(670 The Score) – Right-hander Jameson Taillon was beginning his process in free agency when first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a teammate of his on the Yankees for the past two seasons, shared pertinent information with him.
If Taillon wanted, he could well be bound for Chicago. That's because the pitching-needy Cubs had him on their radar.
“He told me they were interested in me,” Taillon said of Rizzo, who played for the Cubs from 2012-'21. "He told me I would love it there. He then said if I ever had any questions about the Cubs to run it by him. He had great things to say, and he obviously (still) means a lot to the Cubs organization.”
The Cubs on Monday officially announced they’d signed the 31-year-old Taillon, who joined the club on a four-year, $68-million deal. He was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 177 1/3 innings across 32 starts for the Yankees in 2022. He pitched to contact often in striking out just 7.7 batters per nine innings, but he kept his free passes to a minimum, walking just 1.6 batters per nine innings this past season.
Taillon was impressed with how the Cubs pursued him in free agency.
“(Vice president of pitching) Craig Breslow met with me in person in New York,” Taillon said. "It was perfect, so we could just talk pitching and kind of riff of each other and go back and forth. They showed me they were really interested. We talked about the Cubs’ pitching department for two hours.
I left that meeting feeling this could be a really great fit. I was super impressed by everything they were doing. They sent me some really cool custom videos. They were personalized to me and my family. The interest was there, and they stayed in touch with me the entire time. I am really happy we could make something work.”
Taillon will slot into a Cubs rotation that includes right-hander Marcus Stroman, right-hander Kyle Hendricks and left-hander Justin Steele. Left-hander Drew Smyly, right-hander Keegan Thompson and right-hander Hayden Wesneski are also candidates to fill a back-end rotation spot, get spot starts or work as long relievers out of the bullpen.
Coming off a 74-88 season, the Cubs were straightforward with Taillon about their desire to win now.
"From the pitching side team, there's a lot to be excited about,” Taillon said. "I saw some big steps forward from different guys on the club. I am impressed with a lot of the arms. You have a nice mix of established guys who have done it for a while and younger guys who are establishing themselves in the league. They have some guys who can definitely play solid defense. With (Cody) Bellinger and (Dansby) Swanson coming aboard, that is another big step on defense. That excited me. Working with catcher Yan Gomes also excited me. The team really took steps forward in the second half of 2022. This is something I am excited to be a part of.
“They told me they were going to spend money to improve the team. That is exciting on any team that you are going to be a part of. You just want to see them get better. Regardless of that, I really hit it off with everyone I talked to with them. I had heard great things and thought it would be a great fit regardless. Now that I have come on board and seen the other signings, I am definitely really excited to be a Cub.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.