The Chicago Cubs’ upgrades at the winter meetings didn’t stop in center field.
A run on free agent starting pitchers over the past week has led the Cubs to acquire a coveted arm.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon reached an agreement with the team on Tuesday night. The deal is for $68 million over four years. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer praised Taillon’s pitch mix, command and the great makeup he brings to the clubhouse.
“He’s a guy I’ve watched for a long time,” Hoyer said Thursday before leaving the winter meetings. “He’s a very good starting pitcher. He was really consistent. He continued to improve as he got healthier in his career.
“Obviously there’s been an aggressive pitching market here, and we’re very excited to get a guy that we’ve been targeting from the beginning.”
After added center fielder Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17.5 million deal Earlier Tuesday, the Cubs needed to find a top-tier pitcher to shore up a rotation that carried the team last season. Taillon fits well with right-hander Marcus Stroman as a proven starter.
“Listen, the launch of victories. Pitching and defense is such a big part of the game,” Hoyer said. “And I think the stretches last year where we struggled were because we didn’t have enough pitching. And he says we were a good team, we played well and we played good defense. You can’t have enough pitching.”
Hoyer believes Taillon has more in the tank after a strong two-year stint with the New York Yankees. Taillon, who turned 31 last month, finished the season with a 3.91 ERA, 20.7 K%, 4.4 BB% and 100 ERA+ in 177.1 innings (32 starts).
During his six-year big league career, injuries plagued Taillon, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Tommy John surgery cost him the 2014 season, and that, combined with hernia surgery, caused him to miss 2015 as well. In May 2016, Taillon underwent surgery for testicular cancer, returning to the Pirates two months later. A forearm injury limited Taillon, who eventually underwent a second Tommy John surgery in August 2019 that ended his season after just seven starts. The rehab process prevented him from returning during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.
The Cubs have more work to do when they return to Chicago. They still lack an impact hitter, though their involvement in the free-agent shortstop market could change that. Taillon isn’t expected to be the only pitcher they add this offseason, but it could end up being the biggest pitcher contract they give.
The Cubs are interested in adding more starting pitching, but the pitcher should be good enough to push someone on the roster to the bullpen or Triple A. Depth also remains a priority for a pitching staff that has was caused by stretching injuries. in 2022.
“As we add starters, we’re pushing somebody really good who could be a multi-inning weapon,” Hoyer said. “It’s really tough when you have a bullpen of four or five guys for an inning. It’s hard not to abuse those guys. It’s hard not to get hit in the summer.”
An aggressive help market creates yet another dimension to the list building approach. Expect the Cubs to continue their track record of value signings like Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Chris Martin – finding relevant ones to help them get to the next level. The Cubs have no appetite to offer a multi-year contract to a top-tier reliever.