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Watch: Detroit Tigers introduce AJ Hinch as manager
Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch and GM Al Avila introduce new manager AJ Hinch, Oct. 30, 2020.
The Detroit Tigers are searching for a veteran starting pitcher in free agency to help anchor a young rotation under new manager AJ Hinch.
That’s led to the organization’s interest in right-hander Taijuan Walker, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. The 28-year-old pitched for the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in the 2020 season, posting a combined 2.70 ERA in 53⅓ innings.
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Walker is projected for a one-year, $8.5 million contract, according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, who ranks him as the No. 29 free agent on the market.
A one-year deal makes sense for the Tigers, but Walker could ask for at least a two-year contract. He has eight years of MLB experience but only appeared in four games between 2018 and 2019 because of Tommy John surgery.
Considering Walker’s past elbow injury, it’s unlikely he will get a longer offer.
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In February 2020, Walker was picked up by the Mariners on a one-year, $2 million contract. He pitched well enough to become trade bait at the deadline. Seattle dealt him to the Toronto Blue Jays for 20-year-old outfield prospect Alberto Rodriguez.
It’s unlikely the Tigers will be in competition for the postseason in 2021, so they could have similar plans for Walker if they add him on a short-term agreement. In 26⅓ innings across six games for the Blue Jays after the trade, Walker posted a 1.37 ERA, 1.253 WHIP, 25 strikeouts and 11 walks.
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Walker has tossed 581⅔ innings in 108 games (105 starts) during his eight-year career. He reached 125 innings or more three straight seasons from 2015-17. He made his debut as a 21-year-old in August 2013 for the Mariners.
Previously, Walker played for the Mariners (2013-16, 2020), Arizona Diamondbacks (2017-19) and Blue Jays (2020). He has a 5.79 ERA in 9⅓ innings across three starts at Comerica Park in his career.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.