Jameson Taillon entered the league in 2016 as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect. Taillon was called up for a spot start and went on to start 18 games that season. Taillon has made a huge impact on the Pirates’ pitching staff since then.
However, on August 14, Taillon and the Pirates announced that the pitcher underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Taillon started in seven games this season, going 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA before landing on the IL with an elbow injury. This injury has since kept Taillon sidelined and now will be ending his season. Taillon is tabbed as the Pirates’ ace in their rotation. The loss of Taillon for the rest of the season does not mean much for the Pirates now, as they have been out of the playoff race for quite some time
The Pirates, in response to Taillon’s injury, gave their top prospect Mitch Keller an opportunity to make his major-league debut. Keller is currently 1-2 with an 8.86 ERA in the five games that he has started. Keller was impressive for Triple-A Indianapolis but has yet to make much of an impact for the big club.
With the trade of pitcher Jordan Lyles before the trade deadline, the Pirates looked to Steven Brault again as he came off the IL with a shoulder injury. The Pirates’ pitching staff has not lived up to its hype and is one of the biggest reasons this team is already out of the playoff race in the middle of August. Without Taillon, the starting rotation is clearly worse off and now the Pirates may be without him for all of next season.
2020 Replacement Options
With Taillon likely out for the entire 2020 season, the Pirates are approaching a serious problem with the upcoming offseason. The Pirates have a clear spot to fill and a huge necessity for pitching. Notable free agents after the 2019 season are Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Yu Darvish, Rick Porcello, Rich Hill, Gerrit Cole, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Jake Odorizzi, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler, Julio Teheran, and Michael Pineda.
At the trade deadline, the Pirates decided not to trade their closer, Felipe Vasquez. In that case, the Pirates’ management must assume they have a shot at the playoffs and/or World Series in the next three years. However, if the Pirates do not sign one or maybe even two of the pitchers listed, as well as some bullpen help, the Pirates will have a tough decision ahead of them.
Pirates’ All-Star Treatment
The Pirates’ management is known for being stingy with their money. They are also known to trade away their best players. Players like Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and highly-touted prospects Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows were traded recently.
The Pirates did not want to pay Cole the money he deserved and had no choice but to trade him. The same goes for McCutchen, as the Pirates ultimately made a business decision. The Pirates had to get what they could for their two All-Stars. They decided it was time to rebuild and depart with their stars and make more salary cap room. The McCutchen and Cole trades have panned out in their own ways as the Pirates received key pieces like Rookie of the Year candidate Bryan Reynolds, Kyle Crick, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove.
However, the Pirates then went for it all last season and failed miserably when trading for Chris Archer. The Pirates traded away a lot of their future for a short playoff hunt that ultimately failed. The Pirates’ trade for Chris Archer may have completely countered what they were trying to do. Trading for Archer meant departing with Glasnow and Meadows. These two have shined in their first season with the Tampa Bay Rays. This leaves Pirates fans thinking about what could have been.
Pirates’ Future Plans
The Pirates now run into the same problem as they did with McCutchen and Cole. Do they trade their star centerfielder Starling Marte? The answer is, if they do not sign one or even two of the starting pitchers listed above, yes — the Pirates absolutely trade Marte, and probably also Vasquez while they are at it.
Right now, the Pirates’ current roster is in no position to win immediately. Now without Taillon, the pitching staff is only getting worse. In order for the Pirates to rebuild correctly, they must get what they can for their two star players. The Pirates have a few guys in their farm system that can be difference-makers for the team. Unfortunately, none of them are pitchers that can have an immediate impact.