Neil Walker’s one-year, $4MM deal with the Yankees seems like one of the better bargains achieved by a team in an unprecedentedly slow offseason for free agents, and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks back to last offseason when the infielder was discussing a longer-term pact with the Mets. At some point last winter, the Mets floated a three-year extension for Walker that would’ve been worth “about” $42MM, per Davidoff. Presumably that would include the 2017 season, during which he was already set to be paid $17.2MM, as it seems unlikely both that the Mets would offer three new years with Walker returning from back surgery and equally unlikely that Walker’s camp would reject said notion (though that’s just my own speculation). If that number is indeed accurate, Walker will obviously come out behind ($21.2MM over the first two of those three seasons), though certainly no one saw this type of free-agent freeze coming. Davidoff adds that Walker’s camp tried to reignite those “contentious” discussions later in the winter, but the Mets declined.
Regarding his own free agency this past offseason, while there were some early rumblings connecting him and the Pirates, Walker tells reporters that there’s “no validity” to those rumors and that he and his agents “didn’t hear from them once the entire offseason” — even when it was clear recently that he’d come at a rather affordable rate (via Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
More out of the game’s Eastern divisions…
- Addison Reed tells Alex Speier of the Boston Globe that playing for the Red Sox and pitching at the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park exceeded his expectations in 2017, adding: “…and I expected it to be pretty damn good.” However, Reed openly admits that a return to Boston wasn’t high on his list as he headed into free agency this winter. While he had nothing against the Red Sox and spoke glowingly of the organization, his preference was to end up with a Midwest team. (Speier notes that his wife is from Ohio.) Reed achieved that feat by landing a two-year deal with the Twins, and while he took a shorter deal than most predicted, it seems possible that that outcome was in part due to his self-imposed geographic limitations.
- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged to reporters today that right-hander Koda Glover’s shoulder is taking longer to heal than the team anticipated (Twitter link via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post). Glover’s uncertain status notwithstanding, Rizzo doesn’t feel the team needs to go outside the organization for additional bullpen help, Janes notes. The GM said he likes what he’s seen from right-handers Trevor Gott and Austin Adams this spring, and the Nats of course have deepened their bullpen over the past nine months with the acquisitions of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler and, earlier this spring, Joaquin Benoit.
- Janes also tweets that Rizzo was adamant that the Nationals “would never” keep top outfield prospect Victor Robles in a bench role. While many Nats fans may be hoping that the ballyhooed 20-year-old can make the roster in a reserve capacity, Rizzo’s comments further reinforce the idea that the Nats will keep Robles in a regular role with Triple-A Syracuse until an everyday opening presents itself at the big league level.
- The Orioles’ roster further took shape yesterday with the news that outfielder Joey Rickard has been optioned to Triple-A and veteran infielder Ruben Tejada was assigned to minor league camp. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the team’s utility infielder opening, noting that Engelb Vielma, Luis Sardinas and Danny Valencia are all candidates. While Valencia, of course, doesn’t have shortstop experience, the O’s have two viable shortstop options on the roster in Manny Machado and Tim Beckham. Kubatko adds that the O’s could take a look at Erick Aybar if he doesn’t make the Twins’ roster this spring, and he notes that Baltimore could also pursue a reunion with Ryan Flaherty if he does not break camp with the Phillies.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tackles a host of Rays roster scenarios as he strives to project the 25-man unit that’ll break camp for Opening Day. Interestingly, he paints veteran lefty Dan Jennings as a potential trade candidate and doesn’t project him to make it to the Opening Day roster, instead projecting starting pitching prospects Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough (a fellow lefty) to crack the Opening Day bullpen. Topkin runs through playing time scenarios in the outfield and all around the infield, so Rays fans in particular will want to take a look at one of the more educated guesses you’ll come across for how things will shake out between now and Opening Day.