At this point, there’s little point in expounding upon what an odd offseason it’s been for Major League free agents. Relievers got paid handsomely, the devaluation of bat-first corner players is more apparent than ever, and nearly 20 percent of MLBTR’s Top 50 free agents remain unsigned on March 5. Readers can choose whichever of the myriad explanations that’ve been presented this winter they prefer — the new CBA makes losing too appealing, Scott Boras’ waiting game, younger front offices valuing players near-identically, players overvaluing themselves — but the fact remains that it’s jarring to see so many quality names on the market.
Chief among the surprising eye-opening reports that have surfaced regarding the remaining free agents, at least in my view, is Neil Walker is being offered minor league contracts.
As many predicted earlier this winter, there have been some significant bargains in recent weeks — Carlos Gomez at $4MM to the Rays, Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox at $8MM total (over two years with a player option) and Logan Morrison to the Twins at $6.5MM (plus a vesting option) — but those players were all at least rewarded with big league contracts and millions in guaranteed dollars. The notion of Neil Walker having to settle for a minor league contract seems utterly baffling.
To be sure, he was hurt by a lack of teams seeking starting second basemen, but we’ve probably never seen a player with Walker’s track record have to take a non-guaranteed deal at just 32 years of age.
Let’s be clear — Walker isn’t a star. He’s an above-average hitter on a yearly basis that has been generally below average in the eyes of defensive metrics for the better part of the past eight seasons. His glove isn’t a killer at second, but it rarely adds to his value, at least from a purely statistical standpoint.
Walker has been remarkably consistent at the plate since establishing himself as a big league regular. Generally speaking, I don’t think citing career numbers is especially worthwhile when it comes to free agents; what a player did at age 24 isn’t really indicative of what he’s going to do in his 30s. But Walker’s level of consistency is fairly remarkable and is of some note.
He’s hit between 12 and 23 homers per season, walked between 7.3 percent and 9.1 percent in every year but 2017 (when he jumped to 12.3 percent), and he’s never struck out at even a 20 percent clip. By measure of OPS+ and wRC+, he’s been 14 to 15 percent better than the league-average hitter over those eight years, and he’s never had a single season come in anywhere worse than six percent above-average.
Clearly, I’m not the only one flabbergasted by the fact that Walker is seemingly struggling to find a big league offer; MLB.com’s Mike Petriello published a column on this exact same scenario earlier today. (Naturally, I was already well into this look at Walker’s perplexingly bleak market.) As Petriello points out, Walker is one of just six hitters in all of baseball from 2010-17 to post an OPS+ of 105 or better and 12-plus homers per season. The other five? Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre and Edwin Encarnacion. Not bad company.
Detractors may worry about his platoon splits, as Walker faceplanted against lefties to the tune of a .214/.313/.298 slash in 2017. That line, however, came in a sample of just 84 plate appearances. Walker batted .330/.391/.610 in 110 PAs against lefties a year prior, and he’s logged a below-average but passable .264/.325/.366 slash (91 wRC+) when facing southpaws in his career. Coupled with a 122 wRC+ against righties, whom he faces more often, Walker’s overall bat is plenty valuable.
Walker does come with some injury concerns, but his medical history isn’t as daunting as the six DL trips he’s experienced in the past eight years might suggest at first glance. His 2016 back surgery and a partially torn hamstring in 2017 combine with his age (32) to create some doubt, but earlier career DL stints were caused by an appendectomy, a lacerated finger that required stitches after being spiked and a two-week absence due to soreness in his right side. His back, the largest potential red flag, didn’t keep him out of action at all in 2017.
Injury risk and minor platoon issues notwithstanding, Walker is a 32-year-old old, consistently above-average offensive performer who hits from both sides of the plate and can pass at three different positions.
Weak Market at Second Base
Walker is hardly the only free agent to struggle to find a decent offer this winter, and in his case, the reasons are perhaps easier to see than most. There simply weren’t that many clubs in the market for an everyday second baseman heading into the offseason.
The Angels had a clear need but filled that void by trading for Ian Kinsler. Walker told Billy Witz of the New York Times last week that he had some talks with the Yankees, but they ultimately acquired Brandon Drury instead. The Marlins saw a void created when they dealt Dee Gordon to Seattle, but they took on the rest of Starlin Castro’s contract in the Giancarlo Stanton swap. The Red Sox filled their short-term hole created by Dustin Pedroia’s knee surgery with Eduardo Nunez. The Blue Jays didn’t have a clear starting gig and also turned to the trade market for depth (Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz).
There are a few remaining spots where Walker could step into the mix and function as an everyday second baseman, but more and more it seems like he’s a potential bargain add for a contender (or hopeful contender) who could still provide plenty of value by bouncing between second base, third base and first base. He doesn’t have loads of experience at the infield corners in recent years, but he played more than 3000 minor league innings at the hot corner and saw time at both places in the Majors last season. As a switch-hitter with some defensive flexibility and enough bat to potentially spend some time at DH, Walker seems like he’d provide quite a lot of value as a bench player that could still vie for 400+ plate appearances as he rotates around the diamond.
Potential Everyday Fits
There aren’t too many teams throughout the league where Walker is going to push out an incumbent option at second base, but a return to the Brewers certainly makes sense. Milwaukee was discouraged enough with the combination of Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard and Hernan Perez in 2017 to go out and trade for Walker in August. He hit well there, and the team is now carrying that same trio atop its depth chart in a 2018 season where it hopes to contend. If 2016 Villar shows up, that’s a much better option than Walker. However, Villar’s strikeout problems are glaring, and he was never going to repeat 2016’s .373 BABIP.
The Tigers could simply push Dixon Machado into a utility role and give Walker everyday at-bats at second base with the hope of flipping him to a contender whose second baseman is injured this summer. He probably wouldn’t net a huge prospect return this summer given the lack of offseason demand, but Machado could get regular at-bats at shortstop later in the year once Jose Iglesias is (presumably) traded.
Turning to the D-backs, Chris Owings has never hit all that much in the Majors; his best season, by OPS+ and wRC+, came in 2014 when he was five to nine percent below average, depending on your preferred metric. Walker’s worst seasons at the plate have come when he’s “only” been about six percent better than average. Owings has also spent considerable time on the disabled list (more than Walker) in three of the past four seasons. The younger player could bounce around the diamond as a true super-utility player anyhow; even if he finally makes good on the pedigree he showed as a minor leaguer, a platoon of Walker and Jake Lamb at third base would help to mitigate Lamb’s struggles against lefties. The Snakes would need to cut ties with third catcher Chris Herrmann or fellow infielder Daniel Descalso to make the fit really work, but Walker would serve as an easily identifiable upgrade. Their payroll may be tight, but this team was coming up with scenarios to squeeze J.D. Martinez onto the books just two weeks ago.
The Rays, right now, are hoping for a Brad Miller rebound at second base or for Joey Wendle to seize the position, but Walker’s consistency should hold some level of appeal. If he can be had on a bargain one-year deal similar to their pact with Carlos Gomez, then either shifting Miller to a utility role or just paying him the 30 days’ termination pay to which he’d be entitled upon being released from his non-guaranteed arbitration deal would upgrade the team. Walker would give Tampa Bay some added protection if Matt Duffy’s ongoing injury troubles persist as well. The Rays don’t seem likely to spend much, though, and perhaps they don’t love the idea of a player with recent back and hamstring injuries roaming the turf at Tropicana Field for 81 games next season.
The Royals reportedly offered Walker a minor league deal, which he unsurprisingly rejected. But there’s a clear fit with Kansas City, as the Royals are already toying with the idea of moving Whit Merrifield to center field to create some space for Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals could use Walker at second base, as insurance for Cheslor Cuthbert at third and as a potential platoon bat with Lucas Duda at first. GM Dayton Moore, though, has repeatedly spoken about the importance of the “economic” component of any signing, and Kansas City’s minor league offer indicates they aren’t comfortable offering much.
Super Utility Fits
The Angels are currently projected to break camp with light-hitting Kaleb Cowart on the bench as a utility option and Luis Valbuena as at least a part-time first baseman along with Albert Pujols. Walker would be a significant upgrade over Cowart, and the fact that he can’t cover shortstop in the event of an Andrelton Simmons injury isn’t a big deal when the Halos could just slide Zack Cozart over to shortstop, thus opening third for Walker or Valbuena.
Walker reportedly “intrigues” the Orioles, and they’re in a similar spot to the Angels. There’s no clear utility infielder in Baltimore at the moment, and if an injury to Manny Machado occurs, the O’s can slide Tim Beckham from third to short and place Walker at the hot corner. Baltimore has been pining for a left-handed bat for much of the offseason, and as previously noted, Walker’s bat against righties is perennially productive.
The Phillies aren’t ready to give up on Maikel Franco just yet, but they don’t need to be in order to clear room for Walker. The Phils are set to carry Tommy Joseph on their bench despite his defensive limitations and his skill set’s redundancies with Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana on the roster. Walker could back up Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Santana around the infield, and if Franco’s struggles persist, he could potentially assume a larger role at third.
Atlanta added some depth at second and third base with today’s pickup of Ryan Schimpf, but Schimpf has options remaining or could be cut loose himself. The Braves feel that Austin Riley isn’t far from Major League readiness, but Walker could pair with Johan Camargo to help bridge the gap; Camargo did all of his damage against left-handed pitching last year and could pair nicely in a platoon role with Walker at third. Walker would also give them an insurance policy against either Ozzie Albies or Dansby Swanson struggling, as if either ultimately needed to be optioned to the minors, Walker could man second with either Albies or Swanson handling shortstop.
Earlier this offseason, when we were doing preliminary discussions for our Top 50 free agent rankings, Tim Dierkes, Jeff Todd, Jason Martinez and myself spent a bit of time discussing whether it made more sense to project three years or two years for Walker. My initial instinct was three, but we ultimately agreed on two years given Walker’s age, recent injuries and the general lack of teams expected to be looking for second basemen.
At this point, I’d be stunned to see Walker land a two-year contract even though nothing has really changed with regard to his skill set or the value he could bring to a club. The seeming lack of interest reminds me of the 2015-16 offseason, in which MLBTR projected a comparable two-year, $20MM deal for David Freese based on his track record as a fairly consistent, average player. We even had one top executive suggest to us that winter that Freese would land a deal in the three-year, $30MM range.
In the end, Freese’s market never really materialized, and he took a one-year deal with Pittsburgh worth $3MM. Walker’s track record and consistency top the consistency Freese carried into his own free agency, but it seems plausible that he could be facing a similarly modest commitment. If that’s the case, some team will be adding a bargain before Opening Day.
Cameo appearance by Kyle!
Hello, I like the new profile pic Alfred E. Neuman.
How much money does he want?
He made like 18 mil last year?
he was given a qualifying offer by the Mets. Yes he was offered 17 million. In All fairness it’s probably the most amount of money he would make for any one season anyway.
Steve this is a top notch article. Thanks for putting the time and effort in for us.
Agreed. Good read
Yeah. Well said. And thanks!
Meanwhile the Cards give a guy 15 mil guaranteed who’s never proven anything at the major league level.
Wait, who would that be?
Mike Mil Lolass, or something like that. Some pitcher who had a couple bad major league season a long time ago and did pretty good in Japan. While the Cubs went out and got Darvish! lol
He’s on the cardinals
It’s Mikolas. Oh and just to let you know, the Cardinals doesn’t make reaction moves. The Cubs signed Darvish because they can’t develop their own pitching prospects. Darvish is overrated to me really, so him signing with the Cubs doesn’t scare Cardinals fans at all to be honest.
You would rather have Milokolass instead of Darvish? Ok. Have fun getting 3rd in the central.
I must have missed where a pitcher and a second baseman are comparable for contracts.
Yes, these are foolish comments by Mbutler88 and bigcubsfans.
Starting pitchers with plenty of health and/or performance question marks are still getting 1-2 year deals with guaranteed money in the range of $10 million (Jaime Garcia; $8 million salary for 1 year plus a 2nd-year team option of $10 million or $2 million buyout, plus up to $2 million per year of innings pitched incentives) to $16 million (Andrew Cashner, 2 / $16 million).
Mikolas got 2 years / $15.5 million. We’ll see if that works out or not, but his performance in Japan was more than “pretty good”. Over three years as a starting pitcher in Japan, he had an ERA of about 2.25 and a K / BB ratio of 5.5. Those are very good numbers in a league that’s normally considered to be a level of competition above AAA and below MLB. We’ll see if Mikolas ultimately works out for the Cardinals, but Colby Lewis and Ryan Vogelsong are two notable comps who weren’t as good as Mikolas in Japan and were better than 2 WAR per year starting pitchers in the majors after coming back from Japan.
Back in the beginning of the off-season, I thought The Pirates might be interested when they had no sure answer at third. They sign Walker, and move Harrison back over to third. But now that they acquired Moran, I don’t really think they need him now as much as they did a few months ago.
Well look at the deal Daniel Murphy got two years ago!!
That dude can flat out hit and he only got what 38 million over three years!
So what does Walker expect?
That comp doesn’t really work, though. Murphy raised his profile exponentially in the final four to five weeks before free agency and in the two years since signing that three-year deal.
In the four years prior to their respective dalliances with the open market, Murphy hit .287/.326/.416 to Walker’s .272/.344/.451. Walker is older, to be sure, but if anything he’s a been a demonstrably better and more consistent hitter than Murphy was heading into free agency.
Moreover, Walker was reportedly seeking three years earlier in the offseason, which doesn’t seem outlandish. I’m somewhat bewildered by the thought that he didn’t at least land a two-year deal at a respectable rate and that teams aren’t lining up to sign him for one year. Walker at even one year and $8MM seems like a steal for a contending club if he’s chipping in 400+ plate appearances.
Could you guys go into some depth on what exactly is in the CBA that makes it attractive for teams to tank? Also how it’s different from the previous agreement? Unless you already have and I missed it??
Any other year and I think the Yankees would have snapped him up–he gives them more flexibility, gives their prospects more time to develop, and helps with service time considerations. But Drury makes more sense for them now because they know they are going to need to trade by the deadline to fill some needs, and they have to maintain enough room under the “cap” to make those trades. So, maybe Walker at $4M for them, but not at $8M. And not for two years at a price he’s going to want to accept, since those likely are his last prime earnings years. This is a good player who is going to be a good value.
Jed Lowrie who had a better year than Walker and a cheaper price was offered at the winter meetings and nobody wanted him. So the point Walker can’t find a job maybe its because nobody needs a 2b.
I think you also have teams valuing draft picks and prospects over signing free agents. I believe he was made QO so a team will need to give up a draft pick if/when he signs with someone else. Tie that to what these veterans are looking for and the high dollar teams not spending big (and tying their hands in the future with long term deals) and you have a perfect storm for a situation like this. If he takes a 1 year deal at a lower dollar value I guarantee he is signed right now, but with the expected value and long tern ramifications of signing someone like walker to a multi-year deal, it just makes more sense for a team like the Yankees to give it a shot with the younger, cheaper players and see what happens. They can always make a trade for someone similar mid-season if the kids fail to impress.
I think if the players want to fix this, they need to eliminate the draft compensation tied to the QO and fix the structure for how younger players are paid in the next CBA (between pre-arb and arb these guys are in their late 20s before they hit FA and only have a few prime years which are no longer valued as they were even 4 or 5 years ago).
xSpecBx: Neil Walker was not among the 9 players who received a QO this offseason. In fact, he was not eligible for one under the new CBA rules that forbid a QO to a player who had previously been tagged as Walker was last offseason by the Mets.
Good catch. That’s what I get for not doing my homework.
I still think the orioles make some sense in his depressed market. He is a switch hitter with strong OBP skills. I know he’s not ideally a 3B but maybe we can make that walker/Beckham platoon work since he’s so cheap. Dumpster diving is DD’s favorite thing to do. Having Beckham as a super util guy has its merits to me. I don’t see why he couldn’t cover a corner in the outfield.
I think he expected something more than minor league offer with an invite to Spring Training…admittedly, just because that offer was the only one we heard about doesn’t mean it’s all he got.
I thought the Rockies could potentially be a nice fit
In what way? They’re set a 2B (at least for 2018) and LaMahieu never gets hurt. And they’re more than set at 3B. Where would Walker play?
Do we know there isn’t a market or he just didn’t like the offer. The “market” is based on supply and demand and if there was a demand Neil would have been signed. Saying Gomez was a bargain is ridiculous. I guarantee that 99% of your readers would take $4 million for 8 months work. And in what business do you give someone a multi year guaranteed contract based on past performance? The players did a great negotiating job getting to this point and now that the market is adjusting backwards they are screaming foul. And one last point..the owners aren’t the only ones paying these insane salaries, we pay them every time we pay those insanely inflated ticket, parking and concession prices. And if our team plays poorly that day, no one offers to give us our money back.
Real job salaries have nothing to do with baseball.
Salaries are always influenced by past performance, to some degree.
Ticket prices have almost nothing to do with player salaries. They are set by the market. Concessions and parking etc are provided by outside companies that contract to provide them at, again, what the market will bear. The University of Alabama pays their players zero salary and tickets to their games start at around 100 bucks, in a stadium that seats over 100 thousand fans.
I don’t want to contrast your point too hard, because I get it, we’ve all felt the way you feel. One of the most messed up things about our society is that no matter how much we complain about the economy, jobs not paying enough, and things costing too much money, we will ALWAYS pay for entertainment. We will go in droves to fill stadiums, arenas, venues, movie theaters, you name it. The talent will always benefit from that.
Staying pissed off about it every day is just going to be a miserable way to go through life. The market of baseball teams and players is its own market. It bears no relation to salaries of the everyday man or woman. Their salaries aren’t in line with their contribution to society. When someone says “the Rays got Gomez at a steal for $4m” you have to know that is a relative term. That’s like me saying I got a $120 pair of kicks for $80, what a steal! But at the end of the day I’m paying $80 for something that probably cost around $5 to make,
Just kick back and enjoy the games. Don’t go to the stadium if you can’t justify the price, in all honesty I go once a year for the feel of it, the games are much higher quality to watch from the comfort of your couch anyways.
Sorry for the preachy post but I’m sick of the negativity around here! Let’s enjoy baseball!
That’s about the worst argument I’ve ever read. Who pays inflated ticket prices? I buy mine on the secondary market at half price or less…or I just stay home. I didn’t realize that you paid to see the team win; I thought you paid to see, you know, a game played.
It gets better – you give someone a multi-year contract based on past performance because no one has mastered seeing the future. What we are no seeing in this market is what happens when people (owners) might think they’re smarter than they are. Some team is going to go spend money on quality players that are left, cheaply and on short-term deals, and win and increase attendance and be very successful.
In most employment you get hired and paid for past performance. That’s why potential employers want to see your work history and annual reviews for raises discuss your performance last year
In no way should Neil Walker settle for a minor league deal. He ought to sit tight and wait for a guaranteed MLB contract. It’s inevitable that some club will need a quality player like Walker to become their second baseman and a solid stick in the batting order. Whether due to an injury or insufficient production, Walker will be in demand sooner rather than later. Hopefully, Walker will have more than one suitor and a bit of leverage in choosing his next destination. He’s just too good a hitter for this to be happening to.
Good editorial angle. Very thorough and well proven. However your thorough coverage of Walkers weaknesses pretty much convince me of why he’s not in anyone’s camp. He lacks too much in some key instances. Need to stay on the field and you need to hit your same-side pitchers.
Injuries happen. He’ll land somewhere.
He doesn’t have same-side pitchers. He’s a switch-hitter, and like most switch-hitters, he’s better from one side of the dish. He bombed against lefties in 84 PAs last season and absolutely mauled them in 110 PAs a year prior. Overall, he’s roughly 10 percent below the league average against lefties and 20 percent better than average against righties.
He’s as good a bet on the free-agent market as there is to turn in a solid two-win season, and he’s never been reported to have anything resembling outlandish contractual demands. I know teams want to get younger, but Neil Walker is a good player.
I can get why some free agents — e.g. Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn — can’t find the crazy sums they’ve been seeking. But the apparent apathy toward signing Neil Walker is a head-scratcher.
I stand corrected on being a switch hitter. Forgot that.
Even so, my best guess is that teams are viewing him as an aging, oft-injured IF who may or may not need to be platooned.
That and he hit free agency in what has turned into an unprecedented resetting of the MLB players market. Too many young, cheap players have filled in, leaving some veteran FAs on the outside looking in. If this happened at a large corporation, some early retirement packages would be floated around.
Supply/Demand- if you look at the teams that are rhetorically “tanking”, they were is desperate situations requiring them to purge high cost talent and acquire younger, less expensive pieces to begin a rebuild. Call it a bubble if you wish, but as a baseball fan, next season and beyond will be a blast when the NL East will have at least three contenders, possibly four if Mets pitching can stay healthy, the NL West will be fun to watch when either the Giants or Dodgers will sign Harper, Machado, or Donaldson.
Steve, do you think FO’s are just taking the $/WAR ratio too literally in the sense that they might prefer a 1.WAR player at or near league minimum to a 2WAR player at, say, $6M? To a contending team with a need a Walker might be the incremental difference they need–even if they are paying “too much” for the BTU offered.
I would certainly hope front office personnel don’t get caught in the allure of the preposterously simplistic $/WAR numbers. It’s not really good for anything other than at-a-glance player comparison.
Walker missed 50 games in each of the last 2 years and has missed 25 or more in most of his pro seasons. He’s getting older and more injury prone, why is it surprising he has a limited market?
You posted what I was going to. If not for the long DL stints, he would be getting attention. That is why the Pirates traded him and why they only got Niese in return. Turned out Niese had his own injury issues.
Yes and Niese was also just wildly ineffective when healthy
Supply and demand. Regardless of how good Walker is, I don’t see many teams needing a 2B, especially one that’s 32 years , and history of back problems (2016) The back problems alone should make teams leery of a multi-year deal, and that’s without this crazy “special” off-season. Defensive metrics, don’t see Walker as an asset at Second base (negative UZR, in all but one year, and negative DRS in 6 of 8 years at 2B)
However, If this guy doesn’t get a one-year Major league deal I agree with the “criminal” consensus.
As an Angels fan I would have preferred Walker to Kinsler.
Somebody had to bat leadoff. I like the kinsler trade. With that said, I wouldn’t mind him at 1 year, 4 to 6 mil. Would provide some depth and I am sure he would find his way into the lineup quite a bit to get another solid lefty in there. Way more consistent than valbuena. Pujols sucked last year and is gonna hurt himself at first when ohtani DHs. There is ABs for someone who can play 3 positions and DH
There’s a reason Eppler doesn’t want to touch him. Cowart is a young defensive infielder who doesn’t get injured and can play those same positions expertly.
They had Escobar for two two years, injury prone, bad defensively and hit better than Walker.
Angels have now a great defensive infield and outfield. Why foul that up. In Eppler we trust.
Eppler tends to prioritize defense and Kinsler is much better with the glove. I’m sure Eppler checked in on Walker but found the cost and/or skill set of Kinsler more attractive.
Walker over Kinsler your out of your mind !!!
Once you factor in what Angels had to send Detroit from an already very weak system, I think Walker was a better option, too.
It looks like this is a case of being stuck in the middle.
He’s good enough, but teams have options they’d rather take a shot on, who could be better.
I agree. Teams either have someone set at 2B or they have a cheaper potentially higher upside option
Walker isn’t better than 30 other 2B, end of story. This off-season is an anomaly and teams are looking at next winter free agent market.
To me, he’s one of the more underrated and consistent players out there. It baffles me how a team won’t offer him a major league contract. I’d give the guy 2 years and 18 million if the market wasn’t so erratic this year.
You willing to pay him 9 million to miss approx 1/3 of the season? If you are unlucky like the Mets, his back goes again and he misses the end of the year and you are stuck with a fill in at 2nd base for a post season push
For the last seven season, he has always had a WAR above 2.0. He consistently hovers around 2.5-3.0 in WAR, and that’s including injury. To me, even with some regression, he’s worth that deal. Remember, this is a guy who was offered a QO last season.
He excepted the offer in 2016 cause he knew no one would offer him a deal with a value of 17 million. He was not offered another offer this season. He was traded mid season and if he was with a team the entire year no way does he get a qualifying offer this year.
He could have a 5 WAR but what good I should it if his back goes and he misses the last third of the season like 2016 and misses the playoffs?
A player can only be offered a QO once.
If the Brewers can get halfway between the 2016 Villar and the 2017 Villar, they’ll be fine at second.
I have a feeling he is going to be 2017 Villar forever. 16 was a fluke I think. Hope I’m wrong!
A bit surprised the yanks aren’t mentioned as a fit. I know Torres isn’t far off but he is coming off a major injury.
Only on a one year deal w/team option.
Yanks don’t do team options…. I wish….
They did it once, with Andrew Bailey.. (Got declined before signing a new contract with them, and then retiring not long after)
Stanton’s contract has a team option, but they weren’t the ones who negotiated it, and they rarely– if ever incorporate them. (Yankees giving team options, are about as rare as extensions…)
But with that said… I would gladly take Walker at that price!!!
I’m sorry but what are you talking about? Are you referring to player options? Mccan, Gardner, Ellsbury all had team options. Jeter had a player option back in the day but for a very low base salary, last year racked onto the end of his contract
Ah yes Ellsbury’s “de-facto” team option.
At this rate, Ells would be lucky not to get traded / released by that point. $21M club option (5M buyout)
McCann was a special vesting option, that became a player option, if he made a certain # of starts, at C.
Gardner was an extension… I said rare as extension?
I’m talking about straight up, “team friendly” team options, of the Walker variety, a good player who’s undervalued and struggling to get MLB deal, due to lack of demand, injury concerns,.. etc..
Stanton has a player option.
No he does not. If he doesn’t opt out after 2020
Stanton has 2028 $25M club option ($10M buyout)
They almost signed him until they acquired Drury from Arizona.
You guys have Miguel Andujar and Brandon Drury to fill 2B and 3B
You’re really understating the injury risk. He has a chronic back problem that he’s had his entire career. That back issue is one of the reasons Pirates traded him in the first place.
He didn’t miss time with it in 2017, but it clearly played a role in his diminished output.
Given the apparent market that has unfolded, I’m not really that surprised at the lack of interest in him.
White Sox certainly have the payroll room, and Walker would immediately be their best option at a couple of spots in the lineup.
You’re going to play him ahead of Yoan Moncada? Or Tim Anderson? The Sox have better options defensively, offensively or both at all infield positions. Why would they want a guy on the wrong side of 30 with a weak glove and a bad back?
I’m not gonna sign a guy for a millions of dollars and expect production from him if I don’t think he’s gonna be healthy, even if I’m just going to platoon him.
Great insights in this article but I think there is a reason he remains unemployed and I have to disagree about the Phils and the Braves as landing spots. The Braves are not going to compete this year so why waste money on a veteran? The Phillies are overloaded with infield options. In addition to their starters they have Scott Kingery knocking down the door at second and speedster Roman Quinn trying out at shortstop. They have absolutely no room to add another infield piece.
I agree the Orioles are a fit “on paper” as a utility option, but Walker has put up offensive numbers superior to more than half of starting 2B’s, so I’d think he’s holding out for a full time starting gig. Not sure why the Brewers haven’t taken him back.
Outside of the Brewers, there’s not really any contenders that have a glaring 2B need…non contenders probably don’t want to cough up the money he’s deservedly asking as a starter.
I actually thought that Walker was a realistic option for Atlanta to sign and pair with Camargo at third. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities yet, but I doubt it happens (although I honestly think picking up Schrimpf was a great low risk move).
Walker is definitely a player I’m shocked hasn’t found a team yet. It may come down to a player suffering a major injury before he is signed.
Walkers ranked 8th among 34 2Bmen with 400+ PA in wRC+
He can also play 3B.
The authors failure to list collusion as a possible explanation is curious if not telling
Yes, Steve must be part of the collusion conspiracy. And contrails and crisis actors and loose change and false flags…
Contrails are more believable than this mlb collusion stuff.
Between all the propaganda from fox news and cnn etc.. its leaking into even my baseball!
All politicians are crooked, the left and right are out for the special intrest groups aka “the rich”
Please stop saying “collusion” especially in baseball.
More Players Than Openings.
There are 1200 Openings for Players to be on a 25-man Roster.
There’s obviously WAY more than 1200 Players.
Better training, better nutrition, year-round workouts, and the financial ability for every one of them to Hire A Personal Trainer/Coach…….means that Players “Play Longer”
Either Rosters need to expand……Or…. We Need 2 More Teams in Each League.
Or both options;
750 on the 25-man roster, 30 times 25. I think you meant 1200 on the 40-man roster.
I do agree there needs to be a roster expansion, especially with the pace of play proposals limiting mound visits and possibly adding a pitch clock. It will allow teams to have more relievers on the roster.
No, to both options.
Great article, top to bottom.
Bottom line: Very few people will pay for a player with a history of back injuries and recovering from a hamstring tear. Speaking from experience: partially torn hamstrings are no joke and even with rehab cause lingering strain issues for the better part of a year.
It’s the only reason he hasn’t found a home. The medical report on him isn’t promising and can viewed as a waste of money.
Teams are maxed out on big contracts and even at the recommended mix of 40 % veterans they can’t pay all of them big money plus the new penalties are severe. It would have helped if the “cap” had kept pace with salary inflation but it hasn’t. Also arbitration is getting expensive. Alas, MLB won’t open it’s books so we will never know what’s up.
Reports were at the end of the season that the Brewers wanted him, Sogard, and Swarczak back. Of the three, only Walker said he wasn’t interested and that he really wanted to try free agency. Ultimately Swarczak got a good deal elsewhere, Sogard took a contract from the Brewers and Walker is still “trying out free agency”. After signing Sogard it appears that the Brewers are content to roll the dice on Villar coming back to 2016 form. I don’t think he ends up back there barring an injury.
The lack of a market for Walker makes perfect sense. It was presented in the article: there is not a high demand for 2nd basemen. If teams are comfortable with their current options, they aren’t going to go out and sign a free agent. Sure, Walker is probably better than the Brewers current options, but they don’t seem to be in a rush to upgrade.. Yes, he is probably a better option than Owings for the Diamondbacks, but they need to add rotation depth with their remaining payroll. Teams make their evaluations and if no team sees a need to add Walker, then he doesn’t get signed. That is where he is at now. It stinks for him because he’s been a good player, but that is the way things have gone this off-season. There are a lot of players still without jobs
I would trade Hernandez before the start of the season. Offer Walker something, anything is better than a minor league contract. 2/6 Or 2/8 should get it done. Start him at 2B, transition into super utility role as Kingery ascends.
Yup, totally agree, Steve. Prior to the Mets’ signing of Todd Frazier, I’d hoped to see Walker back with them.
he will end his career in Pittsburgh
Not bloody likely.
The problem is a difference between what the owners think a “quality player” is and what the players think a “quality player” is.
The lack of a market for Neil does make sense actually. When GM’s choose players to wear their teams jersey it doesn’t entirely have to do with stats alone! There are other factors such as work ethic. Neil hasn’t been working out or doing much of anything to stay in shape this offseason and THAT is why he is having a hard time landing anywhere. Thats the info I was given
I still don’t get how the current CBA makes tanking any more appealing than the previous one. In fact, it makes it slightly less appealing, since the current CBA significantly lowered the value of draft compensation on both ends.
Yes, tanking is an issue to be sure, but it’s been that way for several years now. It’s just become highlighted more this offseason in conjunction with how it’s combined with several other factors to create this unique scenario.
Tanking isn’t a real issue. It’s a made up issue. Half the league sucks by default in every sport and if you don’t reward teams for being bad they are just literally never good.
The solution the players want is basically Premier League: relegation of bad teams (who cares about them since they don’t give out fat contracts?!) and no draft and the super teams just dominate 99.9% of the time.
Another sport, but 76ers turned tanking into artform.
Also, Mark Cuban was fined $600K for essentially admitting to tanking, saying he told the team: “Look, losing is our best option” Last I checked, it was a six way tie in the NBA for worst records —at 18 wins.
Now? 3 wins separate the 8 worst teams (18-21w) ~80% of the season. Tanking is a real problem in other sports.
The Pirates could take him on and move Harrison to a super utility role once again.
They would start Frazier instead.
Exactly!!! Frazier is 6 years younger and has a better skill-set right now than Walker.
With Frazier, Moroff, Sean-Rod, Freese and even Osuna now working out at third base, there’s no need for another utility man. Besides, Harrison is better and more useful than Neil Walker.
This isn’t that crazy to me. There isn’t a lot of reason for teams that don’t plan on contending to sign an aging, injury problem second basemen. The position isn’t of high need around MLB and there is a distinct possibility he ends up hurt. so signing him to flip him doesn’t seem like a great idea. – get rid of non competitive teams.
Then as far as the competitive teams go – few need a second basemen. If you have internal options that you think are capable of putting up something like 50-60% of Walker’s value with a chance at more, does it really make since to commit 9-11 mil over 2 years (I’m just guessing here at what he might get)? On top of that he has the injury questions. That money could be used to improve other places or held onto so you can use it during the season to make additions when your needs become more evident.
Walker is a player with bad defense at a position few teams need anyway, doesn’t have the bat to justify moving down the defensive spectrum, and has a history of injuries.
I could certainly see a team signing him for 1 or 2 years if they have enough money after that addition to still feel comfortable making inseason upgrades, but is it really that surprising that someone like him hasn’t found a job yet?
On top of that, I’d like to point out that as you mention, the Brewers were able to acquire walker in a trade last year. The price for that acquisition wasn’t super high. So what is stopping teams from breaking camp with what they have, seeing how it goes, then acquiring a player of similar quality to Walker once they identify that they do, indeed, need help at 2b/utility/if depth
At this point, I doubt Walker gets 9-11M, but I completely agree that I’d love to have him back in Pittsburgh. If they could even unload J-Hay’s 10M+ contract to make it happen, that would be cool. I’ve soured a bit on J-Hay after his requesting a trade. Only problem there is that it’s the same market as Walker’s-who, at this point, is going to take J-Hay at 10M? Bringing him aboard without trading someone would mean J-Hay, Walker, Frazier, and SRod all competing for at-bats. It would be an awkward position to be in.
Walker’s lack of speed is also a dererrant, however, he is a solid major league hitter and a good clubhouse guy to boot.
In my opinion, his hometown team the Pirates is a perfect landing spot but they seem intent on tanking. The Brew Crew is another potential landing spot but they are in a year long starring contest with free agent starting pitchers and have the insane notion that one of their 80 outfielders can start at second base.
Detroit and Oakland are two teams who could use a solid veteran to teach the youngsters. A one year deal for him would be a bargain for those rebuilding teams. Oakland, by the way, is always rebuilding and its probably about time they realize money ball works better in the movies than it does in real life.
If I were to throw a dart and pick a team that he signs with it will be a team that suffers an injury at second.
The Phillies aren’t a fit. Tommy Joseph isn’t making the team. They’re likely keeping three non-catchers on the bench, probably Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, and probably Jesmuel Valentin. They plan on delaying putting Scott Kingery into a super utility role by the end of April, just so they can get another year of service time. So if they signed Walker they’d end up releasing him in a month.
dynamite drop in monty
Someone should sign Todd Walker instead
I want someone to sign ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’.
dynamite drop in monty
Hopefully the Rangers
When Ken Rosenthal reported early in the off season that the Pirates had interest in Walker the local talking heads all said something along the lines of…
“Don’t do it, Neil. Don’t do the Pirates any favors.”
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the local talking heads are idiots.
Ain’t that the truth. I try listening in the car to different stations and have to keep changing the stations because of the stupid comments that come out of their mouths. They drive me insane. I know why they do it. To get their lemming followers to call in and chime in on whatever negativity the host is saying……..the idiot callers make it even worse……
It has been an odd market to be sure, and there are a lot of reasons for it, most of which you hit on. I think the things that affect Walker the most is the number of teams rebuilding and analytics. The new math does tend to devalue guys who are one tool players, even if that tool is pretty good. Plus the math tends to show that the cost of these veterans is not worth the marginal production benefit. So teams on a tight budget are going to go with their young, controllable players over a guy like Walker.
And if you are rebuilding, makes little sense to sign a guy like Walker unless you have a big hole at second or you think you can flip him for prospects at the deadline. You mention the Tigers. They’d have been better off keeping Kinsler and flipping him at the deadline given what they got for him from the Angles. Plus, the Tigers need to know what they have in Machado. He has been a long time prospect for the Tigers, a great defensive SS coming up but there have always been questions about his bat. It is time for them to see what they have with him, whether or not he can replace Iglesias next season. So he plays second this year, hopefully SS next year and hopefully Lugo (whom they got for JD Martinez) will be able to play second next season. So Walker makes no sense for the Tigers. And I suspect there is similar logic for a lot of the other rebuilding teams.
The explanation is simple: there aren’t enough owners willing to spend money to improve their team this year. Add to that, there are several tearing their team down, offering infielders who are better than Walker (Castro, Harrison at second, for instance). So, even though Walker is still a hair above average (a thin hair), and (by definition of the word “average”) would be an upgrade over a lot of second basemen set to start this spring, he’s not finding a job.
The fault lies with the Players’ Association, of course. It was their job to not allow this to happen, they made several mistakes in negotiating the new CBA:
1. The rewards for losing are too high. There needs to be a penalty for being really bad…for instance, the last three teams in the majors should be excluded from the first round of the draft.
2. The luxury cap is set too low. The union just assumed that big market owners will keep spending above the threshhold and pay the tax. The Yankees and Dodgers proved them wrong, and now free agents are suffering because of them.
If the luxury tax was let’s say $220M, the Yankees and Dodgers would’ve each grabbed a pitcher off the market right now. And with penalties for losing, the Pirates would probably not be offering Josh Harrison, the Marlins would be holding on to Castro, and other teams in danger of finishing in the last three would be stocking up on veterans like Walker that won’t win the division for you, but are good enough not to lose 100 games either.
Everyone keeps saying that “The Owners Are Cheap”……but the New Luxury Tax Deal is definitely the biggest culprit. (which the Players Association AGREED TO).
Especially the escalation clause that increases the penalty if teams are over for consecutive years……..
I do NOT agree with punishing the bottom 3 teams. It’s a fairly new methodology, so people are having trouble with it. Basically, it’s “A Sound Business Module” to Trim The Fat and re-tool a business that’s not as profitable as it could be. Some players were over-paid and those contracts prevent the teams from being competitive (especially with the Luxury Tax Cap). I’m a Marlins Fan…and I hate that they ripped the team apart……but I am hopeful that the nucleus that they have acquired will develop as hoped, and they will become a better club. Hope is the Key Word there…..LOL
How many teams do you think have to worry about continually overrunning the luxury tax? Look at a list of every team ever to hit it. The vast majority of the league is mostly unaffected by the luxury tax.
That would just keep the small market teams in permanent Washington Generals status.
If the goal is parity and true competitive balance, the NHL system is sitting right there to be borrowed. Hard cap. Hard floor. Draft lottery.
But MLB likes to put it’s finger on the scale for the big market teams so that is unlikely to happen.
The ten biggest market teams combined have more fans than the 20 smallest market teams combined so, on balance, the fans are OK with MLB’s finger being on the scale, too. The last thing Yankees fans want is their team to have to compete on an even field like the Giants, Jets, Knicks, Rangers and Islanders (all mediocre or bad teams) do.
After the 20 years of completely horrible play, I am happy that the Pirates at least can compete in most games.. They may not be Series contenders but at least they can be fun to watch. Hoping that the trades will turn out the way I think they will and they will be competitive once again this season and not be out of it in May like they did for the gawd awful 20 years in between playoff appearances.
Lots of Players “Looking In From Outside” right now……and many are in better physical condition than the “oft-injured Walker”.
I’ll be very surprised if he gets 2/15 at this point……….I’m having trouble finding a team that really needs a “bat first 2B/maybe 3B” who’s been hurt a lot lately.
In addition to 6 more years of Miguel Cabrera’s $32M, the Tigers are doling out for Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder not to play for them. I don’t see ANY position player free agents in the Tigers future.
It’s time to stop with the narrative of “this year’s market is so slow, can you believe XXXXX player isn’t signed, possible collusion? etc.”
The market has been slower than normal. There are still several players unsigned. It is slightly worse than in other years. But this is also a narrative that sportswriters have picked up and hammered us with all season to create drama and give themselves something to write about.
The fact is that teams are getting smarter about signing overpriced free agents (many with draft pick compensation attached to them) when they have in-house options that might be just as good or better. Full stop.
The Brewers liked him enough in 2017 to give up $3 million and ptbnl for 1.5 months of play and he did fine. Six months later it is surprising that they wouldnt offer him a 1 yr deal in the 3-5 million range for a full season.
Maybe they think they wont have a roster spot for Walker if Villar plays well in spring training
Its definitely crazy that he is still available. As an O’s fan i would love to have this guy. Always been a fan of his. Someone has to give this guy a contract unless there is something going on that none of us see right now. Hope he lands a job soon.
2B is one position that teams refuse to spend money. Sort of like guard or fullback in the NFL. A slightly better than average player there doesn’t add much value. Walker will find a job certainly but only at a team’s price after they’ve taken a long look at internal options and found them wanting. Villar is hanging by a string in Milwaukee. Right now the problem is they have 3 players fighting for the same position all making between $1.9 and 2.4 million this year. They have to cut one (probably Villar) to have room for Walker even at $5 million or so.but they want to give all 3 they currently have to at least have the appearance of getting a fair shot.
I hope the Phillies don’t keep Joseph on the 25-man roster, but he does have one redeeming quality the Phil’s greatly value – he’ll be making the major league minimum. I’d like to see Walker in Philly as a sub and possible replacement for Franco if he falters again this year. Then again I would think the Phil’s would’ve added a SP because after Nola the rotation is as bad as any team in MLB. But signing a FA pitcher would require they spend and that’s no longer the Phillies way since signing their massive deal with Comcast.
I wasn’t a fan of Montgomery and Amaro but at least they tried to put a good team on the field. They got Halladay for 3 prospects who never amounted to anything, resigned Lee after foolishly trading him prior to the 2010 season, and traded for Oswalt & Pence in successive years at the trade deadline to help put the team over the top in an attempt to win another WS after 2008. They also made their share of mistakes including Rollins last contract and neglecting the OF after 2011. I never thought I’d miss Montgomery/Amaro but MacPhail/Klentak aren’t even trying to put a competitive team on the field.
I remember when the Phil’s hired MacPhail he said his philosophy was to buy the bats and build the arms. The Phils currently have two minor league pitchers in BA’s top 100 prospects – Sanchez & Medina. Sanchez has yet to pitch an inning of AA ball and Medina has yet to pitch at high A Clearwater. If we’re supposed to wait for these minor leaguers to save the rotation and make the Phil’s competitive again it’s going to be a long, long wait.
I didn’t mean to imply the ONLY mistakes Montgomery/Amaro made were signing Rollins to his last contract and neglecting the OF after 2011. Those were just two glaring mistakes they made. There were many more mistakes I didn’t mention, but I’m writing a post in response to a MLBTR article, not an article of my own.
Drop his price down he will get an offer.
Brewers should be all over him. Teams like the Brewers,Nats, Twins, Angels, etc could really improve by picking up some of the remaining free agents.
OK, Buccos, u wanna prove to your fan-base you want to win?! Sign Walker; I bet it takes 2 years at $7M per. That will give your middle infield prospects two years to get to the bigs. That will allow you to move Harrison to third. That will help your fan-base get over the feeling of betrayal you created by shipping Cutch out for a bag of chips.
Then make a play for Alex Cobb; he is back and will be better than ever 2+ years now removed from Tommy John. 3 years at $36M ought to do it. This solidifies your rotation, and all the sudden, you have no glaring holes! And these two are cheaper than Cole/Cutch, so you are saving money and not even touching the $50M media bonus every major league team just got.
After seeing that the Cardinals just offered Lance Lynn $20M for 2 years, I’m adjusting my thinking a bit. I still think Alex Cobb is the way to go for the Pirates, but perhaps 2 years at $9-10M per is market…
Until then, Let’s go Giants!
The MLB market has changed, and the players as specially players not considered elite talent have too change as well. The whole problem is the major market teams have adjusted as well leaving only the Dodgers as a mega market and even they are changing. Consider Boston and New York for example yes they still have big payrolls but really they are currently a mix of young inexpensive youth and veteran players. Meaning they are not inflating their payrolls past 196 mil where as in times past they may have gobbled up the considered close to elite status players thus making more of these players readily available for the mid market teams still in the running. For instance consider these dormant giants the Braves and the Phillies and the fact the Giants are currently maxed out, The Phillies splurge a little (they are a major market team) but the fact is they are still turning the corner on their rebuilds and the same with the Braves and a handful of other teams as well. They are not going to throw oddles of funds (Those three) out there until they are sure they can contend. Many teams are reloading with the going trend younger affordable and controllable players that is the trend.Decades ago very few players made it to the MLB level until they were around 26 years +. Today that age limit has dropped below 24 years and lower for some. The players like Walker need to lower their expectations and cost that is all. P.S. All these previous long term contracts that will the stats show were busts did not help their cause either. Time for the Scott Boras and such to alter their habits as well and adjust to this market or face the fact many players may have earlier than expected retirements that is all now play ball!