By Jason Shetler
With their second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates chose Jameson Taillon. The selection was out of the ordinary, as the Pirates rarely went after high school pitchers in the first round, but Taillon’s upside was too undeniable.
A year after the Pirates had their first winning season and postseason appearance in 20 years, Taillon was projected to join the Bucs at some point in 2014. That wouldn’t be the case however, with the 6’5 right-hander undergoing Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of that year. Taillon’s elbow had been fully recovered, but then had surgery for a sports hernia, which caused him to miss all of 2015.
After missing two full seasons, Taillon finally arrived to Pittsburgh in June of 2016. He had himself a good rookie showing, posting a 3.38 ERA and a bWAR of 2.4 in 18 starts. Looking to build off that, another obstacle was thrown at Taillon, as he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in May of 2017. Amazingly, he recovered from it five weeks later. Taillon that year had a 4.44 ERA, but had a much better FIP of 3.48 in 25 starts.
Following the Gerrit Cole trade last offseason, Taillon was looking to step up as the staff leader for 2018. In 32 starts, he put up a 121 ERA+ and a 4.4 bWAR. It was in June that Taillon began to add a slider to his repertoire, and the pitch became another weapon for him. With the slider, Taillon limited batters to a .687 OPS, while getting a ton of chases outside the strikezone with it at 49.8%. The addition of the slider helped him have an exceptional second half ERA of 2.33.
Taillon enters 2019 in his age 27 season, so he’s right in the prime of his career. This week, Aaron Nola and Luis Severino both agreed to extensions. The Phillies gave Nola four years/$45 million, while the Yankees will be giving Severino four years/$40 million. Those deals should give the Pirates a clear barometer of what to offer Taillon on an extension.
With GM Neal Huntington, the Pirates have handed out extensions to the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. Interestingly enough, only one starting pitcher has received an extension under Huntington, and that was Charlie Morton, who signed for three years at $21 million in December of 2013. Although there always seemed to be speculation of a Gerrit Cole extension, it was likely never going to happen, with Scott Boras as his agent. If the Pirates were to offer Taillon a four-year extension, just like Nola and Severino got, it would cover all of his arbitration years. That would certainly help, given that the Pirates will have several arbitration eligible players next offseason. There’s also no reason a Taillon extension can’t be offered, especially with the money that was saved up for this offseason, and their inexcusable reasons not to spend most of it.