Blue Jays: What would it Take to Acquire Taillon or Musgrove?

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 10: Jameson Taillon #18 of Canada pitches against Team USA during the World Baseball Classic First Round Group D game on March 10, 2013 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 10: Jameson Taillon #18 of Canada pitches against Team USA during the World Baseball Classic First Round Group D game on March 10, 2013 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The Pirates appear to be in a full-scale rebuild, trading 2019 All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to Washington for two pitching prospects on Christmas Eve. Could starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove be available? 

Back at the 2020 trade deadline, Jays Journal contributor Chris Henderson looked at a potential trade for starting pitching with the Pirates. The talk at the time was that one or both of Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl might be available.

However, with the Christmas Eve trade of slugger Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for two pitching prospects, could the Pirates be in full “tear down and rebuild” mode?

In return for two years of Bell, the Pirates get 26 year-old Wil Crowe, a 2017 2nd round pick who struggled in three MLB starts with the Nationals in 2020, and Eddy Yean, a 19 year-old international signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, who features a fastball that reaches 97 mph and could climb higher as he continues to grow.

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According to Baseball America’s latest ranking, Yean ranked as the Nationals #8 prospect who needs time to harness his stuff, while Crowe was their #10 prospect and projects more as a back-of-the-rotation starter or swingman.

The initial reaction to the trade is that the Nationals were the clear winners, given that in September, ranked the Nationals as having the worst farm system in baseball.

Could that mean that one or both of Pirates starters Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove are now also available? Like Bell, both big 6’5” righties have two years of arbitration control left, although neither is projected to cost more than $4 million in 2021.

After the Bell trade, Pirates GM (and former Jays VP of baseball operations) Ben Cherington acknowledged that the trade…

"Likely won’t be the last one. There will probably be more. I’m not saying that to predict anything, that’s the realization, that’s where we are."

If the Pirates are openly tanking, what would it take to acquire big Canadian righty starter Jameson Taillon, who missed 2020 recovering from Tommy John surgery?

The Yankees and Pirates apparently were already engaged in conversations centered on Taillon and 1B Josh Bell.

From 2017-19, the 29 year-old Taillon put up a 24-20 W/L record in 64 starts and 362 innings pitched, not to mention 8.3 Ks/9 against only 2.49 walks, with an ERA of 3.75, FIP of 3.51 and xFIP of 3.74… and a cumulative 6.4 bWAR. Taillon has two years of arbitration control left, and he’s projected to earn an affordable $2.3 million in 2021.

According to his Bullpen Wiki page,

"Taillon’s parents are Canadians who both graduated from the University of Toronto. He however was born in Florida and attended high school in Texas. He did pitch for Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, starting the decisive game against Team USA on March 10th, during which he gave up 2 runs – only one of them earned – in four innings of work."

Or how about 28 year-old righty Joe Musgrove, who struck out 12.48 batters/nine innings in 39.2 innings in 2020, with a 3.86 ERA (3.42 FIP, 3.50 SIERA)?

The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays 1st round draft pick put up 3.6 bWAR in three seasons with the Pirates, pitching to a 4.23 ERA/3.69 FIP over 325.1 innings and 58 starts. Musgrove is projected to win a $3.8 million arbitration award, and has two more years of team control left. He can miss bats with multiple pitches.

Pirates GM Ben Cherington knows the Jays prospects, having served as VP of baseball operations with responsibility for player development under Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins from September 2016 to November 2019.

If the Bucs are willing to trade Josh Bell for two Nats prospects in the #8-10 range of their prospect rankings, then couldn’t the Jays, with a much higher ranked farm system than Washington, deal from a position of strength like catching (#8 prospect Gabriel Moreno, #23 Riley Adams), 2B/SS/3B (#3 prospect Jordan Groshans, #7 Orelvis Martinez or #9 Miguel Hiraldo), or pitching (#12 prospect Eric Pardinho, #18 Patrick Murphy, #26 Yennsy Díaz or #27 Josh Winckowski)?

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What sort of package would be enough to acquire two years of control of either starter?  I’m guessing that a combination of names like Moreno, Adams, Hiraldo, Pardinho, Murphy, etc would be enough to buy low on one or both of these Bucs pitchers, and fill an immediate need for starting pitching depth behind Hyun Jin Ryu and Nate Pearson.