It’s a stray mention in a much longer piece, but since Jameson Taillon is not a pitcher we’ve discussed much in specific connection to the Chicago Cubs’ free agent pursuits, I think it’s worth highlighting.
Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney did a little post-Thanksgiving reset this morning on the Cubs’ offseason, and included this section on some of the next-tier starting pitching they could be looking at:
The Cubs can be opportunistic as they evaluate multiple starters with mid-to-upper 90s velocity, multiple secondary pitches and swing-and-miss stuff. Ideally, those pitchers would not be attached to a qualifying offer and the associated penalties in the draft and the international market. Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker are among the pitchers who would fit the criteria. Andrew Heaney is another name to file away as the Cubs were involved in the negotiations before the left-handed pitcher signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Heaney managed to stay on the field for just 16 outings (14 starts) and 72 2/3 innings, but the raw ingredients for an impressive starter were on display as he posted a strong 3.10 ERA with peripherals (35.5 percent strikeout rate and 6.1 percent walk rate) to back it up.
We discussed Walker earlier, and Heaney has now come up more than once (we’ll probably need to do a deeper dive on him, too). But Taillon is not someone we’ve talked about as a possible Cubs target. Note that Sharma and Mooney merely say that he’s a guy who could “fit the criteria,” but I tend to think if he’s called about by name, there’s probably a reason for that.
There are extensive pros and cons with Taillon, which make him harder to project – performance and contract – than the average free agent pitcher.
- Has always had great raw stuff.
- Been around a long time, but isn’t all that old just yet (31).
- Was more or less healthy and productive the last two years with the Yankees.
- Not attached to draft pick compensation.
- Likely will not require super long-term deal.
- Extensive injury history, including arm issues.
- Just 787.2 total innings of big league experience despite being 31.
- Although relatively productive with the Yankees, that was just league-average performance (101 ERA-, 101 FIP-), nothing quite like his younger days with the Pirates.
- Velocity still decent (94 mph), but down from his younger days (95-96 mph).
- Extreme fly ball pitcher will mean huge various between outings.
To me, health is probably the bigger risk than the performance, as it seems a fair bet that he’d be at least a league average guy, and league average pitching is quite useful!
That said, I think the Cubs would have to believe they can next-level him a little bit in the results department if they were going to justify an aggressive pursuit (instead of some other options). Since the Cubs DO have success stories there, I wouldn’t have a problem with the Cubs adding Taillon, and selling me/themselves on the idea that they can get a little more out of him. They have some credibility on that front. And Taillon’s experience in the NL Central could also mean the Cubs have sliiiightly more familiarity with him (and how they might be able to work with him) than most free agents.
But would I want him to be THE MAIN addition in the rotation in free agency/trade? No. That, I don’t think, would be justifiable. Good and reasonable target. Complementary addition. That’s where I land at first blush.