Getty Images

No long ago the Pirates hoped Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon would bring a championship to Pittsburgh. Now the two righties will team up and try to bring a championship to the Bronx. The Yankees acquired Taillon in a five-player trade Sunday, the teams announced.

"It's emotional for me," Taillon told The Athletic's Rob Biertempfel. "I was last man standing from that 2010 draft class. That organization became family. Super excited to go to Yankees but this is still tough."  

After sitting on the sidelines much of the offseason, the Yankees have now made three significant additions in January. New York re-signed DJ LeMahieu to a six-year contract worth $90 million two weeks ago, and also added Corey Kluber on a one-year deal worth $11 million. Taillon joins Kluber in a rotation with lot of questions behind Cole. The rotation depth chart:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (amazing)
  2. RHP Luis Severino (expected back from Tommy John surgery at midseason)
  3. RHP Corey Kluber (limited to 36 2/3 innings by injuries from 2019-20)
  4. RHP Jameson Taillon (has not pitched since May 2019)
  5. LHP Jordan Montgomery (5.11 ERA in 2020)
  6. RHP Domingo German (served domestic violence suspension in 2020)
  7. RHP Deivi Garcia (likely to be on a workload limit in 2021)
  8. RHP Clarke Schmidt (likely to be on a workload limit in 2021)

There is an awful lot risk in that rotation. There's also a lot of upside. Kluber, Severino, and Taillon have ace ability when healthy, and the Yankees have given themselves three bites at the apple. If all three stay healthy and contribute in 2021, great. If two stay healthy, that's good too. And if just one stays healthy, they'll take it. The Yankees have now have three high-upside options.

Taillon, 29, is currently rehabbing from his second career Tommy John surgery and is expected to be ready for Opening Day. In 2018, his last healthy season, Taillon threw 191 innings with a 3.20 ERA and a 3.89 K/BB. He faced hitters in simulated games as part of his rehab last September, and recently began throwing bullpen sessions as part of his preparation for 2021.

"I understand the people who have had two Tommy Johns and the history of it. There's not a huge success rate ... But there's also not a ton of data," Taillon told Mackey in September. "I legitimately feel healthier than I've ever felt in pro ball right now. So, what if my problem is fixed, my mechanics are way better, and now I'm actually meant to be a starter? I guess we'll see."

Taillon fits the Yankees' typical profile as a power pitcher with very good spin rates. He's also well-versed in analytics, and according to ESPN's Buster Olney, Cole "strongly endorsed" the trade and gave Taillon "strong reviews" when consulted by the Yankees. Cole and Taillon were teammates with the Pirates from 2016-17 and also spent time together in the minors.

Prior to the trade, the Yankees had about $6 million in breathing room under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Taillon will make $2.25 million in 2021, so he fits their payroll nicely, though the Yankees will have to set some money aside for in-season call-ups and the trade deadline. Taillon will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2022.

The Pirates will receive four prospects in the trade, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan: RHP Roansy Contreras, IF Maikol Escotto, OF Canaan Smith, and RHP Miguel Yajure. ranks Yajure, Contreras, and Smith the No. 15, 19, and 21 prospects in New York's farm system, respectively. Escotto is unranked but is regarded as a sleeper with considerable upside.

Yajure, 22, is the only one of the four prospects with MLB experience. He allowed one run in seven innings with the Yankees in 2020. Contreras, 21, threw 132 1/3 innings with a 3.33 ERA in Low Class-A in 2019, while the 21-year-old Smith hit .307/.405/.465 with 11 homers in 124 games at the same level. Escotto, 18, hit .315/.429/.552 in the Dominican Summer League in 2019.

The Pirates have embarked on a full-scale rebuild under new GM Ben Cherington. Since taking over last year, Cherington has traded Josh Bell, Starling Marte, Joe Musgrove, and now Taillon. Pittsburgh also non-tendered Trevor Williams and declined their club option for Chris Archer earlier this offseason. Adam Frazier, Colin Moran, and Gregory Polanco could be next to go.

Taillon was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. He had his first Tommy John surgery in 2014 and also had surgery to treat testicular cancer in 2017.