Neil Walker is returning to New York, but with a different team.
Walker has agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Yankees, who had interest in acquiring Walker ahead of the MLB trading deadline last summer. The deal is expected to pay Walker a base salary of $4 million, with the chance to earn up to $5 million through incentives.
Signing Walker will bring the Yankees payroll to estimated $182 million for 2018, about $15 million below the $197 million luxury tax threshold. The Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman are said to be adamant about staying under that threshold for 2018, with their eyes on signing a star player in the 2019 MLB free agency class.
Prior to signing Walker, the Yankees had explored signing Mike Moustakas, who eventually re-signed with the Kansas City Royals on a one-year deal that includes a mutual option worth $15 million for the 2019 season. New York was said to be interested in inking Moustakas to a one-year deal all off-season, but more than likely wasn’t interested in attaching on the option.
While Walker also has the ability to play first and third base, it’s likely he will open the season as the Yankees’ Opening Day second base. Highly-touted prospect Gleyber Torres was regarded as the favorite to win the second base job, but with a rough spring training showing so far, it appears Torres could use a little more seasoning at the Triple-A level in the minor league. Torres is ranked as the 5th best prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline.
Walker at second means Brandon Drury is the favorite to start at first base, while Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird will an shortstop and first base respectfully. New York was facing a void at second base since December when they traded Starlin Castro to the Miami Marlins in-exchange for star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
The 32-year-old Walker split the 2017 season between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Mets traded Walker to the Brewers in August for minor league pitcher Eric Hanhold. With the Brewers, Walker played primarily second base to help ease the pain of Jonathan Villar‘s disappointing 2017 season. Collectively, for the 2017 season, Walker batted .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 runs batted in.
Many consider Walker to be one of several victims of baseball’s slow developing off-season, as he reportedly received several low-ball offers from team’s across the league, with the most notable offer being a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training from the Kansas City Royals. Walker spent his extra time off working out at a free agent organized by the MLB Player’s Association in Bradenton, Florida.
For his career, Walker is a .272/.341/.437 hitter. He has hit 130 career home runs and has driven in 522 runs.
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