Mets' Updated Starting Rotation, Payroll After Taijuan Walker Contract

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2021

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Taijuan Walker winds up during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

The New York Mets beefed up their starting rotation Friday by signing pitcher Taijuan Walker to a two-year contract worth $20 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.

Walker will join a deep and talented rotation and figures to compete for either the No. 4 or 5 spot. The Mets' rotation could look like this when the 2021 season begins:

1. Jacob deGrom

2. Carlos Carrasco

3. Marcus Stroman

4. Taijuan Walker

5. David Peterson/Joey Lucchesi

According to Spotrac, the Mets' payroll for the 2021 season sits at a total of $180,904,168.

The 28-year-old is coming off one of his best MLB seasons, as he pitched well in 11 starts split between the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in 2020.

Walker posted a 4-3 record with a 2.70 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 53.1 innings. He also had a 1.16 WHIP, which was the best mark of his career in seasons in which he made at least four starts.

Injuries have been the major thing holding the right-hander back throughout his career. He made at least 25 starts in three straight seasons from 2015-17 with the Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks and was solid during that stretch, going 28-28 with a 4.10 ERA.

Walker has pitched better since then when he has had the opportunity, but he has made a grand total of just 15 starts over the past three seasons.

Because of Tommy John surgery, Walker made only three starts in 2018 and one start in 2019.

He proved last season that he is healthy and pitching as well as ever following the surgery, and the Mets are undoubtedly banking on getting a pitcher who performs close to last year's level.

There won't be a ton of pressure on Walker to perform since he will likely only be the No. 4 starter at best behind at least deGrom, Carrasco and Stroman.

At the same time, Walker isn't necessarily guaranteed a spot in the rotation with both Peterson and Lucchesi competing for spots, meaning Walker will have to show something in spring training in order to solidify his position.

Also, Noah Syndergaard is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he figures to make his way back into the rotation at some point in 2021 as long as there are no setbacks.

For now, Walker has the makings of a great depth signing for a Mets team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and he could turn out to be an incredible value if he pitches similarly to last season.