Finally! We’ve been waiting all day for the initial rumors to pick up steam and a full two hours since multiple reports indicated it was close. But now, in the wee hours of the morning, we have a firm report. The Chicago Cubs are signing free agent right-hander Jameson Taillon to a big four-year, $68 million deal.
That’s a whole lot of scratch for a 31-year-old righty with a 3.91 ERA and 2.3 fWAR in 2022. But that’s right in line with ballooning prices all over the mid-tier starting pitcher market. And it’s not like there isn’t any upside here. In fact, the Cubs have had success unlocking pitchers like Jameson Taillon in the recent past. So even if he didn’t offer a pretty useful floor (as is), there’s still the potential for a little extra.
And I really don’t hate that he throws strikes, manages contact, and eclipsed 175 innings pitched last season.
Setting the money aside, if the deal seems long, remember that Marcus Stroman can opt out after 2023 and Kyle Hendricks will be a free agent at the end of the year, as well. The Cubs needed to make sure they’ll have some rotational stability after this season, even if there are some exciting young arms reaching the big leagues. Again, I just keep coming back to the fact that this is the market now. With labor stability and a red-hot winter meetings, these free agents are doing WELL.
At the end of the day, the Cubs need(ed) to add multiple starting pitchers this offseason, and now they’ve made sure they’ve got at least one. I dig it. And now they can be a little more selective with whom they target next (… but let’s still go get Kodai Senga, please, eh?).
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 variance 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.
Much more tomorrow.