Phillies to sign starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to 4-year deal

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Phillies to sign starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to 4-year deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

One night after reaching agreement on an 11-year, $300 million contract with superstar shortstop Trea Turner, the Phillies filled a big hole in their starting rotation by striking a four-year deal with veteran right-hander Taijuan Walker.

The deal, first reported by the New York Post, is worth $72 million, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The 30-year-old Walker spent the last two seasons with the Mets, making 29 starts each year with nearly identical innings totals of 159 and 157⅓. That's the sort of workload the Phillies needed to add to their starting staff, which was thin beyond the core three of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez.

The Phillies came two wins shy of winning the World Series without a traditional No. 4 starter in the playoffs. When they needed to use someone other than Wheeler, Nola or Suarez, they used Noah Syndergaard and Bailey Falter for abbreviated starts.

Should they reach October again with a healthy rotation, Walker figures to be a much more trustworthy option. That's why the Phillies agreed to pay him $18 million a year.

Walker was an All-Star in 2021 when he entered the break with a 2.66 ERA in 17 starts. He struggled in the second half before bouncing back with a 3.49 ERA this past season. His best pitch is his splitter, which he threw nearly as much as his four-seam fastball in 2022. He has a deep mix of pitches with the four-seamer, splitter, slider, sinker, curvebal and cutter.

With Turner locked in to play shortstop and Walker joining a rotation that already had three locks, the Phillies' biggest needs have been filled two days into the Winter Meetings. They still need a couple of back-end relievers to go with Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado and Connor Brogdon. They lost David Robertson, Corey Knebel and Zach Eflin to free agency. A reunion with Robertson could make sense.

The Phils also could use another veteran starting pitcher to protect themselves in case top prospect Andrew Painter doesn't seize the fifth starter's job out of spring training. Falter and Cristopher Sanchez are also in the mix but are best served as spot starters or swingmen. It's a long season. Teams need seven, eight, nine starts per year these days.

The addition of Walker at $18 million per year puts the Phillies right up against the luxury tax threshold of $233 million, when accounting for raises due to arbitration-eligible players, the cost of the entire 40-man roster and other mundane line items that are calculated at season's end. The Phils exceeded the tax for the first time last offseason and will do so again in 2023. They clearly aren't done shopping.

Walker was originally drafted in the first round by the Mariners in 2010 and was a highly touted prospect coming up. After four seasons in Seattle, he was traded to Arizona with Ketel Marte for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger. He re-signed with the Mariners ahead of 2020 and was dealt midway through the 60-game season to Toronto, where he made six starts before signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets.

Walker was not extended a qualifying offer by the Mets so he does not cost the Phillies a draft pick like Turner did or Chris Bassitt would have.

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