Taijuan Walker Interesting Decision For Mets
As anticipated, New York Mets starter Taijuan Walker opted out of his contract. Unlike the last time, more teams than just the Mets will come calling.
Walker opting out puts the Mets in an extremely difficult position. At times, he’s pitched like a number two. Other times, he’s pitched like a bullpen arm. No matter how you cut it, he has value.
Over the past two years, he’s 19-16 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, and a 7.9 K/9. He accumulated a 3.1 WAR, 99 ERA+, and a 4.11 FIP.
He was an All-Star in 2021, and you could make the argument he could’ve been one in 2022. His first halves have been great, and the second halves lacking.
Taking the total picture into account, Walker ranks 39th among pitchers who have pitched over 300 innings the past two seasons. He’s also thrown the 39th most innings while making the 32nd most starts.
With starting pitching, availability is of paramount importance. Despite his past history, Walker showed an ability to take the ball every fifth day. We also saw a stronger pitcher in the second half of 2022 than he was in 2021.
This is where things get dicey for the Mets.
The Mets could reasonably believe Tylor Megill or David Peterson could replicate what Walker has provided while also believing each provides more upside. If they believe that, perhaps, they should let Walker go.
However, we do not know Megill’s durability and ability to be a starter for a full season. Peterson has shown durability and appears to be building strength to last a full season in the rotation.
Another factor with both was they entered Spring Training as pitching depth. If either or both are in the 2023 rotation that depth takes a hit, especially with Jose Butto likely being the sole upper level minors pitcher the Mets feel confidence in calling up.
The Mets need to balance that against just how much they can actually spend. Edwin Díaz just signed a record deal for a reliever. The Mets also have free agents in Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo, and Brandon Nimmo.
The Mets entered the offseason needing to rebuild an entire pitching staff – rotation and bullpen. That is going to cost a ton of money, and even with Steve Cohen, you have to imagine at some point, the Mets will need to save money here and there.
If the Mets lock in Walker, they’re keeping a good starter who may still yet have upside. It’s a move towards maintaining depth. It’s more certainty than upside, which is never a bad thing.
In the end, the Mets best decision might be to offer Walker the qualifying offer. If he accepts, great. If not, the Mets get a compensatory pick allowing them to pursue players like Trea Turner.
Overall, this is a good “problem” for the Mets to have. They either keep a good pitcher, or they get an asset to help them sign other players and/or build for the future.
This is a “problem” because Walker has been good and deserves a long term deal. The Mets have been better for having him, and no matter what happens fans and the organization should appreciate him and wish him well.