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NY Mets: Signing All-Star Taijuan Walker felt like a no-brainer from the start

Jul 9, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 9, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (99) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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It still amazes me that Taijuan Walker didn’t get much attention this past winter in free agency. How? How did he end up falling to the New York Mets so late into the offseason?

Walker, 28, is coming off of an impressive 2020 season split between the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. His age, increasingly impressive track record, and promise of finally turning things around when healthy seemed to scream “sign me!”

Now done with his first half as a member of the Mets, I have to wonder, what was everyone thinking to let this free agent gem slip by?

The Mets have an amazingly team-friendly deal with the steal of the winter

Walker’s contract is so team-friendly you’d think the team has dirt on him. Signed for $10 million this season, another $7 million in 2022, and finally $6 million on a team option for 2023, it’s about as good as it gets.

The first half in New York ends with Walker owning a 7-3 record, 2.50 ERA, and some other All-Star numbers. He’s actually close to replicating what he did in 2020 (4-3, 2.70 ERA) but even better!

It’s not just the on-field performance of Walker’s that has made him a favorite in Flushing. I’m not sure how much the front office knew about the man before he signed with the club, but they seemed to add a real winner.

The moment Walker chose the number 99 we knew he was the right kind of headcase. His distant relationship with Turk Wendell, bonding over the shared digits, and regular appearances with a wrestling championship belt have made him a lighthearted and fun addition to the team. Walker isn’t an egomaniac yet he still manages to have fun on and off the field while showing off a little bit of his personality. Far from self-serving, he’s a likable guy.

A team should never add a player for this lone reason. Likability isn’t even good enough to be a kindergarten teacher. The older I get, the more I see it as a complimentary piece at best.

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Organic or not, the Mets clubhouse has been built the right way. Walker was the sneaky, quiet move made this offseason to prove it.

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