Phillies to sign Taijuan Walker

Phillies to sign Taijuan Walker

One day after landing Trea Turner on a superb 11-year contract, the Phillies strengthened their rotation by agreeing a four-year contract with the free right-hander Taijuan walkerJon Heyman of the New York Post reports (Twitter connections).’s Anthony DiComo adds that Walker, a client of Boras Corporation, will be guaranteed $72 million on the deal.

Taijuan walker

Walker, 30, enters deep and talented rotation led by co-aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. He will join left-handed Ranger Suarez in third and fourth places in a rotation whose fifth starter remains to be determined. Philadelphia baseball operations president Dave Dombrowski said earlier this offseason that he intended to sign a veteran starter and leave a starting job open for one of the Phillies’ many inside options — a list that currently includes left-handed. Bailey Falter and best prospects Andre Painter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry.

The Phils could still add depth, but based on Dombrowski’s previous comments and the fact that they committed a combined $372 million to Turner and Walker over the past day, it seems unlikely another top level addition either in store. After agreeing terms with Turner, Dombrowski expressed a desire to add a mid-rotation arm and add a main reliever — ideally without signing a free agent who had turned down a qualifying offer. The terms of Walker’s four-year deal exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, but he nonetheless checks the first of those two boxes, apparently setting the stage for the Phillies to turn to the reliever market.

Walker, a once-elite pitching prospect who pitched just 14 innings from 2017-18 due to shoulder surgery and Tommy John surgery, quickly chipped away at the ‘injury-prone’ label. formerly associated with his name. Since signing a one-year contract to return to the Mariners ahead of the 2020 season, the 6’4″, 235-pound right-hander has made a near-complete roster of starts: 11 games in the 60-game 2020 season followed by consecutive games 29 seasons begin with the Mets in 2021-22.

Along the way, Walker has thrown a 3.80 ERA with a 21.5% strikeout rate, 7.8% walk rate and 43.4% rushed ball rate on a total of 369 2/3 sleeves. Despite barely being a flamethrower, Walker clocks in at 93-94 mph with his four seams and tops off this heater with a four-pitch mix of side deals: splitter, sinker, slider and a curve ball more rarely used. He’s only averaged just over 5 1/3 innings per start in recent years, but that might just be because the Mets prefer to keep him healthy.

While many teams are hesitant to allow starters to turn a formation more than three times, Walker’s third-time splits in command are actually quite strong. Since 2020, when he faces an opponent for the third time in a game, Walker has given up just a .232/.303/.391 swipe line. That translates to a .303 wOBA that’s tied with one of his new rotation mates, Nola, for 37th among 132 starting pitchers over that three-year span.

As solid as Walker’s final seasons have been, the $72 million guarantee he got on his new contract is still a pretty impressive number. So far it’s been a bull market for rookie pitchers, to say the least, but an $18 million annual value over a four-year span represents a seismic step forward on the mid-rotation arms market. Walker has undoubtedly benefited from his relative youth and a lack of qualifying supply, but guarantees of this size for a pitcher of this caliber, while not unprecedented, are fairly rare. Plus, while we’ve seen starters like this secure lands in this range in the past – the Royals have signed Ian Kennedy for $70 million, and the Marlins inked Wei Yin Chen for $80 million – they were usually spread out over a period of five years. A precedent for an AAV of this magnitude, on a relatively long-term contract, because this caliber of launcher is rare.

None of this is a blow to Walker, who has pitched well in his three years since returning from that pair of seasons lost to injury. And, if Walker can keep pitching at a pace to match 2022’s whistle production in particular, he’ll eventually justify the deal. That said, he has only reached 150 innings four times in his Major League career and has only recorded an ERA below 4.00 once in a 162-game campaign, thus expecting to a replica of its 2022 production – especially in light of a shaky ball profile. — would be rather optimistic.

The Phillies, however, needed some stability with Kyle Gibson, Zach Eflin and Noah Syndergaard all attaining free will, and weapon prices this winter have been high. Eflin, for example, landed a $13.33 million AAV on a three-year contract with the all-team low-budget Rays, and did so on the heels of a season at the during which he pitched only 75 2/3 innings. Gibson, who turned 35 in October and had a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts for the Phillies, was still guaranteed $10 million on a one-year contract at Baltimore. The price of average or better innings — and the price of pitchers who can reliably deliver those innings — appears to have gone up at the start of the new 2022-26 collective bargaining agreement.

From a payroll perspective, Walker’s addition will boost the Phillies to an expected payroll of $223.5 million next year, per Roster Resource (assuming an even payroll distribution). Additionally, Walker’s $18 million AAV will push the Phillies into luxury tax territory for what will now be a second straight season. They’re currently projecting at $235 million, just $2 million north of the $233 million barrier, but it seems fair to expect more additions are on the horizon – at all. less in the bullpen. As the second offender, the Phils will pay a 30% overage on the first $20 million by which they exceed that $233 million line, and they will be liable for a 42.5% penalty for any overs included. between 20 and 40 million dollars.

That seems to mean little to owner John Middleton, who just saw his Phillies fall to World Series champion Astros in a competitive six-game affair. With Nola set to become a free agent next winter, the 2023 campaign could be the last time he and Wheeler understand the one-two dynamic at the top of Philadelphia’s rotation. Wheeler’s contract is up after the 2024 season, and JT Realmuto will turn 32 before Opening Day 2023. It’s time to win in Philadelphia, and very close to the mark, their aggressive owner and president all just as aggressive baseball operations are gaining momentum—simple, paid upgrades through the free agent market to bolster franchise hopes as an elite core are still assembled and still in their prime.

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