The Detroit Tigers should consider Taijuan Walker for the starting rotation.
This feels like a case of deja vu for myself as I begin this piece. My first piece for the site was what the Detroit Tigers needed via the free-agent route and a name I mention then was Taijuan Walker. The Seattle Mariners would snag him up for $2 million dollars and flipped him to Toronto in August. Detroit went with Ivan Nova,
At the time, I understood why. Walker, just coming off Tommy John surgery, the uncertainly if he could pitch effectively was in play. However, Walker did well in Seattle and Toronto, posting solid numbers last in 2020. 1.36 ERA, 25 SO, 1.253 WHIP in 6 starts that span over 26.1 innings. In his numbers combined with Seattle: 2.86 ERA, 46 SO, 1.232 WHIP, 1.2 WAR over 50.1 IP
Detroit may have to sign multiple free-agent starting pitchers this off-season. The lack of depth in the organization of pitchers who are ready is apparent. I know I sound like I am beating a dead horse but that’s the truth. Perhaps because I been watching a lot of car review shows like Regular Car Reviews, I am changing up the format of how I will look at free-agent targets.
When healthy when coming up with the Mariners, he posted two seasons of over 150 innings in 2015 and 2017 with a steady K per 9 of just over 8. Going back to 2019, the only starter that the Tigers had that threw over 150 was Matt Boyd with 185.1. Spencer Turnbull threw 148.1 and Daniel Norris had 144.1. Detroit needs innings eaters badly. With Tarki Skubal and Casey Mize still in their development phase, you would like to have a veteran who can throw at least 150 innings.
The Tigers have not had two or more starters that have made 25 starts and thrown 150 innings since 2017 (Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, and Jordan Zimmerman). Outside of Walker eating up innings, his BABIP against him was .243 and he just turned 28 years old.
Another key stat that stands out. While granted, take into consideration his innings pitched are less than previous seasons, he had his lowest Hard Hit % this season at 32.9%, which is lower than his career of 34.9% for whatever that is worth to you.
Pump the Brakes:
His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) numbers in 2020 were 4.56 or XERA if you look at Statcast numbers of 4.87, and he does give up a lot of home runs throughout his career (25 in 2015 and 27 in 2016) and in 2020, 8 in 53 innings pitched.
Sign Taijuan Walker Because…
The positives outweigh the negatives here. Walker could be seeking more than a one-year deal but based on his projections, the Tigers should give him a two or three-year deal if they willing to sign a pitcher to a long-term deal. If he performs better than his deal, flip him for prospects if they chose to. Walker would be able to provide what Detroit has lacked recently. A starter that goes at least five to six innings on a consistent basis. Of his 11 starts, he did that six times in 2020.