Well, that was quick! But, since we’re already halfway through a 60-game season, it’s all relative, I guess.
Taijuan Walker might be the best free agent bargain in all of Major League Baseball in 2020. I’m sure there are better overall bargains – Kyle Lewis being chief among them – but young guys who were drafted recently and are still under team-friendly rookie deals are a different breed. Taijuan Walker, as a semi-proven veteran, coming off of injury issues, signed with the Mariners for 1 year and $2 million; in MLB terms, THAT is a bargain for a good starting pitcher!
Walker has made five starts for the M’s this year. If we discount the first one (because every Mariners starter struggled in that first week), Walker has had three quality starts in his last four appearances, including two games where he went 7 and 6 innings respectively, while giving up 0 runs. I mean, based on the eyeball test, Walker looks like he’s more than recovered from his injury issues the prior two seasons. I didn’t see much of him after we traded him to the Diamondbacks, but I thought he looked better than he ever has in a Mariners uniform. Maybe not QUITE as much zip on the ol’ fastball, but still above-average. Moreover, he had pretty good command of all his pitches, and was able to use his brain more than his raw athleticism out there. He was a pitcher, not just a thrower.
It’s kind of disappointing to see him go, because he’s such a likable guy. It’s even more disappointing because this is the SECOND time the Mariners have traded him away! But, it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. He’s on a one year deal. He’s likely going to get a HUGE raise in 2021, if he can finish this season healthy and with solid numbers. Of course, there’s nothing preventing the Mariners from signing him a third time, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In house – had he finished 2020 in Seattle – you’d think we’d have an inside track on extending him. Plus, if we’d extended him relatively soon – before the end of the regluar season – there’s a chance we could’ve gotten him at something of a discount. After being shunned for a second time in his career, though, you have to wonder if he wants to risk returning (only to be traded a THIRD time).
There’s risk in hanging onto him too, though. If his injury issues return, then we missed out on capitalizing on his value when it was at its highest for this season. You could make the argument that both times the Mariners traded him, it was at the peak of his value, so in that sense they’ve been exceedingly smart with Taijuan Walker. This is what good ballclubs do; they make good decisions on guys that will better the organization going forward.
He’s going to Toronto, which is a little amusing, because Dan Vogelbach – after he was DFA’d – was also traded to the Blue Jays, for “cash considerations”. I don’t know what that means in specific dollars and cents, but it’s probably not a ton of money. By all accounts on Twitter this morning, Walker is being traded for a Player To Be Named Later, or Cash Considerations. Ostensibly, the PTBNL is someone who is currently not on the Blue Jays’ 60-man roster, which means it’s a very low-level prospect (more of a lottery ticket than someone we should get too excited about; as a guy who buys a lot of losing lottery tickets, trust me when I say we almost certainly won’t be talking about anyone who’s worth a damn) and that person will be named sometime after the season ends. Or, I guess the Mariners can take what’s behind Door Number Two, which is money (I would assume more money than we got for Vogey, but at the same time this is just a one-month rental, for a team that’s currently in third place in the A.L. East).
The point is, nothing about this is exciting. The Mariners are already saving $1 million by not having to pay Walker the rest of this season, and the salaries on this current roster aren’t all that high to begin with. In that sense, unless that potential lottery pick pans out, all we’ve really done is made the 2020 Mariners much worse. Which, in and of itself, might actually be the best aspect of this deal!
Let’s face it, the Mariners had one of the better starting rotations going before this trade! Based on advanced metrics, after that first week, I think I heard somewhere that we were in the Top Five! Thankfully, the bullpen was keeping our high draft hopes afloat with their relentless stinking, but you can’t count on that level of ineptitude forever. Trading away viable veteran assets from what’s working on this team is the only way to ensure we maintain our Top Five draft pick status!
So, you know, keep an eye out for the Kyle Seager market. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.