Going into 2023, the Yankees almost have a potential initial five-man rotation locked into place. Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino are obviously all locks as long as they’re healthy. While Frankie Montas had a poor run after the Yankees acquired him at the deadline, he’s still almost certainly going to start next season in the rotation. However, that leaves a fifth spot open. Sure, there are pitchers currently in the Yankees’ organization that they could put there if needed, but there’s no one that’s an obvious, no-brainer choice for that spot.
The reason that fifth spot is open to begin with is that Jameson Taillon’s contract expired after the 2022 season. So, should the Yankees just undo that and reunite with Taillon for 2023 and maybe beyond?
The Yankees first acquired Taillon in January 2021 in a deal for four prospects, of whom Roansy Contreras has had some amount of success at the big league level. In the two seasons after the trade, Taillon put up a 4.08 ERA and a 4.16 FIP, finishing with an exactly league average 100 ERA+.
You don’t get to exactly average without having both highs and lows. The highs have been notable, including starting the final day of the 2021 season on a bum ankle, and providing the Yankees some valuable innings to help clinch a playoff spot. In 2022, he took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Angels. However on the low end, he then followed that bid by putting up a 4.70 ERA over the rest of the season and 6.81 in his seven starts immediately after it. In 2021, the timeline was reversed, as he got off to a slow start before a solid second half.
The best case for bringing Taillon back is also a big case for just moving on: familiarity with who he is at this point in his career.
On the positive end, Taillon has been a solid back half of the rotation guy. You know that if you bring him back, you’ll probably get that again, at least for next year. Plus, he has shown upside at points. Including the aforementioned perfect game bid, he had a 2.30 ERA and 2.86 FIP over his first 10 starts of the season. While it’s unlikely that he could keep up that pace over a full season, you could still make the argument that with another year working with the Yankees’ pitching coaches, he could maybe get a bit closer to that guy than the league average one. He is still somewhat in the process of remaking himself as a pitcher post the Tommy John surgery he had with the Pirates before the trade.
On the other hand, knowing him and knowing what you’re going to get from Taillon might be a reason to move on. As of right now, between the moves they’ve made and the moves the Yankees have publicly acknowledged they would like to make — i.e. signing that Aaron Judge guy — next year’s Yankees’ team would bring back a lot of similar parts to last year’s. Now, last year’s team won 99 games, but no one is particularly thrilled with how they then looked matched up against the Astros. Not that you couldn’t sign Taillon and try and get another pitcher and move some pieces around in general, but that doesn’t seem like something the Yankees would do. There’s a decent argument that the Yankees try and make some sort of signing or trade to try and upgrade from Taillon and last season’s rotation. According to reports, the seems to be in on some of the bigger names out there.
Yankees are in on Rodon and Verlander (close Gerrit Cole relationship doesn’t hurt but NYY isn’t necessarily optimistic there). Not as much in on deGrom for what he seeks — $40M plus. Judge remains the main guy but seems to be room to add a big starter, too.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 2, 2022
Besides that, the Yankees did wait as long as possible before using him as a starter in the playoffs, including brining Nestor Cortes back on short work for the do-or-die Game 5 of the ALDS.
There’s also the part that the interest in Taillon seems to be growing. According to Mark Feinsand, Taillon has impressed teams during Zoom meetings and has seen his market heat up. The expectation is that he gets more than the four-year, $56 million deal that Jon Gray, a pitcher on a similar rung of the ladder, got last year. If the Yankees truly want to, they could afford him no matter what, but it seems like Taillon will have options on where he wants to go.
There are decent arguments for and against the Yankees bringing back Jameson Taillon. If you had to choose one particular pitcher for the team to go after, there are certainly better names out there, but as far a solid depth goes, he’s not a bad choice.