Phillies, Taijuan Walker agree to 4-year, $72M deal: Sources

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By Ken Rosenthal, Matt Gelb and Will Sammon

The Philadelphia Phillies and free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker have agreed on a four-year contract worth $72 million, Major League sources say. The athletic. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Walker is number 12 in the overall standings The athleticKeith Law’s list of the top 50 free agents.
  • The 30-year-old right-hander went 12-5 last season with a 3.49 ERA over 157.1 IP.
  • He earned his first career All-Star nomination in 2021, his first season with the Mets.
  • In addition to Walker, the Phillies are closing a deal with left-handed free agent Matt Strahm, Major League sources say. The athletic.

Scout report

In 2022, Walker showed why he should pursue a multi-year contract, even as a more mediocre option.

Walker remade himself as a batter with a throw in his splitter, a pitch he barely used prior to Tommy John’s surgery. Hitters have an extremely difficult time lifting the ball against him; the average launch angle on the field when hitters make contact is -1 degree. Of balls hit via Walker’s splitter in play, 55 percent were at 0 degrees or less, meaning parallel to or toward the ground, and only six percent were hit in the 26 to 30 degree launch angle range where balls with a speed of 95 mph or faster is considered. Barrels from Statcast, which means they’re probably extra-base hits.

GO DEEPER

Wet: The Phillies are addressing another big question by adding Taijuan Walker

Why the Phillies took this step

Once the Phillies agreed to a $300 million deal for Trea Turner, their next target was a reliable pitcher for the middle of their rotation. They were reluctant to sign a pitcher attached to an eligible bid because they will give up draft picks to sign Turner. So they paid a premium for one of the best starters that cost them no choices. An annual salary of $18 million for a medium-rotation pitcher is high, but if it wasn’t already obvious, the Phillies won’t win awards for efficiency. They don’t care about that.

They had to replace a significant number of rotational innings lost with the departures of Kyle Gibson, Zach Eflin and Noah Syndergaard. Walker, 30, had two consecutive healthy seasons with the Mets. He used his splitter more in 2022 than ever before, which is a plus that the Phillies could ask him to throw more in 2023. Opponents batted .195 with a .267 slugging percentage against the splitter.

The Phillies had a straightforward philosophy with their pitchers last season: Throw their best pitches more. So it’s reasonable to believe that with some tweaks, the Phillies see even more advantage in Walker. Even if he is the pitcher he was in 2022 – an 111 ERA+ – he would provide steady power in the middle of the rotation. – Gelb

What Philadelphia gets with Walker

Having settled for short-term deals during his previous free agency shoots, Walker envisioned a long-term pact. With the Mets, he was a consistent pitcher on the ground and a reliable part of their rotation. In two years with the Mets, Walker made an All-Star appearance in 2021, posted better numbers in 2022, and had a combined 3.98 ERA/4.11 FIP with a 1.18 WHIP in 316 1/3 innings in 59 games, including 58 starts. Using more of a split finger and relying less on his four-seam fastball, Walker produced arguably his best season with a 3.49 ERA, 3.65 FIP, and 2.5 fWAR in 157 1/3 innings. With Walker, the floor is firm; you pretty much know what you’re getting, and it’s a more than viable option for the Phillies’ rotation. — Sammon

Required reading

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GO DEEPER

Phillies bolster the rotation with Taijuan Walker and make their mark at Winter Meetings

(Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today)


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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