Taillon: Cubs can ‘make noise' in ‘gettable' NL Central


Cubs president Jed Hoyer has done all right for himself in baseball. But it staggers the imagination to think what kind of preacher or politician he might have been if his ability to land Jameson Taillon when he did is any indication.

The newest Cubs starting pitcher agreed to terms before the Cubs locked up anyone else of consequence, and the last time he saw the Cubs take the field in person he beat them 18-4 in the final game of a Yankees sweep in the Bronx that offered little in the way of resistance from the Cubs — not to mention any reason a player with a choice might have for wanting to play for  them.

All of which made Taillon’s free agent decision-making process long on Hoyer’s purported vision, perhaps longer on dollars (68 million of them) and demonstrably short on bankable promise.

“I didn’t know exactly what they had their hands in, but they did say they were looking to spend and improve the team, which is obviously exciting for any team you’re on,” Taillon said Monday as he met the Chicago media, via Zoom, for the first time since signing that four-year deal.

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Taillon said he hit it off right away with Craig Breslow, the Cubs’ head of pitching infrastructure, liked the idea of pitching to catcher Yan Gomes and did get enticing reviews about the organization and Wrigley/Chicago experience from Yankees teammates Anthony Rizzo and Scott Effross and former Pirates teammate Trevor Williams.

So he saw “a great fit regardless,” he said.

It still left a sizable leap of faith in Hoyer’s vision.

And how much of that faith might still be required to envision the Cubs as a competitive team in 2023 after more than $3 billion of industry spending on free agents the last few weeks remains an open question.

But about the time Taillon was closing his deal, the Cubs also closed a one-year deal with Cody Bellinger on a $17.5 million change-of-scenery gamble that he can return at 27 to something approximating his 2019 MVP and Gold Glove form after a three-year decline.

Then they added a veteran late-inning reliever in Brad Boxberger and over the weekend struck an agreement with All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson for the second-largest contract in franchise history.

It’s added up to a $265.3 million winter of free agency for the Cubs — who might not be done yet adding pitching (a return of Drew Smyly?) and/or a bat or two.

“Now that I’ve come on board and see some of the other signings, it’s definitely really exciting,” said Taillon, who matched his career high with 32 starts (3.91 ERA) in his second full season back from a second Tommy John surgery.

Taillon was at former teammate Jordan Montgomery’s wedding over the weekend when the Swanson news broke and reached out to Swanson as soon as he got his phone back.

“He’s a really good player and had a great season,” said Taillon, who is represented by the same agency as Swanson. “From everything I’ve heard — off the field, in the clubhouse, in the locker room — he’s going to make people better. I’ve heard he holds people accountable. I’ve heard he really wants to win.

“I don’t think he would’ve picked Chicago or gone to Chicago if he wasn’t convinced that we could build a winner and get back to that level. So I’m really excited to see what he’s all about.”

The Cubs still look a long way from matching up with MVP Paul Goldschmidt and the NL Central-champion Cardinals, much less overtaking them.

But more than the half-dozen or so proven big-leaguers they had when the season ended? Something to build on?

Maybe even a puncher’s chance to make some noise with health and a little luck?

That’s at least a vision starting to take more shape. If not the beginnings of a payoff for the faith Taillon put into Hoyer’s vision and Breslow’s vibe.

“They’ve got some guys that can definitely play solid defense, and obviously with Bellinger and Dansby coming on board it sees like they’re gonna take a big step forward there defensively,” Taillon said. “And with the limit in shifts [new in 2023] that’s really important. That excited me.

“I think it’s a solid roster,” he added. “The division should be — I don’t want to say up for grabs. We have to go out there and prove it. But it’s a division that’s gettable. I’m happy that they’re adding to it, and I think it’s a group that can make noise.”

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