Sources: Phillies, RHP Taijuan Walker reach 4-year, $72M deal

ByJoon Lee ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
ESPN

The Philadelphia Phillies and right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker have reached agreement on a four-year, $72 million contract, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan on Tuesday.

A day after reeling in shortstopTrea Turner with an 11-year, $300 million deal, the Phillies added to their rotation with one of the top pitchers left on the free agent market. And the spending didn't stop there, with Philadelphia also finalizing a two-year, $15 million pact with left-handed reliever Matt Strahmon Tuesday, sources told Passan.

They join a Phillies team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.

Walker had one of the strongest seasons of his career in 2022, when he started 29 games for the New York Mets and posted a 3.49 ERA, 2.6 bWAR and a 1.19 WHIP in 157 innings pitched, striking out 132 batters while walking 45.

The Phillies mark the fifth team of Walker's major league career, including the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays and Mets.

The 30-year-old righty served as a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter for New York throughout the course of the season before declining his $7.5 million player option for 2023, taking a $3 million buyout to explore free agency. The Mets declined to offer a qualifying offer to Walker.

Walker previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed the entire 2019 season. His 2022 campaign marked his most successful on the mound since undergoing treatment on a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow.

Walker is the second pitcher to leave the Mets' rotation, after Jacob deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers. New York subsequently responded by signing Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86 million deal.

Asked about the market for Walker earlier in the day, agent Scott Boras said it was robust. "As you can see in the marketplace, there's a whole number of pitchers that are throwing 60 and 70 innings that have been pursued, probably with the exception of (Jacob) deGrom, at the lower end of threshold around $13-15 million a year because the demand for quality pitching is so great,'' Boras said.

"So, Tai ... is one of the younger ones, one of the more durable ones and we expect him to be pursued greatly as his market unfolds.''

Walker slots into a rotation fronted by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

Strahm, 31, emerged as a reliable left-handed relief option for the Boston Red Sox, whom he joined in 2022 after spending the previous four seasons with the San Diego Padres. Over 44 innings, he struck out 52, walked 17 and allowed five home runs while posting a 3.83 ERA in 50 games.

The Phillies spent most of 2022 with only Jose Alvarado as a high-leverage left-hander in their bullpen, though the signing of Walker could push Bailey Falter there as well if he doesn't lock down the fifth spot in Philadelphia's rotation. With the departure of Zach Eflin and Kyle Gibson via free agency, as well as Noah Syndergaard, Brad Hand and David Robertson reaching the open market, the Phillies entered the offseason in search of pitching help to bolster a depleted staff.

Among Turner, Walker and Strahm, the Phillies' spending spree over the previous 30 hours totaled $387 million. Their projected payroll for 2023 is currently more than $230 million -- right at the first competitive-balance-tax threshold of $233 million.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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