The Seattle Mariners rumor mill has really slowed down since the end of the winter meetings, but a much-anticipated reunion could be in the works.
Since he was non-tendered a contract, Seattle Mariners fans have been consistent in their desire to bring former top prospect and Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker back to Seattle. And if the latest round of rumors is to be believed, this desire could become a reality.
Greg Johns of MLB.com has reported that Seattle is “definitely interested” in signing Walker though the extent of their interest isn’t yet known. We do not know if a contract is extended, who else may be interested in Walker, or if Walker is interested in a return.
However, what we can say with certainty is that Walker and Seattle are a good fit for each other. From a Mariners perspective, adding any veteran starter would be a smart move. Adding one who hasn’t hit his prime yet would be even better. Walker checks both boxes.
Walker also has a real possibility of sticking around long-term. At just 27-years-old and with only 528 big league innings under his belt, Walker should have a long career ahead of him. He only had one year of club control left, so the Mariners would need to offer him a multi-year deal to keep him, but that may not be out of the question.
Even if you can only get Walker on a 1-year deal, he is a good flip candidate if he proves to be healthy, making him a near-perfect option for Jerry Dipoto to consider.
As for Walker, Seattle continues to be an intriguing fit. He is familiar with the city and organization and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his time here. The Mariners also have a rotation spot to offer and the kind of player development system that is gaining a positive reputation around the game.
Walker, who has only thrown 14 innings the past 2 seasons, is looking for an opportunity to prove he is healthy before hitting the market again as a 28-year-old. If Walker can get back to his 2017 self, when he posted a 4.04 FIP, 8.35 K/9, a 3.49 BB/9, and a 48.9 GB%, all in 157 innings, he should have no shortage of suitors. At 2.5 fWAR, he would be a solid #4 and could command anywhere between $10-$15 million a year AAV.
But for 2019, a salary similar to his projected arbitration salary of $5 million could be the way to go. Perhaps the Mariners can get a team option for reasonable money, but Walker will likely want to hit free agency again as soon as possible.
Still, if the medicals check out and the terms can be worked out, a return trip to Seattle could be mutually beneficial for both sides, and provide fun reunion for fans and Walker alike.