Taijuan Walker is the Perfect Fit for the Phillies Starting Rotation
The Phillies inked Taijuan Walker to a 4-year, $72M contract on Tuesday night, locking up their #4 arm for the foreseeable future.
The departure of Zach Eflin and Kyle Gibson, along with the unknown status of Noah Syndergaard, had Dave Dombrowski in need of a trustworthy starting pitcher. No matter your opinion on those three starters, filling 376 combined innings is never easy, especially after you just committed $300M to your shortstop until he’s 40 years old.
Taijuan Walker is one of 26 pitchers in the league that has thrown 150+ innings in both of the last two seasons. His 2022 season was a major improvement from 2021, lowering his ERA an entire point.
Walker logged 157.1 innings in 2022, tallying a 3.49 ERA in 29 total starts for the New York Mets. He struck out 132 batters while logging an ERA+ of 111, with a 3.65 FIP and a 1.195 WHIP. He struck out 7.6 batters every nine innings while allowing under one home run a game. Walker allowed just one home run every other start in 2022.
9 Minutes of 2022 Taijuan Walker Highlights
What makes Walker a perfect fit for this rotation is his ability to fool hitters. He joins Ranger Suarez as the two six-pitch arms on the Phillies. Walker’s #1 pitch when it comes to percentage is his fastball, but his split-finger works the most and is the 30-year-old’s “signature pitch.”
Taijuan Walker has started to slowly make his split-finger his #1 pitch, raising the usage rate in between years by nearly 10% while dropping his fastball down to 36%. Opponents hit just .195/.225/.267 against his splitter in 2022.
The Phillies have a very fascinating future for their starting rotation. Zack Wheeler is locked up through 2024 and will most certainly come back once his contract is up. The Phillies have picked up Aaron Nola’s option and have made it clear that they will soon bring him back on a long-term extension. Ranger Suarez will be extended when the time comes. Walker is now locked up through 2026, along with the three fascinating prospects in the minor leagues in Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry.
- Zack Wheeler
- Aaron Nola
- Ranger Suarez
- Taijuan Walker
It’s not 100% confirmed if Andrew Painter will be ready to throw by the 5th game of the season. Bailey Falter has proven he can pitch in high-leverage spots for this team, so there’s truly no reason to rush the best prospect in franchise history.
The Phillies have options, which is something we haven’t been able to say in the past. Does $18M a year feel like a slight overpay for Walker? Yes. But the pitching market is not in anybody’s favor other than the players right now. Dave Dombrowski has proven that you need to spend money to win, which is exactly what he’s done over the last three days.
Editors Note: There’s a lot of people online saying that it was an overpay for Walker. I would have to disagree. We don’t know the market value for other free agent pitchers yet, but if you compare Walker’s salary to the $13MM AAV for 34-year-old Jose Quintana, then the deal looks better and better as we go.