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“He’s a guy we’ve been watching for a long time” – The Denver Post

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The Chicago Cubs’ upgrades in winter fixtures didn’t stop at center field.

A run on independent starting pitchers over the past week has prompted the Cubs to acquire a coveted arm.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon reached an agreement with the team on Tuesday night. The deal would be for $68 million over four years. President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer praised Taillon’s pitching mix, control and excellent make-up he brings to the clubhouse.

“He’s a guy we’ve been watching for a long time,” Hoyer said Thursday before leaving winter meetings. “He’s a very good starting pitcher. He was really consistent. He continued to improve as he became healthier during his career.

“Obviously it was an aggressive pitch market here, and we’re really excited to have a guy that we’ve been targeting from the start.”

After adding center fielder Cody Bellinger on a one-year, $17.5 million contract earlier Tuesday, the Cubs needed to find higher-level pitchers to bolster a rotation that for periods carried the team last season. Taillon pairs well with right-hander Marcus Stroman as proven starters.

“Listen, throwing wins. Throwing and defending is such a big part of the game,” Hoyer said. “And I think the stretches last year where we struggled was because we didn’t have enough pitches. And the stretches where we were a good team, we threw well and played good defense. You can’t have enough pitching.

Hoyer thinks Taillon has more in the tank after a solid two-year streak with the New York Yankees. Taillon, who turned 31 last month, finished the season with a 3.91 ERA, 20.7K%, 4.4 BB% and 100 ERA+ in 177.1 innings (32 starts).

During his six-year major league career, injuries tested Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tommy John’s surgery cost him the 2014 season, and that, combined with hernia surgery, also caused him to miss 2015. In May 2016, Taillon underwent surgery for testicular cancer, returning to the Pirates two months later. A forearm injury limited Taillon, who eventually underwent a second Tommy John surgery in August 2019 that ended his season after just seven starts. The rehab process kept him from returning during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

The Cubs still have work to do when they return to Chicago. They still lack an impact hitter, though their involvement in the free agent shortstop market may change that. Taillon isn’t expected to be the only pitcher they’ll add this offseason, but he could become the highest pitching contract they’ve given away.

The Cubs are interested in adding more starting pitchers, but the pitcher should be good enough to push anyone on the roster to the bullpen or Triple A. Depth also remains a priority for a pitching staff that has been challenged by injuries for stretches in 2022.

“As we’re adding starters, we’re pushing someone really good who could potentially be a multi-round weapon,” Hoyer said. “It’s really difficult when you have a bullpen of four or five players in an inning. It’s hard not to abuse these guys. It’s hard not to get hit over the summer.

An aggressive relief market so far creates another dimension to the listings approach. Expect the Cubs to continue their track record of similar value signings in Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Chris Martin — finding relievers they can help take to the next level. The Cubs are not keen on offering a multi-year contract to a top-tier reliever.

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