Before Jameson Taillon’s recent hot streak, I published a column calling the Yankees’ decision to trade for the righty when current Padres ace Joe Musgrove was also on the block the “biggest mistake” of Brian Cashman’s offseason.
Taillon proceeded to make me eat my words — and delightfully so.
Regardless of how well the righty’s proceeded to pitch as he gets further from his second Tommy John surgery, there are still questions to be asked here, though.
Would Musgrove have been a better fit for the 2021 and 2022 Yankees, taking into consideration the higher cost in prospects? What about the chemistry alterations, considering you’d be taking a best friend away from Gerrit Cole during a strange and difficult year? Would Musgrove have been as effective in the Bronx as he’s been after returning home to San Diego and pitching for pride?
Much of this is unquantifiable, of course, but the prospect cost can still be mapped out.
This tale is also colored by knee-jerk reactions all over the place, considering that just about one week into his Padres career, Joe Musgrove did this:
Did the Yankees make the correct call between Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon?
That didn’t help.
While we assume many on the east coast have largely ignored Musgrove’s progression, especially as the Padres have fallen deeper in the Wild Card standings, rest assured he’s put together a complete and impressive season.
Truth be told, when Taillon was getting knocked around in April, May and most of June (6.23 in March/April, 6.14 in June), Musgrove was posting his very best months of the year (1.24 in April/March, 2.84 in May). This seems to bring about an uncomfortable philosophical question: would you rather be surging towards the postseason after climbing up from the depths, or hanging onto a well-built lead as the season grows longer?
Frankly, the timing of Taillon’s surge (1.99 ERA in the season’s second half) has aided the Yankees in getting their ducks in a row for October, whereas Musgrove has been far more inconsistent during this important stretch (3.95 ERA in July). We’ll take Taillon’s pattern, if given the choice.
As for the prospect cost? The Yankees didn’t surrender an insignificant haul for Taillon, after all, as Roansy Contreras ascended to the Futures Game this season (before succumbing to injury) and Miguel Yajure is a major-league arm. Ancillary pieces Canaan Smith-Njigba (.286 with an .830 OPS as a 22-year-old at Double-A) and Maikol Escotto (.754 OPS at Low-A at age 19) have performed well, too.
In order to bring Musgrove home, the Padres surrendered their No. 7 prospect Hudson Head, their No. 17 prospect Omar Cruz, the Mets’ No. 14 prospect Endy Rodriguez (acquired for Joey Lucchesi), and two others. In a world where the Yankees opted to make this trade, let’s assume they still surrender Smith-Njigba and Escotto as the final two pieces. Odds are the Pirates would’ve balked at a package highlighted by Alexander Vizcaino (in the same range), and that first slot probably would’ve been occupied by Luis Medina/Luis Gil. Add in Yajure and, say, infielder Josh Smith pre-breakout or outfielder Everson Pereira, and you end up further hamstrung.
Bottom line, both teams got better and acquired the more ideal culture fit for their specific scenario. Taillon has thrived when the Yankees have needed him most, and Musgrove has somewhat receded during that same time frame. It’s a close call, but we wouldn’t swap the two stories.