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Mariners’ Taijuan Walker drawing ‘strong interest’

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The talented young right-hander is certainly an intriguing target for teams in need of starting pitching.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners’ right-hander Taijuan Walker is drawing “strong interest” on the trade market, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The 23-year-old is slated to throw a bullpen session in front of scouts on Friday at Wrigley Field.

The Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers are among the clubs that have inquired on Walker, as well as rotation-mate James Paxton, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. However, Heyman adds that the odds of either Walker or Paxton, both similarly talented and controllable, being moved before the impending trade deadline is “less likely” compared to other Seattle pitching pieces such as Wade Miley.

Walker, a 2010 first round pick and former highly-touted prospect, is currently working his way back from a right foot injury that nagged him throughout June and has kept him on the disabled list since July 6th. Per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Walker threw a “pain-free” three-inning simulated game on Wednesday at PNC Park, and his return to the big league rotation appears imminent. In addition to his Friday bullpen session, he is currently slated to make a rehab start on Monday in (most likely) Tacoma.

Despite the injury, Walker has pitched reasonably well on the whole this year, including a 2.70 ERA through his first nine starts. In 86 innings, he has posted a 3.66 ERA, 110 ERA+, 4.73 FIP, 8.4 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9.

Considering Walker’s potential and contract status (he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until following next season), there is ample reason for the Mariners to hold onto him, especially considering a core that’s set up to contend in the immediate future. However, despite a hot start, Seattle has fallen back of late, currently sitting six games back in the AL West, behind both Texas and Houston, with a 51-49 record. They are also 4.5 games out of a wild card spot, needing to pass four teams.

Needless to say, the precarious nature of Seattle’s current standing could lead them to buy or sell. Heyman also reports that the club’s brass has looked into adding pieces over the next few days, including Angels’ reliever Joe Smith. Whichever direction the Mariners decide to head towards, Walker seems probable to stay, though the hefty return he could bring in, especially in a weak trade market for starting pitchers, would certainly be tempting.