The Pirates have appointed right-hander Jameson Taillon their Opening Day starter for 2019, per a team announcement on Saturday. It’s the first such appointment for the 27-year-old Taillon, who will take the mound when the Pirates open the season on the road against the Reds on March 28.
“It’s a big honor,” Taillon told reporters. “I get to kick off the season for the boys, set the tone. Obviously I care about the body of work and stuff, but it is a big honor to get the ball Opening Day. Growing up a fan of baseball, there was a certain stigma around Opening Day starter[s]. I would always look forward to when teams would announce it.”
The decision to go with Taillon comes as a no-brainer after his career year in 2018. According to FanGraphs, the righty was the most valuable starter in the Pirates’ rotation after going 14-10 in 32 starts with a 3.20 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.4 SO/9, and 3.7 fWAR across 191 innings.
He’ll head the rotation again in 2019 with a combination of right-handers Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Archer behind him. The fifth spot is still up for grabs, but may be nabbed by any one of Jordan Lyles, Nick Kingham, or Steven Brault depending on how things shake out in spring training. Archer, 30, will get the nod for the club’s first home game against the Cardinals on April 1, while Williams and Musgrove are currently slated to fill in the starts between the two openers.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.
It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.
That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.
But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?
We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.