SAN DIEGO — On Tuesday afternoon, the Cubs addressed center field. On Tuesday night, they started fortifying their pitching staff.
The Cubs agreed to terms with right-hander Jameson Taillon on a four-year, $68 million contract, a source confirmed. The move capped a day that included the Cubs’ first winter meetings splash: a one-year deal with Cody Bellinger.
“[Taillon] is a guy we targeted in the beginning of the offseason,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. “We had a good connection with him and our pitching guys and felt like that relationship was really strong. And I’m glad he felt the same.”
Taillon entered free agency after posting a 3.91 ERA in the Yankees’ rotation last season. And his ability to limit walks — he allowed 1.61 per nine innings last season, tied for fourth-fewest in the American League — stood out. Hoyer said he hopes the best is yet to come for Taillon.
“It was kind of a rocky road for him early on, but since he’s been healthy, getting with the Yankees, he’s pitched really well,” Hoyer said. “I think there’s still more in the tank.”
Taillon is a familiar face in the National League Central. He spent the first four seasons of his MLB career with the Pirates, who drafted him No. 2 overall out of high school in 2010. He has undergone Tommy John surgery twice, in 2014 and 2019.
Taillon, 31, joins a largely youthful Cubs rotation, led by veterans Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks. But Hendricks missed much of last season with a strained right shoulder, and his health remains uncertain.
“I love what we have, I love the young group of guys,” Stroman said when asked in September about the pitching staff. “I’ve said it before, I think we’re a few pieces away from being really, truly competitive in the league.”
The Cubs will continue to be active in the pitching market for starters and relievers. Bringing back lefty Drew Smyly, who hit free agency after declining his 2023 mutual option, could be an option.
“Listen, pitching wins,” Hoyer said. “Pitching and defense is such a big part of the game. And the stretches last year when we struggled, it was because we didn’t have enough pitching. And the stretches that we were a good team, we pitched well, we played good defense.”
Rule 5 draft
The Cubs made it out of the major-league phase of the Rule 5 draft down just one player, better than expected. They lost right-hander Chris Clarke to the Mariners.
Clarke climbed from High-A to Double-A last season, posting a 4.64 ERA. He was the Cubs’ fourth-round pick in 2019. The Cubs did not select any players.
Suzuki commits to WBC
Right fielder Seiya Suzuki announced on Twitter that he will play for Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
“I put myself in his shoes; I would have loved to play for Team USA,” Cubs manager David Ross said Tuesday. “How cool is that? You’re going to get into the best competition in the world and be able to compete at a high level for your country.
“I would never want to take that away from anybody. You should play if that’s where your heart is.”