Blue Jays: Taijuan Walker won’t be cheap to re-sign, but he’s worth it
Taijuan Walker has quietly been one of the better pitchers in the AL since he was traded to Toronto, and the Blue Jays should do what they can to re-sign him.
Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office had a very busy trade deadline this year, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s a good thing they did. The additions of Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, and Jonathan Villar have all come with mixed results, but there’s no doubt that they still helped push an injury-depleted roster into the playoffs.
As for Taijuan Walker, he’s not only helped in that regard, he’s proven that he could be the type of starter that the Blue Jays have to seriously pursue this winter. After the way he’s pitched down the stretch for the Blue Jays, he’s not going to come cheap if they are looking to retain him.
After throwing three hitless innings on Friday, the right-hander will finish the regular season with a 4-3 record, a 2.70 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP across 11 starts in this abbreviated season. As impressive as those numbers are, he’s been even better since joining the Blue Jays. In those six starts he’s been good for a 1.37 ERA, and has more than proven himself capable of being a playoff starter as the team heads to the post-season.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
It’s expected that once they’re through with this playoff run, the Blue Jays will look to add to their rotation for the 2021 season. As things stand now they’ll still have Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Ross Stripling, Trent Thornton, and others who have pitched in relief this year like Anthony Kay, Thomas Tom Hatch, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather and more. They also have Tanner Roark under contract for one more year, and a 9.5 million dollar option on Chase Anderson, but they’re set to lose Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray, and Walker to free agency.
They have enough options that the Blue Jays could stand pat and build a rotation with their in-house options, but I doubt that’ll be the way they go. That’s especially the case as they’ve proven that they’re ready to compete in 2021, having qualified for the post-season this year. Yes, it’s under an expanded format, but they’re still sitting at 31-27 on the season, and that a significant step for this young and talented core.
With that in mind, I believe the Blue Jays will spend to bring in a starter that could comfortably slot as the number two behind Ryu. That could very well be a spot that’s destined for a guy like Pearson, but Walker would provide important high-end depth for the next few seasons at least, and that could be a difference maker. At just 28 years old, he’s likely just entering his prime as well, and this year has been a great indication of where his potential could be.
What will it cost to retain him? I know it sounds like a cop out, but I’m honestly having a hard time taking a guess given the way the pandemic has likely changed the financial dynamics of free agency. In a normal year I wouldn’t be that surprised if he could look for 4-5 years at 15-20 million, but will there be teams lining up with that kind of offer this winter? It’ll depend on what ownership has to say about the budget, and that could be a tricky situation for a lot of teams.
As for the Blue Jays, most of their best players are still playing on pre-arbitration contracts, and with so many other bargains on the roster, this is the perfect time to continuing adding final pieces. After that audition that Walker has shown the Blue Jays this summer, I can’t imagine they’ll let him get away without at least making a serious offer, and if he adds to his resume in the playoffs then the pressure will really fall on Atkins to keep him around. It’s been a match made in heaven so far, and a partnership well worth trying to extend.