The Phillies still could use some help in their pitching staff, despite a couple of signings already. Could they give Taijuan Walker a look ahead of Spring training?
Eager to stay under the luxury tax, the Phillies have taken a somewhat unorthodox approach to improve their starting rotation. Antonymous to their usually affluent, big-market nature, the team has not been so quick to shell out money to awaiting free-agents this time around.
Instead, the Phillies’ focus has been on retaining their pre-existing talent in J.T Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. They spent a combined $143M to extend the productive duo. This leaves the Phillies with little money to dole out to free-agents, specifically starting pitchers.
Low on cash and even lower on options, the Phillies seem intent on collecting as many low-risk options as they can. This is in an attempt to try and bandage the back backend of the rotation. Their quest for inexpensive arms led the team to acquire longtime hurlers Matt Moore and Chase Anderson.
While neither name inspires much confidence, they both boast career ERAs lower than that of Vince Velasquez (4.72 ERA). Velasquez has served as the Phils’ fifth starter for much of last season. Additionally, their presence helps alleviate some of the pressure to produce off the promising prospect Spencer Howard.
Should they target Walker?
Rightfully so, given the shaky state of their starting rotation, the Phillies are reportedly not done scouring the market for help. Desperate for any semblance of stability in the backend of the rotation, the Phillies could turn to former first-rounder and free-agent starting pitcher Taijuan Walker.
Walker, 28, has been in the majors since 2013 after being drafted 43rd overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2010. After making his MLB debut a mere 17 days after his 21st birthday, Walker has struggled mightily with injuries.
Through eight MLB seasons, Walker has only registered 15+ starts three times in his career. This is due to devastating UCL injury and Tommy John surgery in his not so distant past. Because of this, Walker remains on the free-agent market as a bit of a question mark.
His most recent string of success may be enough to entice the Phillies to kick the tires on him, though. Following a midseason trade that sent him from the Mariners to the Blue Jays, Walker rattled off an impressive end-of-season stretch with Toronto.
Through six starts with the Blue Jays, the talented right-hander posted a 2-1 record. Here, he carried an impressive 1.37 ERA through 26 ⅓ innings pitched. Even more impressive, the former first-rounder allowed two or fewer runs in every start but one with Toronto- including a six-inning, eight-strikeout outing against Philadelphia.
Still on the right side of 30, Walker should generate some interest from a Phillies team that desperately needs to plug the leak at the bottom of their rotation. The veteran starting pitcher isn’t without his flaws, but he could provide an actual spark as the fifth man, which is more than most of the Phillies pre-existing options can boast.
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