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Sources — Mike Minor, Kansas City Royals agree to 2-year deal

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Left-handed starter Mike Minor and the Kansas City Royals are in agreement on a two-year deal that is pending a physical, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

With the deal, Minor returns to the city where he revitalized his career as a reliever in 2017.

Minor, who turns 33 on Dec. 26, has since become a rotation stalwart. He was traded from the Texas Rangers to Oakland for the stretch drive as the Athletics wrapped up the American League West title last season.

Minor went 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in his four starts in Oakland after the trade, in which Texas received two players to be named later and international slot money. Overall, he went 1-6 with a 5.56 ERA and 62 strikeouts for both teams in 2020.

His fastball velocity took a step back last season, and his propensity for giving up fly balls showed in his allowing 11 home runs in 56 2/3 innings. His average of 17.7 pitches per inning was his highest rate since his rookie season in 2010 with the Atlanta Braves.

In nine major league seasons, Minor has a 71-66 record with a 3.98 ERA and 1,048 strikeouts with the Braves, Royals, Rangers and Athletics. He missed the 2015 and ’16 seasons after having Tommy John surgery, and he was moved to the bullpen after signing with the Royals in 2017, going 6-6 with six saves and a 2.55 ERA.

The Rangers signed him prior to the 2018 season and moved him back to the rotation, and he delivered, going 26-18 in the 2018 and ’19 seasons while earning his first All-Star nod.

The Athletic was first to report the agreement.

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Brad Hand, Washington Nationals agree to 1-year, $10.5M deal

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Closer Brad Hand and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year, $10.5 million contract, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Sunday.

Hand had another solid season as the closer for the Cleveland Indians, leading the major leagues with 16 saves, but he was a victim of the team’s salary purge heading into 2021. Cleveland declined his $10 million option in exchange for a $1 million buyout.

Cleveland tried to deal the 30-year-old left-hander after the season but was unable to find a trade partner.

Hand was acquired from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in 2018. In two-plus seasons with Cleveland, he had 58 saves in 65 chances and a 2.78 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 107 innings over 111 games.

Hand went 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA and was 16-for-16 in save chances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 60-game season. However, his blown save against the New York Yankees led to the Indians’ elimination in the American League Wild Card Series.

The Padres claimed Hand off waivers from Miami early in the 2016 season and he developed into a two-time All-Star. Known for his slider, he has 105 saves in 128 chances, with a 3.65 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 608 2/3 innings pitched.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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In Jameson Taillon, did New York Yankees trade for latest starter who will dominate after leaving Pittsburgh Pirates?

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The year 2018 wasn’t that long ago. It really wasn’t, despite how it seems. The Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the World Series that year and while it feels like an epoch has passed since that happened, the highlight reels of that matchup are in full color, not black and white.

I fixate on 2018 because after the New York Yankees agreed to acquire right-hander Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for a middling package of four prospects on Sunday, that year has a special relevance for Bronx denizens sketching out their team’s new-look rotation.

Let’s say Luis Severino returns from his Tommy John surgery rehabilitation sometime in June, Corey Kluber‘s shoulder holds up enough that he holds down a rotation spot, Gerrit Cole keeps being Gerrit Cole, Taillon is a full go and, just for the fun of it, that New York’s low-key minor league invite, righty Jhoulys Chacin, bounces back enough to win the No. 5 slot. The quintet would probably slot like this: Cole, Taillon, Kluber, Severino and Chacin.

In 2018, those five starters combined to go 83-38 (a .686 winning percentage) over 164 starts with a 3.16 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. They put up 94 quality starts. Together, they compiled 22.3 WAR, per baseball-reference.com. The MLB-leading WAR total for any rotation in 2018 was 22.4, by the Astros, but of course that total was bolstered by the presence of Cole.

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New York Yankees acquire pitcher Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh Pirates for four prospects

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The New York Yankees have added another bounce-back candidate to their starting rotation, acquiring Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four minor league prospects, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan and multiple reports.

Pittsburgh will receive pitchers Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith in the trade, sources told Passan.

Taillon, 29, was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2010 and was a 14-game winner for the Pirates in 2018. But the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just seven games in 2019 and missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

The Yankees agreed to the trade less than two weeks after signing two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, who also is looking to rebound from back-to-back injury-marred seasons.

Taillon and Kluber, if healthy, could provide the Yankees with much-needed experience and depth in their rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole.

With free agent Masahiro Tanaka‘s future uncertain and fellow veteran J.A. Happ having joined the Minnesota Twins, New York could face a shortage of proven starting pitching options after Cole.

Besides Taillon and Kluber, the other candidates for the Yankees’ rotation include left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who has appeared in just 12 games since his 2018 Tommy John surgery, youngsters Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt, former All-Star Luis Severino, who missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, and Domingo German, who also missed the entire 2020 season while serving a suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Taillon is on schedule to return in 2021 after recovering from the August 2019 operation, which was the second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The trade marks the latest step in a rebuild for the Pirates, who also acquired multiple prospects in earlier offseason trades that sent All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals and starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton told reporters last month that any trades would be made “for the betterment of the Pirates moving forward.”

As for the Yankees, the trade also reunites a pair of former teammates in Taillon and Cole, who were both highly touted prospects in Pittsburgh’s organization and played together with the Pirates in 2016 and 2017.

Taillon most recently pitched in the majors in 2019, when he went 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts. He went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA the previous season.

Taillon, who is under contract for $2.25 million in 2021, also missed time during the 2017 season while battling testicular cancer. His first Tommy John surgery was performed in 2014, when he was pitching in the Pirates’ minor league system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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