The Yankees are thinking upside when it comes to starting pitching in 2021. Because they clearly are not relying on sure things.
They already have reached agreement this month with former two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, who threw one inning in 2020.
Now, they are talking with the Pirates about Jameson Taillon, who did not pitch at all last year following his second Tommy John surgery.
The Pirates, perhaps more in rebuild mode than any team in the majors, already traded one starter, Joe Musgrove, to the Padres and their top slugger, first baseman Josh Bell, to the Nationals. They are open for business and have let teams know they would move another starter.
An executive from neither the Pirates nor Yankees whose team has been involved in the starting pitching market described the Bombers as strong front-runners for Taillon. An agent who does not represent Taillon said he heard talks with the Yankees were advancing. Nevertheless, no official from the Yankees or Pirates responded to queries about the status of a trade.
If the Yankees were able to obtain Taillon, they would be adding yet another question mark behind Gerrit Cole, but it would be yet another talented question mark. The theory forming is that a few from that collection will perform well for the Yankees to piece together a strong rotation over the course of the season.
Kluber is the most accomplished of the group, but has merely made eight starts the past two years, just one in 2020 before a shoulder tear sidelined him. Luis Severino is due back a few months into the season after Tommy John surgery. Domingo German should be available from the outset after missing last season following a suspension under MLB’s domestic abuse protocols. The Yankees see Jordan Montgomery as having the skills to be a No. 3 starter, and that Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt might climb to that same level.
Taillon’s stuff has never been in question. In 2010, he was drafted second overall by Pittsburgh, sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (Pittsburgh took Cole with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011). But Taillon has been beset by a string of ailments. When healthy in 2018, the righty was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 32 starts. Nevertheless, he needed Tommy John surgery in August 2019 and that kept him out for 2020 as well.
Taillon is due $2.25 million in 2021 so he fits into the Yankees calculations to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold at least to begin the year and he cannot be a free agent until after the 2022 campaign. Taillon turned 29 in November 2020. He was attempting biomechanical changes to his delivery during his rehab last year, including a shorter arm swing, to try to alleviate injuries.
He is talented and worth a gamble depending on the price. The Yankees already have to clear two 40-man roster spots to make room for Kluber and D.J. LeMahieu. So if this trade goes through does it involve someone from the Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, Luis Gil, Luis Medina realm? Opposing executives say the Yankees have been looking for partners to move as much of Adam Ottavino’s $9 million luxury tax number for 2021 as possible. Would the Yankees give up better prospects, for example, if Pittsburgh also took on Ottavino?
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