The Mets were in hot pursuit of free agent hurler Trevor Bauer this past offseason, but ended up trading for Carlos Carrasco and signing Taijuan Walker to a very team-friendly deal.
Naturally, after news broke Friday that Bauer was placed on administrative leave by MLB pending an investigation into sexual assault allegations, hindsight became more than 20/20 for some about missing out on Bauer – and when Mets manager Luis Rojas mentioned the team’s camaraderie in his pre-game press briefing prior to the first game of the Subway Series on Friday, he ended up being asked, point blank, if he’s relieved the team didn’t get Bauer.
Rojas, to his credit, deflected the question into what the Mets do have in Walker.
“You know what I’m happy for? That we signed Taijuan Walker,” Rojas said after smiling awkwardly at the initial question. “I’m really excited for that.”
Walker was the scheduled starter for Game 1 of the Mets-Yankees series – weather permitting – and Rojas wanted only to focus on the 2.38 ERA he has put up in his first 14 starts.
“He’s been one of those guys who has let us have that camaraderie, and he’s an outstanding person,” Rojas said of Walker. “From the first day he set foot in our complex, he’s had an impact. I can’t talk about what was or wasn’t done, but I’m excited for what (Walker) has done.”
Bauer is 8-5 with a 2.53 ERA and an NL-leading 137 strikeouts in 17 starts this season, but he will not make his next start on Sunday as MLB looks into the allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman earlier this year in Los Angeles.
If charges are filed, Bauer, who signed a three-year deal with two opt-outs that could be worth up to $102 million, could face stiffer penalties than just placement on administrative leave or a suspension.
Regardless of whether Bauer finishes his record-breaking three-year deal in Los Angeles or never throws another pitch, though, Walker is already the more cost-effective option. Bauer's contract includes deferrals and a unique pay structure where he doesn't actually get any of his 2021 base until November, but come July 15, he will be due the second half of his $10 million signing bonus; on that date, he will have earned just under $16 million of his $28 million base salary plus the full bonus, for a total of roughly $26 million.
Meanwhile, Walker's deal - two guaranteed years plus a 2023 player option - will max out at $25.5 million if he opts in for 2023 and hits all of his incentives based on innings pitched in 2022.
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