Pittsburgh Pirates: The Dilemma of Trading Jameson Taillon


The Pittsburgh Pirates’ rebuild continues on, but should they trade right-handed starting pitcher Jameson Taillon?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have made two big trades this offseason. The first was when they traded switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe. Most recently, they traded Joe Musgrove for a five player haul of prospects. Both of these trades, especially the Musgrove trade, have given the Pittsburgh Pirates a big boost in their rebuild.

The Pirates are far from done and will likely make more trades, potentially before the offseason is over. Left-handed pitcher Steven Brault got some interest earlier this offseason and the Pirates have been shopping Adam Frazier around for quite some time now. Both Chris Stratton and Richard Rodriguez had good 2020 seasons and could also be on the trading block.

However, one name that has been brought up a few times is right-handed starter Jameson Taillon. He’s been looked at by the New York Yankees multiple times this offseason and has come up in trade rumors recently once again. But should the Bucs trade Taillon?

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates got a good look at Taillon was during his 2018 breakout season. Through 191 innings of work, Taillon put up a 3.20 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 1.17 WHIP. Taillon only allowed home runs at a 0.94 per 9 rate while having a 22.8% strikeout rate and strong 5.9% walk rate. His strikeout-per-walk ratio sat at 3.89. He was also a decent pitcher in terms of the ERA estimators with a 3.77 SIERA, 3.58 xFIP 3.58 xERA and 3.41 DRA.

Overall, Taillon had a 3.9 fWAR, which ranked 19th among the 74 starters with at least 150 innings pitched in 2018. Opponents also only managed an 87.8 MPH exit velocity and 31.9% hard hit rate. His ability to get softer contact pairs well with his solid 46.2% ground ball rate. He also pitched well to his ability having an opponent .243 xBA to an actual .246 opponent batting average, .379 opponent xSLG to an actual mark of .385 and xwOBA of .296 and actual mark of .294.

Taillon pitched just 37.1 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 before having to undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his professional career. However, he seems to have rehabbed well from the surgery and will be back in action in 2021. His high curveball spin rate and above average fastball and slider spin rate make him someone that Oscar Marin would love to work with.

At some point in the not too distant future the Pittsburgh Pirates should trade Jameson Taillon. Currently, they’re in a rebuilding process and after finishing with the worst record in baseball in 2020, they’re shooting for a high draft pick once again in 2021. Taillon is already 29 and will be a free agent after the 2022 season.

However, right now would not be the best time to trade Taillon. While teams do pay for future production rather than past production, Taillon’s value is at an all time low. While one could argue the Pirates did trade Bell while his value was at a career low, Bell was a huge gamble given his inconsistent performance year in and year out and was far from a sure thing to have a good first half in 2021.

So far when he has been healthy, Taillon has been an excellent pitcher. Taillon’s value could go way up if he has a healthy first half of 2021. It also helps the pitching market is currently a seller’s market. Three of the biggest names, that being Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Musgrove, have all gone to just one team, that being the San Diego Padres. Lance Lynn was also acquired by the Chicago White Sox. The free agent market only holds one high-caliber starter in 2020 National League Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer.

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While the Pirates should eventually trade Taillon, they should hold onto him to at least start the season. Unless Ben Cherington is offered a massive deal that meets Taillon’s full value, then the best option is likely going to be trading him after his value takes a step up.