The New York Yankees continued to bolster an already impressive roster by signing second baseman Neil Walker on Monday. The contract is believed to be a one-year deal that will pay Walker around $5 million.
The 32-year-old Walker had somewhat of a limited free agent market, even though his track record is quite impressive. Since 2010, Walker’s first full MLB season, Walker has ranged between 1.9-3.6 fWAR every year. Last year, Walker hit .265/.362/.439 and racked up 2.1 WAR with the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers.
Walker’s limited market likely stemmed from his injury history, which has plagued each of his last two seasons. A herniated disk in his back prematurely ended his 2016 season and a partial tear in his hamstring limited Walker to 111 games last season. To Walker’s credit, the injuries didn’t hurt his production, as he still hit .274/.355/.458 over the last two seasons and accumulated 5.8 WAR in 224 games.
A switch-hitter, Walker has a history of mashing right-handed pitching (.804 OPS) but also holding his own against left-handed pitching (91 wRC+). With a blend of contact ability, plate discipline, and some power, Walker has quietly been a very solid hitter for nearly a decade. His defense has lagged behind his bat (career minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved) but the offensive contributions have outweighed his mediocre glove.
Walker, along with recently acquired Brandon Drury, represent luxuries for a Yankees team that could have survived without them. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, two of the better prospects in all of baseball, are practically MLB-ready and could have slid into the vacancies at third base and second base. Now, Walker and Drury can hold the fort down until Torres and Andujar force their way onto the big league roster.
The Yankees lineup, which was already formidable coming into the offseason, has drastically improved with the additions of Giancarlo Stanton, Drury, and Walker. It’s likely that Walker, owner of a career .272/.341/.437 line, will be hitting eighth or ninth in the Yankees lineup. This Yankees team will be scoring runs aplenty in 2018.