The Chicago White Sox should consider Taijuan Walker this offseason.
The Chicago White Sox have closed the postseason door. Even though it wasn’t the desired outcome they hoped for, this season was a huge step in the right direction and now it is time to take that momentum into the offseason. A recurring theme for this ball club in the offseason is improving starting pitching.
The two free-agent starting pitchers that everyone is talking about is Cy Young front runner Trevor Bauer and the highly talented Marcus Stroman. In any event that the Chicago White Sox do not get those players, there is still a high-caliber pitcher they can target. Taijuan Walker is a free agent who should not be slept on. He is a pitcher with high-quality skills that can boost this franchise’s starting rotation.
Walker was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2013 and pitched consecutively for them until being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for All-Star infielder Ketel Marte in 2017. With the Diamondbacks, he improved from his Mariners days and has had some impressive starts with them. Per baseball reference, his 3.49 ERA in his first year with Arizona was a dramatic improvement from his 4.22 ERA in Seattle.
As his pitching improved, his control became more difficult for batters to handle which led him to strike out 148 hitters in 2017. All of his progress made him prominent in trade talks again, which led him to be reunited with his former ballclub.
In the 2020 season, Walker was not as precise on the mound with the former organizations but returned back to his efficient gameplay on the Toronto Blue Jays. Walker was traded to the Blue Jays and he returned to the pitcher seen on the mound in Arizona. In six starts with his new team, Walker ended the season with an ERA of 1.37 and 25 strikeouts that could be useful to the Chicago White Sox’s starting pitching rotation.
As a result of Reynaldo Lopez’s pitching woes and the unfortunate absence of Michael Kopech, the Chicago White Sox have to add a starting pitcher who will retire hitters and not contribute so many walks, which is having a negative effect on Dylan Cease’s starts.
Walker’s pitching style has a lot in common with Dallas Keuchel but with a higher strikeout rate. As proven by his trade history, when Walker arrives on a new team, he positively contributes and becomes a bright spot in the rotation. For example, he ended the Blue Jays’ six-game losing streak with a win against the Philadelphia Phillies where he retired eight hitters.
That game is where he showed off his most impressive pitching of the season. Walker’s high-speed fastball pounded the zone, per Fangraphs, at 93 mph, and was kryptonite for the Phillies. Walker, like Kopech and Cease, has one of the most effective fastballs in the game. Therefore, adding that to the Chicago White Sox’s starting rotation would give them more of a competitive edge. An important part of Walker’s game is the tendency to be consistent around the strike zone by maintaining control of his pitches. Those are key aspects that the White Sox need.
Even though Walker may be in the free agency shadow of Bauer and Stroman, he has the poise and talent to be a great addition for the Chicago White Sox. Walker would also be an inexpensive signing compared to Bauer and Stroman because he is not much of a name. Bauer is coming off of the best season of his career so far. Therefore, his contract will most likely be huge and Stroman would be guaranteed a lot of money because of his star potential and impressive skills on the mound.
With Stroman and Bauer, the Chicago White Sox would have to be one of the plenty of teams trying to get a meeting with those pitchers. There is a chance that the franchise could miss out on those star pitcher signings as a result. Also, the White Sox may not want to break the bank on pitching because the team still has to figure out the designated hitter and right-fielder slots.
With that being said, the Chicago White Sox signing of Walker would add to the pitching caliber of the starting rotation with a much cheaper contract signing. The fact that Walker is not making much noise in the free agency market helps the Chicago White Sox because that leaves money to chase after some quality hitters in free agency.