Most of the talk this offseason will center around free agent starting pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. Bauer is an ace and should receive multiple offers. However, there are several other pitching candidates that teams will target. Among them is right-hander Taijuan Walker. Walker is a former 2010 first-round draft pick. After an up and down three seasons with the Seattle Mariners from 2013-2016, Walker was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 2016.
Walker is the kind of low-risk, high-reward type of player that can make a team’s GM look like a genius. With that being said, Walker’s career record over his seven-year career is only 35-34. But, he made only two starts from 2018-2019 due Tommy John surgery. Despite missing so much time, Walker came on strong last season after signing a free-agent deal with the Mariners going 2-2 with a 4.00 ERA and 25 strikeouts in five starts. At the trade deadline, Walker was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays where he went 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA with another 25 strikeouts in six starts. There is certainly a lot to like about Walker and he has a lot of upside. He owns a career 3.84 ERA and 528 strikeouts in only 105 starts. Here, we take a look at several potential landing spots for the free-agent hurler.
Just recently, the Detroit Tigers have expressed an interest in Walker. Obviously, the Tigers are attempting to build for the future. Detroit’s regular starting pitchers went 9-21 this past season with a combined ERA of 6.77. It’s apparent that the Tigers need more stability from the starting rotation. Adding a player like Walker would do just that.
He would come in and immediately slot behind Matthew Boyd as the Tiger’s number two starter. After agreeing with former Houston Astros skipper AJ Hinch to be their new manager, the Tigers are making moves to win now. Adding a pitcher like Walker will only expedite the winning process.
New York Yankees
After not extending a qualifying offer to RHP Masahiro Tanaka, declining an option on LHP J.A. Happ and not expecting to re-sign LHP James Paxton, the New York Yankees will be in need of starting pitching. Taijuan Walker is exactly the sort of player that Yankees GM Brian Cashman is known for taking a chance on. Behind ace Gerrit Cole, Walker would slot in as the number three or four starter and allow the younger Yankee arms more time to develop.
In fact, The Yankees showed interest in obtaining Walker before the 2020 MLB trade deadline. If the Yankees aren’t looking to spend big in the free-agent market, Walker is an excellent alternative to the bigger name pitchers.
With Atlanta Braves players Cole Hamels, Marcell Ozuna, and Mark Melancon all coming off the books, the Braves will have some extra money to spend on a rotation arm. As a result, Walker could be just the pitcher they target. In a season that also saw injuries to starters Mike Soroka and Max Fried as well as Felix Hernandez opting out due to COVID-19, the Braves still managed to win the NL East.
Arguably, a full season of Walker in the rotation along with Fried and Soroka gives the Braves a three-headed monster. With a loaded offense and a healthy pitching staff, the Braves would be among World Series favorites in 2021.
After a solid 2020 campaign, Taijuan Walker has an opportunity to rejuvenate his career. Despite injuries shortening several of his seasons, Walker will get the chance to prove he is a viable and productive starter. Whichever team signs Walker will potentially be getting the steal of the offseason. He is a complete pitcher with a four-pitch arsenal. If he can remain healthy, Walker will be a huge get for any MLB team.
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