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Yankees acquire Jameson Taillon from Pirates

In exchange for Taillon, the Yankees will send four prospects to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The New York Yankees continue to make moves with less than one month until free agency. After rumors started to swirl on Saturday night, the Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates made quick work, ultimately agreeing to a five-player deal centered around Jameson Taillon on Sunday morning.

Jason Mackey of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was first to report a deal was in place. Shortly after, ESPN’s Jeff Passan disclosed the terms. Both teams involved have since confirmed the trade.

Taillon, 29, is a former No. 2 overall selection of the Pirates. He spent 2016 to 2019 in the majors, posting a 29-24 record and 3.67 ERA across 82 starts. He leaves Pittsburgh with three complete games, including one shutout, and a total of 9.5 fWAR. He posted above-average K/9 (8.09), BB/9 (2.26), and HR/9 (0.93) rates to complement an equally impressive ground ball clip (48.2 percent).

Taillon embodies true resilience, making him an immediate fan-favorite. In the past seven years, the gritty Lakeland, Fla., native has battled a sports hernia and testicular cancer. He has also undergone two Tommy John surgeries, including one that forced him to miss all of 2020.

A product of The Woodlands High School, Taillon favors a fastball (47 percent usage in 2019) that tops out at 98 mph. He also employs a slider, curveball, and changeup. In 2019, he finished in the top 18 percent in terms of spin rate, top 23 percent in fastball velocity, and top 38 percent in fastball spin.

Heading back to Pittsburgh are four minor leaguers, including three who graced MLB Pipeline’s top-30 Yankees prospects list.

Miguel Yajure, a right-handed pitcher, made his MLB debut in 2020. In three relief outings, he amassed 7.0 innings, one run, three hits, five walks, and eight strikeouts. Signed as an international free agent, the 22-year-old owns just 18 innings of work above High-A, though he projects to be a reliable mid-rotation starter. The Yankees’ No. 15 prospect has a fastball that tops out at 95 mph in addition to a changeup, curveball, cutter, and slider.

Roansy Contreras is the Yankees’ No. 19 prospect. The 21-year-old right-hander was signed as an international free agent in 2016 and reached Single-A in 2019. Across four levels in three seasons, he is 16-11 with a 3.25 ERA in 249.1 innings. MLB Pipelines projects him to reach the majors in 2022.

Canaan Smith is one of two position players on the move. The Yankees’ No. 21 prospect, Smith is a 2017 fourth-round pick out of Texas’ Rockwall-Heath High School. The 21-year-old outfielder has spent three seasons in the minors, accruing the majority of his playing time in left field while also factoring in in right. In 226 games between Rookie ball, Single-A, and High-A, he slashed .280/.389/.426 with 118 RBI on 221 hits, including 73 of the extra-base category. He walks at an above-average clip of 14.9 percent and strikes out in 21.8 percent of plate appearances. A quarterback in high school, Smith is an athletic player who showcases his speed on the basepaths. MLB Pipeline tabbed him with a 2022 MLB ETA.

Maikol Escotto is the second of two non-pitchers heading to Pittsburgh. The 18-year old infielder was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. He played in 45 Dominican Summer League games in 2018, racking up the majority of his playing time at second base while also seeing time at shortstop and third. At the plate, he slashed .315/.429/.552 with 26 RBI on 57 hits, including eight home runs. He posted a 14.7 percent walk rate and 26.1 percent strikeout clip to go along with his .238 BABIP and 167 wRC+. Escotto is not listed on MLB Pipeline’s list of top Yankees prospects and is several years away from reaching the majors.

All in all, when the dust settles, all eyes will be on Taillon in 2021. The newest player to don the pinstripes, the right-hander has proven himself on MLB mounds before and should see continued success in the confines of Yankee Stadium.

As for the Pirates, their new prospect haul bolsters a pipeline that already looked promising after they landed another batch of minor leaguers in recent trades with the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals. They’re building for a future with dominant pitchers and athletic position players once they escape an ongoing dreadful rebuild.