As we wait for the next big move in baseball, often things stay in the shadows and we are left stunned when a deal actually materializes. This is not one of those times. The Seattle Mariners want to trade for David Price. Whether they actually get him comes down to as simple a question as we will ever find: are they willing to trading top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a possible deal?
Taijuan Walker’s major league debut was good as he tossed 5 innings against the Houston Astros allowing just an unearned run. His second start saw him struggle, allowing 4 runs in his 5 frames against the Kansas City Royals. His third start was going to be against the Astros again, and it was going to be the first real trying moment of Walker’s career. Would he be able to overcome the adversity of his bad start? Could he beat the Astros again now that they had seen him and the element of surprise was gone? The game began, and it did not begin the way Walker would have liked. He threw 27 pitches in the first inning as he escaped a bases loaded jam and then he allowed a run each in the second and third innings. But then, without warning, Walker silenced anyone who believed he was not ready for the big leagues. He struck out the side in the 4th before working a 1-2-3 inning in the 5th to finish his outing and conclude his season with a bang. Now that flash of potential that was impossible to deny could be the last time he ever pitches as a Mariner.
Taijuan Walker is still developing as a pitcher. His fastball command needs improvement and his curveball remains inconsistent. He is just starting to use his changeup as a weapon and 2013 marked his cutter’s first full year in his repertoire. But even if the 21 year old Walker is far from a finished product, is there any doubt that he will start next season in the Mariners’ rotation? You can ignore age, future potential, and everything else and still say that the Mariners have exactly two starting pitchers that are better than Walker right now: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Maybe he pitches like a number three or four starter next year, tantalizing us with his potential but sometimes losing control, but he can be an effective pitcher right now while continuing to make the adjustments that give him a chance to be an ace before long. Taijuan Walker is still very much a prospect, but it is no stretch to say that he is ready to be an impact player in the major leagues with the ability to be exponentially more not too far down the road. Why would you trade a player in that situation?
The Mariners pulled off the craziest move of the offseason when they signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year deal worth $240 million. Dealing away Taijuan Walker and more in a trade for David Price might be just as insane. That is the direction in which they are heading, but is it really the right move? If the Mariners want to make the trade, that is up to them and the Rays will accept the deal with open arms.