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Mariners manager, GM wouldn’t be shocked if Walker breaks out in 2017

Arizona Diamondbacks' Taijuan Walker throws during spring training baseball workouts, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

There are a few different versions of Taijuan Walker, the pitcher the D-backs acquired from the Seattle Mariners.

There is the player who was the top prospect in the Mariners system in 2011 and 2013, while being No. 2 in 2012 and fourth in 2010. In 2013, he was the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball, and showed why in 2014 when in 38 innings of work he posted a 2.61 ERA with 34 strikeouts.

Of course, there is also the player who has been unable to build off that impressive 2014, going 19-19 with a 4.41 ERA in 54 starts across the last two seasons. There have been stretches of dominance mixed with struggles, though at just 24 years of age is far from a finished product.

And that is why it was not necessarily easy for the Mariners to part with him.

“It’s explosive upside, and he could hit (his ceiling),” Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said. “But our goal is to win in 2017, and to sustain that for some time. We felt like the combination of Segura and Haniger, they’re filling two of the nine spots in our order every day, we’re getting two guys that we feel like could play every day. And in this market, with the resources we had to use to go get it, we felt like we had a better chance of building a competitive pitching staff than filling two every day spots just by making that one trade.”

In Segura, the Mariners added a player who hit .319 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI while stealing 33 bases for the D-backs last season. Haniger, meanwhile, batted .341 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI with Triple-A Reno in 2016, though he scuffled some in 34 games with big league club.

“We weren’t going to get those two players for my glasses and a cell phone — it was going to require something — and we didn’t want to purge the (farm) system to do it, so trading Taijuan was a medium outcome for us.”

While Walker has electric stuff, there is always the chance he will not put it all together and fulfill his immense promise. The pitcher himself believes he needs to develop more of a mean streak and maybe that, along with better health and natural growth, will lead to a true breakout campaign.

It happening would not be a surprise to to Scott Servais, Walker’s manager in 2016.

“They’re getting a young guy with a great arm,” he said of what Arizona added. “Really, I think Taijuan’s ready to take the next step in his career and certainly has a lot of upside.

“We obviously got a good player back, and when you get good players you’ve got to give up good players. So didn’t want to see him go, but we had an opportunity to improve our club in an area we needed, so decided to go there. But fully expect him to bounce back and continue to take the next step is where I see it.”

While Walker is the headliner as far as what the D-backs got in the deal, Servais also had good things to say about Marte.

Last season, the 22-year-old hit .259 with one home run and 33 RBI while stealing 11 bases in 119 games.

“He can do a lot of things; switch-hit, he’s actually stronger and got a little bit more sock in the bat than maybe his numbers look, and very young,” the manager said. “A lot of upside there. Needs to continue to work on some parts of his game, like all young players, but I think he’s going to be fine.

“He’ll fit in well. I’m not sure where they’re planning on playing him, short or second, but he can handle both those spots.”

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