The Mets and Taijuan Walker have agreed to a contract, according to multiple sources. The club had been linked to Walker over the past few days after previous targets, such as Rich Hill, Jake Arrieta, and Trevor Bauer proved unsuccessful. With a career 3.84 ERA and 8.2 K/9, the former Blue Jay, Mariner, and Diamondback slots nicely in the backend of the Mets’ rotation.
According to Jon Heyman, the contract is for two years, $20 million, with a player option for a third year. The deal breaks down to $10 million for 2021, $6 million for 2022, a $3 million buyout for the player option, or up to $8.5 million for 2023.
Walker, a first round pick for the Mariners in the 2010 draft, and made his MLB debut in September of 2013. From 2015-2017, Walker made at least 25 starts for the Mariners and Diamondbacks. At the start of the 2018 season, Walker suffered a tear in his UCL, requiring him to miss all but four games of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to Tommy John Surgery. However, over his 11 starts in 2020 for the Blue Jays, Walker looked to be returning to his pre-injury form. Some of that may be luck, as his ERA outperformed his FIP by a -1.86 differential, but of the available pitchers left on the market, Walker is one of the most intriguing.
It is also notable that Walker, after the 2019 season, went to the folks at Driveline to better understand his pitches and made adjustments based on what he learned. Specifically, he worked on his slider, which in the past he said was more of a cutter. In an interview conducted earlier this offseason with Fangraphs, he sounds committed to continuing to dig into his analytics and improve his performance however he can.
Walker will join Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman in the Mets’ rotation, with the fifth spot in the rotation to be decided this spring. While David Peterson appears to be the frontrunner, he will have some competition from Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Sam McWilliams, and Sean Reid-Foley, to name a few.
The Mets will need to make two corresponding 40-Man Roster moves for both Walker and Kevin Pillar, which has not yet been officially announced.