Taijuan Walker makes Phillies fans smile, moments after his reported signing.
Just a day removed from signing star shortstop Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million contract, the Philadelphia Phillies are back at it again.
Tuesday evening, several reports confirmed that the organization has signed right-handed starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to a four-year, $72 million deal. As Spotrac notes, the December deals have increased the team’s projected Opening Day tax payroll over the $233 million threshold.
The 10-year veteran and former first-round draft pick wasted no time to win over the hearts of Phillies fans following the announcement — tweeting the opening theme song of the popular 1990s television sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Philadelphia native Will Smith.
Walker actually updated his profile picture of him photoshopped in Phillies gear, but was possibly told to revert to a generic photo with the deal not yet official.
Meanwhile, on Instagram, Walker posted just about every Philadelphia sports fan’s favorite song:
The 30-year-old is coming off of a promising 2022 season with the division-rival New York Mets, when in 29 starts he went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.195 WHIP and 132-45 strikeouts-to-walks ratio across 157 1/3 innings.
Walker made a combined 58 starts the past two seasons — meaning his durability is among the positive attributes he brings to a Phillies starting rotation that already features Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and 2022 postseason standout Ranger Suárez. As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark notes, Walker will earn more ($18 million) than Nola ($16 million) in 2023.
Barring another offseason move from President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, Andrew Painter, Bailey Falter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry are expected to compete in spring training for the fifth and final rotation spot. All four very well may receive at least a look at some point during the 2023 season.
Zach Eflin and Kyle Gibson may have recently parted ways by respectively signing with the American League East’s Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, but a Phillies rotation featuring Walker already seems like a significant upgrade for the 2022 National League champions.