The Mariners have a “standing offer” of a one-year deal to free-agent right-hander Taijuan Walker, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Divish adds that the 27-year-old Walker has offers from a “handful” of clubs and is mulling which presents him with the best opportunity.
There’s a clear opening in the Seattle rotation behind Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield and offseason signee Kendall Graveman, and Walker has plenty of familiarity with the Seattle organization. The Mariners selected him with the No. 43 pick of the 2010 draft, and Walker threw the first 357 innings of his big league career as a member of the Mariners before being sent to Arizona (alongside Ketel Marte) in a trade that sent both Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura to Seattle. Walker started 25 games for the Mariners in 2016 — the team’s first season under manager Scott Servais.
The Twins have also been linked to Walker, although they’ve since added righty Kenta Maeda in a trade with the Dodgers, and it’s not clear if that swap has curbed their interest. Notably, however, Minnesota does have an open spot on its 40-man roster (barring the inclusion of a second 40-man player from the Dodgers in that yet-unofficial trade). Walker also threw in front of nearly two dozen scouts recently; paired with Divish’s note on the righty sifting through a “handful” of offers, it’s clear that the Mariners still have some competition for his services regardless of where things stand with the Twins’ reported interest.
Walker has pitched just 14 innings in the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and a strained shoulder capsule, but he did make it back to a big league mound in the final game of the 2019 season, when he touched 94mph with his heater and tallied a strikeout in his lone (scoreless) inning of work. In his last full season, Walker tossed 157 1/3 innings with a 3.49 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate.
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has been open about his expectation of further additions to the team’s rotation mix. Since making those comments, he’s signed Wei-Yin Chen to a minor league deal and claimed left-hander Nick Margevicius off waivers from the Padres. Either could factor into a camp competition for the fifth spot in the rotation (along with Justin Dunn and perhaps Erik Swanson), but Dipoto has yet to acquire someone who’s a clear plug-in option for that fifth rotation spot. Walker would fit that bill as well as (if not better than) any remaining unsigned starting pitcher.