Former Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon is one of the more underrated pitchers on the upcoming free agent market, so should the team reunite with him this winter?
During the 2020-2021 off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded right-handed starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees in exchange for four prospects. At the time, Taillon was still recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, but he came back in 2021 and 2022 to give the Yankees two relatively solid campaigns. Once the Yankee season is over, Taillon will hit free agency, so should the Pirates consider a reunion with the right-hander?
Taillon has been rock solid the last two seasons, providing the Yankees with two seasons that come out to about league average. In a total of 321.2 innings, Taillon has a 4.08 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP. That comes out to a 101 ERA-, FIP-, and 100 ERA+. He’s also had 88.7 MPH exit velocity and a 37.7% hard-hit rate, which isn’t too far off from the league average marks of 88.4 MPH and 35.8%. The ERA estimators reflect almost an identical story. He has a 4.05 SIERA, 4.19 xFIP, 3.89 xERA in 2021, and 4.20 xERA in 2022. What you see is what you get with Taillon: a low-4/high-3 ERA pitcher.
Taillon’s 21.9% strikeout rate was below the league average, but he only walked 5.7% of the batters he faced. With a 3.83 K:BB ratio, Taillon was among 22 pitchers with a K:BB ratio higher than 3.5 in at least 300 innings of work. But he did have a 1.4 HR/9 rate when the league average rate between 2021 and 2022 was only 1.17.
Taillon isn’t the young gun he was early in his Pirates career and will be going into his age-31 season next year. But he’s still a decent starting pitcher, even if he isn’t a top-of-the-rotation arm. He can go out and provide league average numbers across 150+ innings a year and anchor a rotation. That’s something the Pirates need with a relatively young starting pitching staff.
The Pirates have a handful of starting pitching candidates with Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Johan Oviedo, Luis Ortiz, and JT Brubaker all getting major league starts this year. Mike Burrows, Quinn Priester, Kyle Nicolas, J.C. Flowers, and Carmen Mlodzinski make up Triple-A’s rotation, and the Pirates have other options like Miguel Yajure, Bryse Wilson, and Zach Thompson on hand.
But Taillon could provide a constant in the rotation for the Bucs. A Taillon contract would likely be in the 3-6 year range and $15-18 million AAV range. For a mid-tier no. 3 starter who has been relatively healthy the last two seasons, that’s not a terrible price to pay. The Pittsburgh Pirates should aim a little higher than a #5 starter/veteran rebound candidate, and Taillon fits the mould of what the Pirates would value the most right now for the starting staff.