Taijuan Walker and Phillies agree to four-year deal

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies waste no time at the winter meetings.

Two sources told MLB.com Tuesday night that the Phillies and right-hander Taijuan Walker had agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal pending a physical. Walker, 30, will line up in Philadelphia’s rotation behind Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez, while a combination of left-handers Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sánchez and top-pitching prospects like right-hander Andrew Painter will be in contention for the No. 5 job.

A source also confirmed reports that the Phillies and left-hander Matt Strahm are close to a two-year, $15 million deal. He would be the second left of the bullpen behind José Alvarado.

Walker and Strahm would be Philadelphia’s second and third major moves of the week as it seeks to improve its National League championship roster with a flurry of moves that got everyone in the Manchester Grand Hyatt lobby talking.

The Phillies on Monday agreed an 11-year, $300 million deal with shortstop Trea Turner, who turned down a $342 million offer from the Padres, a source told MLB.com. Turner is scheduled to complete his physical Wednesday in Philadelphia. He could be unveiled at a press conference at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday.

Walker and Strahm would later be announced.

But the Phillies checked three boxes this week: shortstop, rotation and bullpen, though they could find more helpers.

Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts last season with the Mets. He batted 132 and walked 45 in 157 1/3 innings. He pitched 159 innings with New York in 2021, making him a National League All-Star team.

“Ideally, you’re looking for someone who can pitch multiple innings, give you 30 starts and throw 160 to 180 innings,” Phillies baseball operations president Dave Dombrowski said Monday when asked about his ambition with the to start pitching. “You want someone who can pitch a few innings for you because we have the Big Three.”

Walker only made three starts in 2018 due to a right elbow injury that ultimately required surgery from Tommy John. But he made all 11 starts in the pandemic-shortened 20 season with the Mariners and Blue Jays before joining the Mets.

Since then he has been mostly healthy.

A potential problem is Walker’s performance in the second half of the last two seasons. He went 7-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 2021 on 16 starts in the first half, but went 0-8 after the All-Star break with a 7.13 ERA. He went 7-2 with 2 .55 ERA in his 16 starts in the first half of this year, but posted a 4.80 ERA in 13 starts the rest of the way.

But then there’s the effectiveness of Walker’s shatter, which he’s thrown a number of times this past season. Opponents hit .195 with a batting percentage of .267 against it.

Walker just seemed to fit in with the Phillies, who always shopped in that line of pitchers under Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón. Dombrowski said Monday Philadelphia has no appetite to sign another player who has received a qualifying offer, like Turner, who gave the team its second- and fifth-highest picks in the 2023 MLB draft as well as $1 million from its international bonus pool cost. If the Phillies signed a starting pitcher who received a qualifying offer like Rodón, Chris Bassitt, or Nathan Eovaldi, they would also have forfeited their third- and sixth-highest remaining picks.

“I don’t think we would have much of an appetite for that,” said Dombrowski.

Strahm went 4-4 in 50 appearances with the Red Sox last season with a 3.83 ERA. Average speed on his four-seam fastball increased from 93.1 mph in 2021 to 94.2 mph last season.

He effectively takes on the role of Brad Hand in the bullpen, which includes Seranthony Domínguez, Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, and Andrew Bellatti.

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