Taijuan Walker describes himself as a “huge wine guy,” so there was only one thing to do as he neared a two-year deal with the New York Mets last week. He opened a bottle of GTS Cabernet Sauvignon, straight from the vineyards of the recently-departed Mets legendary pitcher, Tom Seaver.
“The deal wasn’t official yet but it was heading toward that way so I thought it was fitting that night to open a good bottle of wine,” Walker said from spring training at Port St. Lucie on Tuesday. “What better way to celebrate than to open a bottle of Tom Seaver’s wine?”
Now Walker will don the very same uniform that Seaver did where he’s expected to fill out a bottom-of-the-rotation role as a No. 4 or 5 starter for the 2021 season just a few years removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
He came back strong in 2020 to pique the Mets’ interest, going 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts with the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays.
“It feels good,” Walker said to get a multi-year deal from the Mets. “Just having everyone who was in my corner helping me get through it, helping me train, rehab, the Arizona Diamondbacks for allowing me to rehab with them for two years, the Mariners who gave me a chance last year… I’m just very thankful and happy.”
The Mets’ deal for Walker came a few days after pitchers and catchers initially reported to spring training where they didn’t have to do much selling to get the 28-year-old’s signature.
“Last year I kind of dealt with the same thing… I signed two days before spring training started so I had the same mindset this year,” Walker said. “Just waiting for something to come together. The Mets called and we got it done in a couple days
“All the moves they made. Getting [Francisco] Lindor — a top-five player in the game easily — [Carlos] Carrasco, having [Marcus] Stroman and [Jacob] deGrom here. The lineup too, they have a really young core.
“We’re excited to win… just the energy is great. That’s what really attracted me early on.”
While he’ll have more of a supporting role in New York, Walker is setting considerably high expectations heading into what will be his first full season on the hill since 2017.
“I feel like you can always get better,” he said. “I like where I was last year coming off Tommy John, I thought it was a big step for me, but I think this year will be a lot better still.”