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Off the wall trade target: Jameson Taillon

He’s injured and will miss 2020, but this could be an interesting get for the Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Another entry in our off-the-wall trade ideas series

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: trading for Jameson Taillon will not help the Phillies in 2020. He underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season. Sure he might be able to make a few starts at the end of the season, but for the most part, he’d be a non-entity when it came to discussing helping the rotation for the upcoming season. So why make him a target?

Sure it doesn’t make much sense to give up players in the form of prospects to get someone who can’t help you in the pivotal 2020 season, but I can think of a few reasons why the team might be interested.

He’s got pedigree

Taillon was drafted #2 overall in the 2010 draft. Does that draft sound familiar? It should - that’s when Bryce Harper was drafted first overall. As it turns out, that was a very good draft in which to select future All-Stars - Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Chris Sale, Yasmani Grandal and Christian Yelich were all in this draft. And yet somehow, Taillon was still taken before all of them. He had the pedigree that he could become a future ace in rather short order and continued to be highly thought of as prospect hounds kept making their top 100 lists. For example, at Baseball Prospectus, these were the overall ranks for Taillon as he climbed the ladder:

2011 - 8th
2012 - 13th
2013 - 11th
2014 - 19th
2015 - 26th
2016 - 51st

The lower rankings from 2014 on were justified by his Tommy John surgery and the fact that he had hernia issues that he still had to recover from after that. There could also have been some prospect fatigue, but there seemed to be justifiable reasons why he kept dropping. You can’t stay high on the lists if you aren’t pitching. The following quote from the 2016 list is interesting:

Taillon missed all of 2014 for the “de rigueur” elbow surgery, and his path back last season was further marred by a hernia that kept him off the mound. Before his injury issues, Taillon had stuff that would easily put him among the top tier of prospects on this list, and he ended 2013 on the cusp of the majors. This ranking may look too low in six months, or it may look too high. It could also look juuuuuuuuuust right.

It looks like they were just right.

He was starting to put it together

Taillon, as mentioned before, was really starting to turn it on in 2018. He broke out as a top of the rotation arm, setting highs in virtually all categories.

Jameson Taillon career

2016 104 4.1% 20.3% 1.1 3.38 3.89
2017 133.2 7.8% 21.3% 0.7 4.44 4.08
2018 191 5.9% 22.8% 0.9 3.20 3.41
2019 37.1 5.1% 19.0% 1.0 4.10 3.74

2019 was even beginning to look like another good year before he ended up getting hurt. The knock on him in the minors was that despite the lofty status on the top 100, there just felt like there was something missing. It might have been that the team thought of him as a strikeout pitcher thanks to his 95+ mile per hour heat, but he didn’t generate huge strikeout numbers. Then when he finally did arrive, he was an effective major league pitcher from the jump. Prior to his injuries, he looked like he had turned that corner into becoming an ace. That’s something any team would want.

Does Pittsburgh want to start over?

There are several reports floating around that new general manager Ben Cherington is playing with the idea of trading his star centerfielder Starling Marte this offseason in order to bring an infusion of talent to a weak Pittsburgh minor league system. This type of move would signify that perhaps the Pirates are going to be performing some kind of rebuild. Otherwise, they would not be thinking of getting rid of their star outfielder who is still under team control and will not be expensive. If this is the type of thinking that Pittsburgh is entertaining, the Phillies might want to see what Taillon would cost.

He’s entering his first year of arbitration and the team, presuming he doesn’t come back in 2020, has three years of control left. If they are trying to preserve his arm, when he does come back in 2021, they’ll limit his innings, meaning he would only have two good seasons of control left before the team would lose control of his rights. Do they want to give him up now and hope some team would be willing to roll the dice he’ll come back the same after a second Tommy John surgery?

Listen, I am fully aware that this trade will probably never happen. The Pirates have much more important things to attend to rather than deciding if they want to trade their ace at the lowest possible value. No team in their right mind would part with anything significant, mostly because he’s not helping this year and they can’t be certain he’ll come back the same. However, if we’re gonna get crazy with trade ideas, this one certainly fits the bill. Trading for Taillon alone would be a little off the wall, but perhaps the Phillies would ask for him in a package. Maybe they could look to help Pittsburgh offload some additional salary in the form of a reliever or another starter. Names that pop into mind are Keone Kela, Trevor Williams or Michael Feliz. Maybe they ask for Chris Archer and hope that new pitching coach Bryan Price can fix him and get him back to his levels of old. The prize in any deal would be Taillon. It’s crazy, but hey - isn’t that what the offseason is for?