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Taijuan Walker Rumors
The Mariners announced that they will promote right-hander Taijuan Walker in time to make his major league debut on Friday against the Astros. Walker, 21, is the M's undisputed top pitching prospect.
This year, Walker was rated as the third-best prospect in the nation by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, No. 9 by Keith Law of ESPN.com, and the 18th best prospect by Baseball America, BA's 2013 handbook, which put Walker as second only to Mike Zunino in the M's system, describes the youngster as a "premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame." Walker projects as a potential ace and his potential showed through 2012, even though his Double-A stats didn't quite support that.
In 25 starts at the Double-A and Triple-A level this season, Walker posted a 2.93 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. His late August promotion means that the M's can keep him under club control through 2019 without triggering an additional trip through arbitration.
10:50pm: Taijuan Walker would have been the fourth player in the trade package to the D'Backs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Walker, a 20-year-old right-hander, was ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, though he struggled pitching at the Double-A level last year.
7:40pm: The Mariners offered a four-player package to the D'Backs, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Arizona would have received Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton.
6:06 pm: Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause to reject an agreed-upon deal between the D'Backs and Mariners that would have sent Upton to Seattle, reports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The M's were prepared to give up "a package of young talent" in the trade, a return that Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has heard was "substantial" (Twitter link).
Though several teams have been linked to Upton over the last two seasons, the Mariners seem to be the first to propose a deal that has gotten the D'Backs to agree to move the 25-year-old outfielder. As Rosenthal/Morosi note, the trade rejection could be gamesmanship by either Upton or the D'Backs — Upton could be trying to control where he ends up, or the Snakes are sending the message that if Upton wants to leave Arizona, his only option is Seattle. The Mariners, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs are the four teams on Upton's current no-trade list, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
Let's round up the latest items out of the NL Central, which, like the rest of baseball's divisions, now features just five teams….
- The Pirates made an attempt to land pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a deal for Garrett Jones, but were rebuffed by the Mariners, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel adds the Pirates to the list of teams with interest in Manny Parra (Twitter link).
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin remains undecided on whether the team will pursue a contract extension for Corey Hart, writes Haudricourt. Melvin, who typically works out extensions in the spring, told Haudricourt that a Hart extension isn't something the club would address at the Winter Meetings.
Rival teams say the Mariners have made many players untouchable in trades, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. However, a Seattle official tells Rosenthal the team is “wide open” on possible deals.
The list of untouchable players includes Felix Hernandez, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, and prospects Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Nick Franklin, Rosenthal reports. Some executives question whether Ackley and Seager should be off-limits at this stage in their careers.
Mariners such as Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Brandon League, Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan could draw interest this summer. GM Jack Zduriencik will be expected to consider trade offers for some veterans given Seattle's 36-51 record.
Ask Taijuan Walker to describe himself and he'll tell you that the Mariners selected a “considerate” young man with their supplementary round selection this year. Ask scouts to describe the 17-year-old they saw throwing mid-90s fastballs and “considerate” will probably not be the first word they use. They’ll tell you about a pitcher with a lively fastball and a promising, but inconsistent curve.
Walker may soon be able to show those pitches off in the Mariners’ system, since he has tentative plans to sit down and discuss a deal with the M’s once he graduates from high school this week.
“I want to get signed,” Walker said on a conference call today.