.

Taillon, 29, has not pitched since May 1, 2019, following his second Tommy John surgery.

New York also has a pending $11 million, one-year deal with right-hander Corey Kluber, who has pitched just one inning since his right forearm was broken by a comebacker on May 1, 2019. He tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder in his season debut last season.

They hope to join a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s former Pirates teammate, and projected to include Deivi García and Jordan Montgomery.

In addition, Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John surgery last Feb. 27 and Domingo Germán is expected back from a domestic violence suspension that caused him to miss last season. Rookie Clarke Schmidt, who debuted Sept. 4, and Michael King, who made four starts and five relief appearances last year, also are possibilities.

“Bittersweet day for me over here!” Taillon wrote on Twitter. “Trying to process everything – have SO much to say to the city of Pittsburgh and my teammates. Also have SO much to say about this incredible opportunity and to the city/fans in New York.”

This deal makes it less likely the Yankees will re-sign Masahiro Tanaka, who became a free agent. New York lost two other starters to free agency, J.A. Happ, who signed with Minnesota, and James Paxton, who remains unsigned.

Taillon was 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts during the 2019 season, when he started on opening day for the Pirates. He did not pitch after May 1, going on the injured list with a strained right elbow flexor tendon. He had surgery on Aug. 13 with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek to repair the flexor tendon and have ulnar collateral ligament revision surgery, his second Tommy John procedure.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said they weighed “comparing what was on the table now to what we felt like could be down the road given a sort of reasonable expectation of a return and performance. And we just felt like this made sense for us right now.”

Taillon was selected by Pittsburgh with the second overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, but his big league career was delayed by Tommy John surgery with Altchek on April 9, 2014, and sports hernia surgery on July 8, 2015, with Dr. George Eid. He was limited in 2014 to a pair of spring training games and in 2015 to seven extended spring training appearances. He made his big league debut on June 8, 2016, and recovered from surgery in 2017 for testicular cancer.

“He just totally gets it,” Cherington said. “He handles a phone call like the one we had today like a total pro.”

Taillon is 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA in four major league seasons. A five-pitch pitcher, he averaged 95 mph with his fastball last season, throwing it on about one-quarter of his pitches while mixing it with a sinker, curveball, slider and occasional changeups.

He struck out 30 and walked eight in 37 1/3 innings two years ago.

Taillon is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. He agreed last month to a $2.25 million, one-year contract.

His departure follows a deal earlier in that month that sent right-hander Joe Musgrove to San Diego as part of a three-team trade that brought five prospects to Pittsburgh.

Since Cherington was hired as general manager in November 2019, he also traded first baseman Josh Bell and outfielder Starling Marte. Following the end of the season, the Pirates failed to offer a contract to Trevor Williams, a third member of their rotation last season, and declined a team option on Chris Archer, who missed last season following surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome.

“You’ve got to be willing to make decisions like this to add talent we’re going to need to get this thing where we want to get it,” Cherington said. “We’re probably shifting some energy at this point now back towards adding to the team between now and spring training or adding or between now and season.”

Still, he admitted: “We’ll definitely keep the phone on” to listen if teams have interest in other players.

Yajure, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, made his big league debut last year and had a 1.29 ERA in three relief appearances. Cherington expects him to compete for a starting berth in spring training.

The others are less advanced.

Contreras, a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic, is 16-11 with a 3.25 ERA in three minor league seasons and was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster in November. He was rated the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America after the 2019 season.

Escotto, 18, made his professional debut in 2019 and hit .315 with 11 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 26 RBIs and 13 steals in 45 games for the Dominican Summer League Yankees.

Smith, a 21-year-old from Texas, has hit .280 with 50 doubles, four triples, 19 homers, 118 RBIs and 21 steals in three minor league seasons.

Yajure and Contreras are on the 40-man roster. To clear a roster spot, Pittsburgh designated outfielder Troy Stokes for assignment.

Hand to sign with Nats

All-Star closer Brad Hand has agreed to a deal with the Washington Nationals, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the contract was still not official and is pending the successful completion of a physical exam.

The 30-year-old left-hander is poised to become Washington’s closer after leading the majors with 16 saves during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Hand joins the back end of the bullpen that already includes Will Harris, Daniel Hudson and Tanner Rainey.

After tying for last place in the NL East, the Nationals have acquired Hand, starter Jon Lester (pending a physical), slugger Kyle Schwarber and first baseman Josh Bell. They also brought back the organization’s longest tenured player, Ryan Zimmerman, after he opted out in 2020.

Cleveland declined Hand’s $10 million option after last season. Multiple reports have indicated his agreement with the Nationals is one year for $10.5 million.

Hand will be playing for his fourth team in his 11th major league season. He has a 3.65 ERA in 396 career appearances and 105 saves and has been a full-time reliever since 2016, making three All-Star teams.

Hand’s fastball velocity has dropped over 2 mph the past two seasons and averaged 91.4 mph in 2020. Despite that, he posted a 2.05 ERA and struck out 29 batters in 22 innings.