We all saw the reported rumor that the Yankees had asked the Pirates about Jameson Taillon and Josh Bell. That was together, of course, with the disclaimer that there was no indication of how serious it was. The latest report says the Yankees were “intelligence gathering” (no surprise there), and adds the proviso that the Pirates would have to be “blown away” to trade Taillon. “Blown away” seems to be the standard phrase that GMs or their staffs leak to the press to convince other teams that they’re not just looking to dump payroll, which in the Pirates’ case is always a hard sell.
Regardless, I don’t really expect anything to happen. One reason is that I think the trade market is likely to be pretty dead this winter, given the financial losses that MLB insists it’s suffered and the remaining uncertainty about a 2021 season. Another is that I really don’t think Taillon is a guy the Pirates are looking to dump, as opposed to Bell, Joe Musgrove and Adam Frazier. Yet another is just being used to the team’s chronic, off-season inactivity. But who knows, they may surprise us. They may even really be looking to sell everybody who isn’t nailed down, i.e., everybody who doesn’t have Gregory Polanco’s contract.
Still, unlike the vast majority of trade rumors that surface, this one makes a fair amount of sense to me. The key piece, obviously, is Taillon. The Yankees haven’t reached the World Series, which in their case is the equivalent of any other team, say, having a losing record for 20 straight years, as if such a thing could ever happen. They score loads of runs and their bullpen is usually strong, so the conventional wisdom seems to be that they lack the frontline starting pitching needed to get past the other AL super teams. Taillon would be a good gamble for them to try to add starting strength. The talent is clearly there, so it’d mainly be a health risk. But the cost, at least in dollars, would be low and frontline starters aren’t exactly easy to acquire. He’d be a good upside move for them to address the one key area that seems to be keeping them from their rightful place in the Series.
Bell also makes more sense for the Yankees than you’d think. Yes, they’re loaded with 1B/DH/OF types, but they need a lot of depth there. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are near-locks to get hurt. Aaron Hicks is both an injury and a decline risk and Brett Gardner, if he returns, is 37. Or is it 47? They also have Clint Frazier, who despite the Yankees’ seeming disdain the last several years was actually their third-best hitter this year. Frazier, though, would make sense as part of the cost for Taillon.
From the Pirates’ end, the simple fact is that Bell and Taillon both have just two years of control left. As a Boras client, Bell is gone for sure. If Taillon stays healthy, the Pirates will almost certainly try to trade him at mid-season or next off-season. The Pirates aren’t contending this year or next and the Yankees might give them their best chance of getting a good return, even though Taillon just missed a season and a half.
The Yankees could certainly provide a good return. Their top prospect, outfielder Jasson Dominguez, is undoubtedly one of the most untouchable players in the minors. Their first-round draft pick from this year, Austin Wells, is a left-handed hitting catcher with good power potential. They have a bunch of upside arms and also a highly regarded shortstop prospect in Oswald Peraza. The Pirates’ new front office seems intent on piling up young arms, so if they didn’t go for Frazier, they could try to get, say, Wells or Peraza and two of the arms. Plus, Bell and Taillon won’t be making a lot of money by Yankee standards, but with Bob Nutting’s puny budget I’m sure the Pirates wouldn’t mind losing their salaries.
MORE ON MiLB REALIGNMENT: It’s become more or less clear how the minor leagues will be restructured going forward. Things could change depending on what happens with the 120 licensing offers MLB has extended, but if things go more or less as planned, the Pirates will see little change with their four, full-season affiliates.
Indianapolis will remain in some version of the International League. Baseball America, at least, thinks the AAA teams will be divided into a 10-team west coast league and a rather unwieldy, 20-team east/midwest league. Indy will be in the latter. I imagine there will be some sort of geographical division structure to reduce travel.
Altoona will remain in a nearly unchanged Eastern League. The only difference will be the Yankees moving their affiliate from Trenton to Somerset.
Greensboro will be promoted to a high class A, mid-Atlantic league assembled from elements of the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues. It’ll be pretty far-flung, ranging from Bowling Green to Rome to Brooklyn, as a result largely of political considerations. It doesn’t make much sense given that a major factor in the restructuring was supposedly the reduction of travel, but, again, MLB will probably impose some sort of divisional structure to help with that a bit.
Bradenton will remain in the Florida State League, which will be unchanged apart from lopping off a couple of problematic teams. The FSL will be “demoted” to low class A.
Technically, one of these guys was a “Pittsburgh Allegheny.”