As the 2021 season grows closer and closer, it appears that the Mets will grow increasingly aggressive in bolstering their depth on their pitching staff, adding veteran starter Taijuan Walker this morning.
This move may not be the flashiest move of the offseason, even for the Mets. That’s even considering many fans consider this to have been a lackluster offseason. Even after adding James McCann in free agency, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Carrasco via trade.
Why does Walker make sense?
This signing is a low-risk, high-reward one for the Mets. If nothing else, Walker will serve as a depth piece for New York who can eat up innings as necessary.
At first, it is understandable that fans would criticize this move and ask questions like, “Why, not Bauer?” or “Why not Kluber?” We all know the Mets can afford these guys having the biggest checkbook in baseball.
Contrary to the above argument, this move is one that makes all the sense in the world with the recent news that Seth Lugo is out until May at the earliest with bone spurs. Walker will be able to eat innings at least until then, and possibly compete for the number five spot in the rotation with David Peterson.
On the topic of eating innings, this season is one that still has a lot of question marks attached to it. For starters, nobody knows who may or may not contract the COVID-19 virus that has crippled North America for the past year or so. This could very easily lead to players being put on the IL, costing teams innings. In 2021, there is no such thing as too many pitchers.
What we do know is that there are 1,458 innings in a standard baseball season. Even with doubleheaders shortening the games to seven innings apiece, that won’t diminish that number too much.
Another factor that makes this deal a favorable one for the Mets is the money attached to it. It’s a short-term deal, lasting only two years and costing the Mets $20 million.
Will He Be Reliable?
At the end of the day, we never know what 2021 may bring for anyone. Considering Walker’s track record, though, he should be reliable for New York.
Walker holds a career ERA of 3.84, which isn’t bad considering he will be either a number five starter or a bullpen arm. He also has a career 1.246 WHIP, which also isn’t bad.
Looking at more recent numbers, Walker pitched to the tune of a 2.70 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, going 4-3 and striking out 50 batters in 53 1/3 innings.
Taijuan Walker is not going to be used as the Mets ace, and we know that. With deGrom, Carrasco, and Stroman ahead of him, he will be a four starter, at best for New York. Walker, Joey Luchesi, and David Peterson will likely compete for the four and five spots in the rotation.
In the end, this move is a perfect one for the Mets. Team-friendly contract and an innings eater. With Luis Rojas already having announced that the Mets are not afraid to use the opener in 2021, Walker could be an option until Noah Syndergaard returns somewhere between June and August from Tommy John Surgery. It is far from a big-time move, but it makes a lot of sense for the Mets when everything is considered. Welcome to New York, Taijuan Walker.