The Yankees added yet another infielder to their competition at spring training, signing veteran 2B Neil Walker, the team announced Monday night.
Walker will earn $4 million in base salary with $125,000 in incentives for reaching 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances, according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.
Walker has been one of many veteran free agents that has gone without a contract this spring. However, as the season looms closer, it appears teams are beginning to make headway with them, and Walker is the latest to ink a deal. The Yankees had interest with him throughout the offseason.
"It was something we couldn't ignore when the opportunity still existed," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, according to the Bergen Record's Pete Caldera.
A nine-year vetearn, Walker played 111 games between the Mets and Brewers last season, posting a .265/.362/.439 slashline with 14 homers and 49 RBIs.
Defensively, Walker has the ability to play third base as well as second. However, he was a minus-5 in defensive runs saved in 95 games at second last season.
The Yankees have signed another super-utility player in Walker, who will likely begin the season as the everyday second baseman, and could point toward a few other things with the Yankees' roster.
First, Gleyber Torres will not make the squad out of camp (which is not at all surprising), and it could be a while before he's considered for a full-time role. Since Walker is not being paid a large sum, moving him aside midseason if Torres is ready will not be difficult for the Yankees to contemplate.
Second, it could mean Tyler Wade is going to be the full-time utility player, though I have mentioned in the past that I do not think it's a good idea for Wade to ride the pine in the big leagues. If Wade does making the Opening Day roster, Ronald Torreyes' time with the club could be finished.
Adding Walker also squarely places Brandon Drury at third base to open the season in my opinion. There have been some fan rumblings about shifting Drury to second base to accommodate Miguel Andujar, but that seems unlikely now as well.
The long and short of it is Andujar, Torres, and Wade can benefit from more experience in Triple-A with the first two playing less than half a season at the level.
Walker could do some damage when swinging from the left side in Yankee Stadium, and provides just below-average defense at the keystone, according to defensive metrics. Walker could also be traded midseason if Torres pushes the envelope, or Walker is severely underperforming. Walker could also be used in a super-utility role if needed.
Essentially, the Yankees have increased their depth and added experience on the cheap. At the same time if it doesn't pan out they have prospects they can turn to.