New York Mets add free agent starter Taijuan Walker

New York Mets, Taijuan Walker

The New York Mets made yet another move to bolster their pitching depth, agreeing to terms with right-hander starter Taijuan Walker. The news was reported by Andy Martino of SNY.tv.

Right now, the Mets have Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, Walker, Joey Lucchesi, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jordan Yamamoto as starting pitching depth, and let’s not forget that Noah Syndergaard will eventually return from Tommy John surgery.

Finding roster spots for every named pitcher will be extremely difficult for the New York Mets, so if everybody is healthy, it is possible that Peterson, Eickhoff, and Yamamoto start the year in the minors.

Walker, meanwhile, parlayed a very good 2020 season into a two-year contract even after spring training started. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Walker will collect $20 million in the two-year pact, and there is a $6 million player option for a third year.

Injuries have robbed the 28-year-old Walker much playing time in the last few years, but he was excellent in 2020, with a 2.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 50/19 K/BB ratio over 53 1/3 innings between the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mets’ latest pitching weapon

The Mets are hoping he can at least replicate those numbers over a full season, but even if quite can’t, he offers a nice combination of floor and potential for a team that needs all the pitching it can get.

Walker will surely have to fight for his place in the Mets’ rotation, and if he’s there, he is going to have to perform to keep it with the impressive depth that the club has managed to put together for the 2021 season.

Things may get quite crowded for the Mets’ manager Luis Rojas once Thor is deemed ready to return from his Tommy John surgery, presumably in June or July.

New York Mets have been in contact with free agent starter Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker, New York Yankees

The New York Mets had another eventful day on Monday. They jumped off the pursuit of left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, who ended up signing with the New York Yankees, and secured the services of Kevin Pillar to shore up the defense in center field, which was an area of need entering the offseason and now has Pillar and Albert Almora.

Now, after covering center field, the New York Mets are reportedly circling back to pitching. According to Michael Mayer, the team has been in contact with free agent starter Taijuan Walker.

Walker is still just 28, but has been very injury-prone throughout his major league tenure. Still, according to Mayer, he is “said to be looking for” a multi-year deal worth at least $10 million per year.

Considering that spring training is about to open this week, it seems unlikely that the Mets or any other team decides to give him that much money.

The Mets are impressed with Walker’s 2020

Walker had a very good 2020 season, with a 2.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 50/19 K/BB ratio over 53 1/3 innings last season between the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mets consider Walker as a cheaper alternative to fellow free agent hurler Jake Odorizzi, who is reportedly looking for a three-year deal north of $40 million. The Mets have expressed interest in the former Twin, but it remains to be seen how much more money they spend with the season being so close.

For now, they appear to have their sights on Walker, who could provide a bit of upside to an already good Mets rotation that has Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard (in June or July) Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, and Jerad Eickhoff.

Signing Walker would represent another upgrade to the rotation, but the Mets need to weigh his injury history into the equation before making an offer.

New York Mets: Three Candidates To Round Out The Starting Rotation

New York Yankees, James Paxton

The New York Mets still need another arm to solidify their rotation as they wait for Noah Syndergaard‘s midseason return. The next expensive purchase for Steve Cohen will likely go towards George Springer over Trevor Bauer. In that case, here are three good options the Mets can sign for 2021.

1. James Paxton

Unless they overpay like the New York Yankees did for Corey Kluber, James Paxton should be a bargain for whichever team signs him. Injuries and lack of spring training cause Paxton to finish 2020 with an ERA over four for the first time in his career.

Paxton touched 94 mph on his fastball during a throwing session in December with just under 20 teams in attendance. The velocity is slightly under his typical mark, but it is an encouraging sign as he recovers from a flexor strain. Paxton would be a one-year rental and give the Mets a fifth starter with a reliable track record.

2. Gio Gonzalez

 

Gio Gonzalez was once a nemesis of the Mets during his days as a Washington National. Even after he left, Gonzalez still found a way to have success in Citi Field. Gonzalez is 11-2 with a 1.83 ERA and one shutout over 18 starts at Citi Field. He said he feels comfortable pitching in Citi Field and is another reliable option for their fifth starter. Gonzalez also understands his role as a reliever when Syndergaard returns and in the postseason.

3. Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker is a younger version of Kluber’s value in the free-agent market. Walker is only heading into his age-28 season and is coming off a 2.70 ERA in 2020. He may warrant more money due to his age and past performance, but his injuries are always a major risk. Walker has never made 30 starts in his career, and the last time he made at least 20 starts was in 2017. He has a 3.84 ERA in his career and gives the Mets another formidable starter without the pressure to pitch major innings.

Yankees News/Rumors: Yanks have inside advantage on Corey Kluber, Taijuan Walker a pitching target

New York Yankees, Taijuan Walker

The New York Yankees are going to enter the free-agent pitching market at some point, it’s just a matter of who they target. I don’t expect them to be as astronomically aggressive as they have been in the past, considering their financial caution. They are trying to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, so after DJ LeMahieu is hopefully extended, they won’t have much money to work with.

There are a few starting pitchers that could make sense for the Bombers, including former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Taijuan Walker.

MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch stated that the Yankees have an advantage when it comes to Corey Kluber:

The Yankees may have an inside track with Kluber, based upon his long-standing relationship with performance coach Eric Cressey; in fact, Kluber is scheduled to hold a mound session for interested teams on Jan. 13 at Cressey’s Florida facility. If nothing else, they should have an accurate read on Kluber’s talent level. Considering that he is coming off injuries and would likely agree to an incentive-laden contract, that seems like a good fit for the back end of the rotation.

Kluber has only pitched 36.2 innings over the past two seasons, so they have to be a bit careful when considering him as an option. Injuries have taken their toll, but if he’s able to return to his former self, the Yankees will have a bonafide ace alongside Gerrit Cole, which is exactly what they’re looking for.

Since he is scheduled to pitch for multiple teams on January 13, I fully expect the Yankees to be in attendance, considering he could be a cost-efficient signing with tremendous upside. At the very least, he can compete for a rotation spot, as he posted a 2.89 ERA back in 2018. He’s not too far removed from a stellar season, so giving him an opportunity is not out of this world.

Should the New York Yankees consider Taijuan Walker?

Walker is another solid option for the Yankees after pitching for the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2020. He posted a collective 2.70 ERA over 53.1 innings. He’s actually a fantastic option, as he’s been relatively consistent over the past three seasons.

Probably not all three, especially if the Yankees augment a rotation that also projects to include Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Domingo Germán to begin the year. While the door is not closed on a Masahiro Tanaka return, Jhoulys Chacin will compete for a spot as a non-roster invitee, and an addition like Kluber or Taijuan Walker remains possible. It’s easy to imagine one of García, King and Schmidt breaking camp for Opening Day, with the other two remaining on a starting schedule at Triple-A.

He primarily utilizes a fastball, slider and dabbles with a curveball and split-finger fastball, which is a new addition to his arsenal. He hovers in the 93 mph range with his fastball, which is solid enough to get him by. He’s not a high strikeout pitcher but forces a healthy number of ground balls.

Considering the Yankees want to keep the cost down, Kluber seems to be the more efficient option of the two, but Walker does represent quality and could be a good supplement after losing Tanaka, Paxton, and Happ to free agency.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Far off the radar, intriguing pitcher deals the Yankees could consider

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

In a year that the New York Yankees will aim to improve their starting rotation, they find themselves cash short and wondering what a 2021 season will look like. As the Yankee brass sits at their desks, they have no feel for if there will be fans in the stands or will lose even more money next year. They also are not oblivious to the fact that the coronavirus has left many out of work and unsure of their future, a future where they may not afford tickets and baseball merchandise.

This entire situation is also not good for free-agents that may not get what they would have expected due to the virus and clubs looking to save money. Strangely, the clubs and players’ answer may be to accept less money and be more inclined to offer and accept short one or two-year contracts than they normally would.

There is a log jam of available pitchers out there; there are a few that any team would want to sign but may be too expensive this offseason. But looking carefully, there may be some off-the-radar intriguing picks that would be, for the most part, economical. The first on the list might be the most surprising of all to New York Yankees fans.

J. A. Happ:

Yes, he was a Yankee last year, and yes, the Yankees did not give him a qualifying offer after missing his vesting option. Yankee fans know that when he is hot, he is unhittable. In 2018 J.A. Happ joined the team before the trade deadline and did nothing but win; he went 7-0 in eleven starts. In 2019 he was 12-8; that’s not bad either. In this shortened 2020 season, he had the second-lowest ERA  next to Gerrit Cole with all the controversy.

Both Masahiro Tanaka pitched to the same winning percentage, but Happ’s ERA was lower. The big difference is the Yankees are contemplating taking Tanaka back, but not Happ. Happ had one horrible game that began his season and spoiled a low ERA that could have been lower. In August, he pitched to an ERA of 2.81; in September, he pitched 29.1 innings for an ERA of just 3.07. Included in those games was an eight-inning shutout of the Red Sox.

But with the seemingly bad relations between him and the Yankees, it’s doubtful the Yankees will consider the 38-year old for even one year.

Matt Shoemaker:

Shoemaker might not seem like a pitcher that the New York Yankees would be interested in, but looking closer, he has some upsides. His ERA is not something that would draw attention to him. He also hasn’t pitched a lot in the last three years. This would make him more likely to accept a one year deal on the cheap. Of lower-tier free agents, he has above-average stuff. Interestingly his fastball velocity was up nearly 3 mph compared to last season. Smyly, Ray, and Gausman’s fastball were up less, but all of them were already signed.

Taijuan Walker

Walker is often talked about as a mid prize free agent. He pitched exceptionally well for the Toronto Blue Jays last year. You often hear that a pitcher pitched better than his stats show, but with Walker, it’s the opposite; he didn’t pitch as well as his 2.70 ERA. Nonetheless, he is a good pitcher that might be a fit for the Yankees. His four-seam fastball is his best pitch, whether you look at process or results. It’s the only pitch he has that gets above-league-average whiffs. While with the Jays, he constantly changed up his pitches, which led to success, which could bode well for whatever team lands him.

Tyler Chatwood:

Chatwood is also another pitcher that might look kindly on a short term contract. Chatwood has not been the best pitcher in his career but performed an amazing makeover in his last years with the Chicago Cubs. His record with the Cubs is 11-11 with an uninspiring ERA. Chatwood threw harder last year than he ever has in his career. The 30-year-olds 94.9 mph average four-seam fastball velocity is the best of the four pitchers in this article.

Chatwood is a fastball pitcher, but he has more recently thrown more curveballs and with a high spin rate. He also threw a cutter more often than in the past, making him a truly three-pitch starter. By throwing harder and using more pitches, the Yankees may see that as an upside.

As I evaluate these four pitchers, it appears to me that J.A. Happ may be the best option for the New York Yankees if the two can repair their relationship.

 

 

Toronto snags Yankees’ target and pretends to contend this season

Taijuan Walker, New York Yankees

The Toronto Blue Jays made the first major splash of the trading season, acquiring the services of right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker from the rebuilding Seattle Mariners. The M’s received a player to be named later from the Canadians in return. The development is noteworthy for the New York Yankees since they expressed interest in the talented hurler not so long ago, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

As of now, it is unclear who will be going to Seattle in return for Walker, who is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the year. The most likely scenario is that a mid-level prospect is going to the state of Washington.

The Yankees, having lost Luis Severino and Domingo German for the year and James Paxton for the foreseeable future, are in need of some rotation help, especially since they don’t seem to want J.A. Happ on a regular schedule.

Toronto beat the Yankees in this particular trade, however, signaling that they will try to contend this year despite being currently in third place in the American League East division. They have a 15-14 record and are just 4.5 games back from the Tampa Bay Rays, who lead the pack in the east.

Walker could have made sense for the Yankees

Walker, currently 28 years old, was having a nice season in the Mariners’ rotation, with a 2-2 record, a 4.00 ERA and 25/8 K/BB ratio in 27 innings across five starts. He can be a stabilizing part of a Blue Jays’ rotation that hasn’t gotten expected returns from a number of arms.

The Yankees viewed him as a rental, since his deal expires after this season and probably didn’t require a very big investment as far as prospects is concerned.

Now, the Yankees will presumably turn their attention to other potential targets, such as the Indians’ Mike Clevinger, the Reds’ Trevor Bauer, the Rangers’ Mike Minor and possibly others. The Angels are said to be making Dylan Bundy available, as well.

Yankees and Mariners are talking about Taijuan Walker (Report)

Taijuan Walker, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are always looking for another edge if they can find one. Whether it’s signing free agents or making a trade, the Yankees are trying to be the best team in baseball. Right now, their pitching staff is really hurting.

Going into the year after the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole, many believed the rotation would be a strong spot for the team. However, they lost Luis Severino to Tommy John, James Paxton is hurt and might not be back for a while, J.A. Happ has been awful, and Masahiro Tanaka has been inconsistent.

The only true bright spot in the rotation has been Gerrit Cole who has pitched like a Cy Young winner. Because of the lack of performance, the Yankees are actively looking for help in the trade market. Per MLB Networks Jon Morosi, they have checked in with Seattle on Taijuan Walker.

The Yankees – Mariners Connection

The Yankees front office is extremely familiar with the front office of Seattle. As Morosi pointed out in his tweet, the teams have done eight deals in the last five years including the Yankees acquiring James Paxton.

Walker is off to a pretty good start in the 2020 season. The big right hander is 2-2 with an ERA of 4.00 and a WHIP of 1.074. He’s striking out just under nine batters per nine innings. In his last two starts he’s gone a combined 13 innings while only giving up three runs and striking out 13.

Walker will be a free agent after the season is over, and while in a normal year you wouldn’t think the price tag would be enormous, the lack of available pitching might make this deal difficult to pull off.

The Yankees are not going to give up a great deal for Walker. Would he improve the team now? Of course, but I can’t see Cashman giving up a ton for him. Now, the teams work very well together so I wouldn’t be shocked to see a deal worked out that is good for both sides.

I said yesterday, I believe that the Yankees are going to make some kind of deal this week. Whether it’s a bullpen arm like Mychal Givens or a starter like Walker or just an arm for depth purposes, the Yankees will do something. Time will tell what that something is.

The New York Mets would be wise to give Taijuan Walker a shot

New York Yankees, Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker, the former top prospect from the Seattle Mariners’ farm system, is now a free agent. The Arizona Diamondbacks, his team for the last three seasons, decided to non-tender him. Could the New York Mets be interested?

In fact, they should be, as there is an obvious match. Walker is talented and young (27 years old), and the fact that the Mets don’t need him to be a frontline starter should ease any unrealistic expectations.

Would he be a fit with the New York Mets?

The Mets currently employ two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, last year trade deadline acquisition Marcus Stroman, and homegrown lefty Steven Matz as its top four options for the rotation. They need a fifth starter, and Walker needs a job.

However, the Mets have more than a job to offer him. In New York, he will play in a competitive environment but without having to carry the load on his shoulders. The team needs him to take the ball every fifth day.

Walker would be perfect for the New York Mets. They are looking for a fifth starter, yes, but the right-hander has a solid floor and considerable upside, even if he is unlikely ever to return ace-like performance at this point. The team should bet on that upside.

His career so far

Throughout his career, Walker has been known for two reasons. One is his undeniable talent as a pitcher, and the other one is, sadly, for being notoriously injury-prone.

Here is a sneak peek of his injury history:

  • 2014: right shoulder impingement
    2016: right foot tendinitis
    2017: right index finger blister
    2018: Tommy John surgery (with additional complications)

After a very promising 2017 in which he accumulated 2.5 fWAR as a 24-year-old, his career seemed to be about to blast off. Instead, the right forearm inflammation that initial studies showed in 2018 took a turn for the worse when TJ was recommended.

He underwent surgery three starts into his 2018 season, and after several months of rest and rehab, he returned to a major league mound for a scoreless inning on September 29, 2019, against the San Diego Padres.

In his only appearance, he faced four batters and allowed one hit, surrendering no runs and notching a strikeout. His fastball averaged 93.3 mph, according to Fangraphs, almost two mph slower than his 95.2 marks, the highest of his career, in 2014 with the Mariners. Yet, there shouldn’t be any reasons to worry about his velocity, since the number isn’t that far off his 93.9 mph of 2017, his best season.

His most recent successful campaign

Speaking of 2017, it is the latest blueprint of what we can expect from Walker as a starter. Mets fans, take notice!

That year, he had a 3.49 ERA and a 4.04 FIP in 28 starts (157.1 frames.) He had a good, but not great 8.35 K/9 and 3.49 BB/9, with a healthy 48.9 groundball rate.

His fastball is a vital pitch in his arsenal, as he throws it around 55-60 percent of the time. If he can at least approach 94 mph, as he did in 2017 and early 2018, it will be huge for him as his control and command aren’t elite.

His split-finger is his favorite secondary weapon (per Savant), and he has thrown active cutters and curves in the past. He can likely be had in a one-year deal, so it probably won’t cost the New York Mets too much money to give him an opportunity and see if he can regain the feel for his breaking ball and if his fastball velocity can come all the way back. He is worth the shot.