Yankees acquire Jameson Taillon from Pirates for 4 prospects

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — The Yankees made another high-risk offseason addition to their starting rotation, acquiring right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday for four prospects.

Pittsburgh received right-handers Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yajure, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith.

Taillon, 29, has not pitched since May 1, 2019, following his second Tommy John surgery.

New York also has a pending $11 million, one-year deal with right-hander Corey Kluber, who has pitched just one inning since his right forearm was broken by a comebacker on May 1, 2019. He tore a muscle in his pitching shoulder in his season debut last season.

They hope to join a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s former Pirates teammate, and projected to include Deivi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery.

In addition, Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John surgery last Feb. 27 and Domingo German is expected back from a domestic violence suspension that caused him to miss last season. Rookie Clarke Schmidt, who debuted Sept. 4, and Michael King, who made four starts and five relief appearances last year, also are possibilities.

“Bittersweet day for me over here!” Taillon wrote on Twitter. “Trying to process everything – have SO much to say to the city of Pittsburgh and my teammates. Also have SO much to say about this incredible opportunity and to the city/fans in New York.”

This deal makes it less likely the Yankees will re-sign Masahiro Tanaka, who became a free agent. New York lost two other starters to free agency, J.A. Happ, who signed with Minnesota, and James Paxton, who remains unsigned.

Taillon was 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts during the 2019 season, when he started on opening day for the Pirates. He did not pitch after May 1, going on the injured list with a strained right elbow flexor tendon. He had surgery on Aug. 13 with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek to repair the flexor tendon and have ulnar collateral ligament revision surgery, his second Tommy John procedure.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said they weighed “comparing what was on the table now to what we felt like could be down the road given a sort of reasonable expectation of a return and performance. And we just felt like this made sense for us right now.”

Taillon was selected by Pittsburgh with the second overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, but his big league career was delayed by Tommy John surgery with Altchek on April 9, 2014, and sports hernia surgery on July 8, 2015, with Dr. George Eid. He was limited in 2014 to a pair of spring training games and in 2015 to seven extended spring training appearances. He made his big league debut on June 8, 2016, and recovered from surgery in 2017 for testicular cancer.

“He just totally gets it,” Cherington said. “He handles a phone call like the one we had today like a total pro.”

Taillon is 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA in four major league seasons. A five-pitch pitcher, he averaged 95 mph with his fastball last season, throwing it on about one-quarter of his pitches while mixing it with a sinker, curveball, slider and occasional changeups.

He struck out 30 and walked eight in 37 1/3 innings two years ago.

Taillon is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. He agreed last month to a $2.25 million, one-year contract.

His departure follows a deal earlier in that month that sent right-hander Joe Musgrove to San Diego as part of a three-team trade that brought five prospects to Pittsburgh.

Since Cherington was hired as general manager in November 2019, he also traded first baseman Josh Bell and outfielder Starling Marte. Following the end of the season, the Pirates failed to offer a contract to Trevor Williams, a third member of their rotation last season, and declined a team option on Chris Archer, who missed last season following surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome.

“You’ve got to be willing to make decisions like this to add talent we’re going to need to get this thing where we want to get it,” Cherington said. “We’re probably shifting some energy at this point now back towards adding to the team between now and spring training or adding or between now and season.”

Still, he admitted: “We’ll definite keep the phone on” to listen if teams have interest in other players.

Yajure, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, made his big league debut last year and had a 1.29 ERA in three relief appearances. Cherington expects him to compete for a starting berth in spring training.

The others are less advanced.

Contreras, a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic, is 16-11 with a 3.25 ERA in three minor league seasons and was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster in November. He was rated the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America after the 2019 season.

Escotto, 18, made his professional debut in 2019 and hit .315 with 11 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 26 RBIs and 13 steals in 45 games for the Dominican Summer League Yankees.

Smith, a 21-year-old from Texas, has hit .280 with 50 doubles, four triples, 19 homers, 118 RBIs and 21 steals in three minor league seasons.

Yajure and Contreras are on the 40-man roster. To clear a roster spot, Pittsburgh designated outfielder Troy Stokes for assignment.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.