Philadelphia Phillies finalize 4-year, $72M deal with right-hand pitcher Taijuan Walker

PHILADELPHIA– Taijuan Walker wanted to keep the uniform No. 99, so he figured 29 of the 30 major league teams were options.

“I think there’s only one team I could go to that I couldn’t be 99 and that was the Yankees,” he said, a reference to AL MVP Aaron Judge’s jersey number. “I think every other team was available. I got tired of changing my number.”

The 30-year-old right-hander signed a four-year, $72 million deal with National League champions Phillies on Friday, becoming the fourth Philadelphia player to wear the number 99, after Mitch Williams in 1993 and Turk Wendell in 2001. and So Taguchi (2008).

Walker wore the #44 growing up and got it with Seattle in 2016. Traded to Arizona where Paul Goldschmidt had the number, he moved to No. 99. Then he was traded to Toronto where Hyun Ryu was 99 and Walker moved to 00. He signed as a free agent with New York where mascot Mr. Met had 00, so Walker went down to 99 for the last two seasons.

Taijuan Walker at a press conference on December 16, 2022.

Walker, who is paid $18 million in each of the next four years, went 12-5 with a 3 ERA in 29 starts this season for the Mets, one of NL East’s biggest rivals in Philadelphia, 49 He plays in a rotation with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez,

“Very talented person, goes out with quality stuff every five days,” said Dave Dombrowski, Phillies president of baseball operations. “We love his cleft finger which he has thrown a lot more over the past year and will continue to do so.”

Walker has already spoken to manager Rob Thomson, pitching coach Caleb Cotham and director of pitching development Brian Kaplan. Walker increased the use of a splitter from 14% to 27% last season and added a cutter, but only 5%.

That year he switched to his teammate Carlos Carrasco’s splinter grip.

“With the Mets, I was able to learn how to throw my splinter better and how to use it,” Walker said. “I think by the time I get here I’ve already spoken to Caleb, I think we can tweak my cutter and slider a bit but also improve the use of my splitter.”

Walker looks forward to pitching in front of fans at Citizens Bank Park.

“I actually spoke to Ryan Howard a few days ago and he told me it’s the loudest thing he’s ever heard in a stadium playing the playoffs here in Philly,” Walker said. “It’s exciting for me to have a fan base that is so passionate and cares about the team so much and that shows up every day. Every time we came to play when I was with the Mets, the Phillies fans were here, they were out, they were loud.”

Walker was selected by Seattle at number 43 in the 2010 amateur draft. He made his big league debut with the Mariners in 2013.

Walker signed with New York as a free agent in February 2021. He turned down a $7.5 million player option last month in favor of a $3 million buyout, making his deal worth $17 million over two seasons.

The 6-foot-4 walker made the All-Star team for the first time in 2021 and got off to a fast start before fading to 7-11 with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games and 29 starts.

To make room for Walker in the 40-man roster, right-hander Tayler Scott was selected for action.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Philadelphia Phillies finalize 4-year, $72M deal with right-hand pitcher Taijuan Walker

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