In what seems like a recycled statement from both fans and media alike over the last month, it's no secret that the New York Mets need to address the state of their currently depleted starting rotation after locking up closer Edwin Diaz before the start of free agency. Right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker is one of the three members of last year's starting rotation that opted out of their contract to cash in on a more lucrative multi-year deal this winter.
In early November Taijuan Walker declined his $7.5 million player option for 2023 and instead took a $3 million buyout to find greener pastures in free agency. Similarly to both Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt, as members of the rotation who opted out of their contracts, the 30-year-old Walker will have no shortage of suitors who will be interested in adding him to the middle of their respective starting rotations.
After two solid seasons with the Mets, Taijuan Walker is looking for a lucrative multi-year deal this winter with agent Scott Boras.
While Walker is not known as a huge strikeout pitcher like Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, who led the Mets' starting rotation last season, he was a solid anchor in the back of the Mets rotation and he also stepped up when injuries hampered the rotation at multiple points last season.
Walker ended up making 29 starts and pitched to a 3.49 ERA with 132 strikeouts over 157.1 innings. Walker also produced a phenomenal 1.195 WHIP last season, which at his potential $7.5 million salary in 2023 would've been a bargain to keep on the pitching staff.
When looking at potential suitors one of the teams I think could be the favorites to land Walker this winter would be the Chicago Cubs. It has been reported by The Athletic's Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma that the Cubs have Walker on their radar as a potential option for their starting rotation next season. It also makes sense from the standpoint that Walker has a strong friendship with former Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman which could influence his decision to take his talents to Chicago.
There will also be plenty of other suitors attracted to Walker's right arm and clubhouse presence as he is not attached to a qualifying offer, in which another team would not have to forfeit a draft pick to the Mets should they sign him.
Some other teams in addition to the Cubs that I can see showing interest in Walker would include the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. All of these teams are in the hunt for starting pitching and I'm sure I could also add another half a dozen teams to that list, but those seem like the most prominent options.
I don't believe the Mets will be one of those teams that are involved in the Walker discussions this offseason as evidenced by the front office surprisingly not offering him a qualifying offer this winter. I believe the only way the Mets are involved in the bidding for Walker's services would be if their top options in free agency completely fall through and they are scrambling for reinforcements.
MLB Trade Rumors.com has predicted Walker will sign a four-year deal worth $52 million this offseason, which makes sense based on Walker's age and him bouncing back nicely from Tommy John surgery with the Mets over the last two seasons. Walker's recent durability as well as seemingly hitting the prime of his career are all the perfect ingredients for a significant increase in compensation.
Ultimately I believe Walker will sign with a contender that has a hole in the middle of their starting rotation. As I look into my crystal ball, I predict Walker lands on the west coast and will sign a four-year $60 million deal with an option for a fifth year with the San Diego Padres.