The Yankees continued their recent streak of activity this weekend by making two trades that will shape the pitching staff in 2021.
New York traded for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon in exchange for prospects Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Maika3l Escotto, and Canaan Smith. The Yankees also made a rare trade with the rival Red Sox, sending relief pitcher Adam Ottavino and prospect Frank German to Boston in exchange for a player to be named later. The Yankees will be paying $850,000 of Ottavino’s final year on his contract.
The Taillon acquisition is the biggest news for the team. The prospects the Yankees gave up are not ones that would help at the major league level any time soon, so it makes sense to make this trade in a win-now mindset.
When Taillon is on the mound, he is a good pitcher, but like many other players on the Yankees, the injury risk is the concern. Taillon has had Tommy John surgery twice in his career and has also survived cancer. So we know he is a fighter and has the determination to perform; it is just a question of whether his body will hold up.
Taillon’s last season in the big leagues was a solid one in 2018. He accumulated 3.9 WAR and had a 3.58 xFIP. While not front-line quality, that is a solid rotational piece, which is exactly what the Yankees needed.
Taillon also performed pretty well in 2018 regarding his percentiles in important areas compared to the rest of the league.
Taillon has been throwing bullpens and mentioned changing his mechanics in his first interview with the New York media.
“You hear as a kid, ‘Throw with your legs,’ so I had never been properly taught what that really meant,” Taillon said. “Now I’m activating my legs in a way that takes some pressure off my arm.”
Taillon added that these changes had impacted how his pitches act as well, claiming that he added spin to his fastball that gives it more carry and more spin to his slider.
Taillon also mentioned that going from a Pirates team that was not expecting to compete to the Yankees, where the main goal is winning a World Series, is extremely exciting for him. He was a teammate of ace Gerrit Cole when they were teammates in Pittsburgh, maintaining a close connection over the years. Now the two will have an opportunity to be key parts of New York’s rotation in 2021.
The Yankees rotation still has many question marks after Gerrit Cole, but with the number of arms the Yankees have after adding Taillon and Corey Kluber, there is more reason for optimism than just two weeks ago. In all likelihood, not every pitcher the Yankees have will work out, but now there are enough arms that it would take a lot going wrong for there not to be some answers to those rotation concerns.
Not many would have been shocked if the Taillon trade was the last major move the Yankees made this offseason. It didn’t end up that way with the Ottavino trade to the Red Sox.
While the Yankees did not get anything substantial back in the deal, the Yankees offloaded a salary that gives them room for some more moves while still staying under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.
Simply put, the Yankees did not use Ottavino enough out of the bullpen to justify his $9 million a year price tag. So they moved him to clear space for what likely will be another reliever they like better than Ottavino, along with flexibility for what might allow them to bring back outfielder Brett Gardner.
There are multiple relief pitchers available that would make sense for the Yankees. Trevor Rosenthal, Justin Wilson, Alex Colome, and Shane Greene are some examples with many other names that would fit as well. It would be a surprise if the Yankees did not add one of these players.
The Yankees offseason has been pretty eventful over the last couple of weeks.
Judging by recent activity, it looks like we should have more news relatively soon.
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