The Mets have agreed to a deal with free agent starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, as originally reported by SNY’s Andy Martino. This may not be the mega move like a Trevor Bauer, but the Mets still needed one more starter, and they got a deal done with the 28-year-old Walker. Walker should slot in to the #4 spot in the rotation behind Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, and ahead of David Peterson.
Walker was originally drafted by the Mariners with the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of high school in California and ended up being one of the top ranked prospects in baseball. MLB.com in 2014 had him ranked as the 6th best prospect in baseball. Walker would eventually be traded along with Ketel Marte to Arizona for infielder Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger, and left-handed pitcher Zac Curtiss.
Walker pitched to a 3.49 ERA over 28 starts in 2017. Unfortunately after only 3 starts in 2018 he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery which wiped out the rest of his 2018, and all but 1 appearance in 2019. He split the shortened 2020 season between Seattle and Toronto, posting a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts.
The questions that will be there with Walker is he has routinely had a higher FIP than ERA, which, for the nerds like me, implies he has been lucky. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. It is a statistic meant to measure a pitcher's effectiveness, taking plays that would involve the defense trying to field the ball out of the equation. However, his FIP has routinely been higher throughout his career, and I am willing to maybe say he had a lucky year, not a lucky career. On a positive note, he tied a career high with a 22.2% strikeout rate and was in the 74th percentile in hard hit ball rate, which says he is missing more bats and inducing weaker contact.
I think the Mets made a smart move pouncing on Walker at this stage. They add more of a sure thing to the rotation, and now have the best starting pitching depth they’ve had in some time.
Not even counting Noah Syndergaard, they now will have the ability to have Joey Lucchesi as the 6th starter, Jordan Yamamoto as the 7th starter, and young guys like Franklyn Kilome, Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Szapucki available in Triple-A.
I think in 2021, depth in pitching will be more important than ever. After the shortened season, I think you will see teams be creative with innings on some arms. If they are able to stay healthy, the Mets can run out deGrom, Carrasco, Stroman, Syndergaard and Walker from June-on.
In my opinion, the Mets have a top 3 rotation in the game that if they make the playoffs can carry them to a deep run. LGM!