Taijuan Walker heads to Phillies on four-year deal, stays in NL East after leaving Mets

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For the second time in three years, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed a starting pitcher away from the NL East rival New York Mets. The Phillies have agreed to a four-year contract with righty Taijuan Walker, according to the New York Post. CBS Sports HQ has confirmed the deal is worth $72 million. Philadelphia signed Zack Wheeler away from the Mets in December 2019 and that move has worked out splendidly.

Walker, 30, had his best year since 2017 this past season, throwing 157 1/3 innings with a 3.49 ERA and 32 strikeouts. He is a contact manager more than a strikeout guy and our R.J. Anderson ranked Walker the No. 42 free agent available this offseason. Here’s his write-up:

This may prove to be an underrank of Walker, who we expect will decline his $6 million player option and net a more lucrative deal on the open market. To his credit, he’s appeared 70 times during the Pandemic Era, amassing a 105 ERA+ and a 2.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s made several tweaks to his arsenal during that period, too, most recently reducing his fastball usage rate and upping his dependency on a splitter. To his debit, Walker still doesn’t miss many bats, and he doesn’t manage contact as well as you might expect. He’s also been markedly worse in the second half of each of the past two seasons, becoming concerningly home-run prone this year.

Walker joins Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suárez in Philadelphia’s rotation. Lefty Bailey Falter is the favorite to be the No. 5 starter, though top prospects Andrew Painter and Griff McGarry are expected to debut at some point in 2023. Painter, the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft, reached Double-A as a 19-year-old in 2022 and is one of the best pitching prospects in the sport.

The Phillies went 87-75 and qualified for the postseason as the sixth wild-card team in 2022, then went on to win the National League pennant. They of course lost the World Series to the Houston Astros. Philadelphia signed Trea Turner to a massive 11-year, $300 million contract earlier this week as they look to get over the hump in 2023.

The Mets did not make Walker the qualifying offer, so they will not receive draft pick compensation nor will the Phillies forfeit draft picks to sign him.

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