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The Neil Walker signing works out from every angle for the Yankees

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Fans may grumble, but there is no way this isn’t a total steal for the Bombers.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

It goes without saying that when one of the better free agents of the offseason signs for $4 million guaranteed, there is something deeply broken in baseball economics. If the market values a win at something like $8 million, Neil Walker’s projected 2.6 WAR means that the Yankees acquired him for 19% of his market value, which should be alarming for more than a few reasons (putting aside the fact that it was for a single year).

Yet, the Yankees took advantage. I literally just wrote about how the Yankees passed on Mike Moustakas for a similar price (draft picks and international money notwithstanding), and I argued that because the market has caused prices to drop so precipitously, the teams that would benefit the most are the ones with the most money to throw around. The Yankees aren’t technically one of those because of their luxury tax concerns, but this checks both boxes: they can easily be under the tax with this signing, and it is very much a drop in the bucket as far as their operating expenses go.

From a roster perspective, I can’t really complain. The line of thinking I’ve been seeing among Yankees fans over the past day tends towards the idea that because the team has “the kids,” then they should toss the starting jobs to Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. For better or for worse, they are not a guaranteed bet. I would probably argue that Walker is stronger than either of them in the very immediate future, not even considering the fact the Yankees will hold down the former until after the Super Two deadline.

Because this is just a one-year deal, we shouldn’t be deluded into thinking that this will somehow preclude them from making their mark. Injuries happen, so if, for example, Greg Bird gets injured, Walker could play first while Torres takes second. Walker could be traded at the deadline for such a small price, opening the door for the kids. I could come up with a hundred scenarios where they still get playing time, and all of them end with Walker exiting the organization come October. By that point, Brian Cashman will have an even better idea of how these players fit, and they will also have had a competent second baseman for pocket change.

Now, about Walker himself. I’ve also noticed a lot of fans aren’t too hot on his actual performance, but let me tell you, you would probably have to go back a decade to find a player projected to be this good for such a price. Since 2011, here is where Walker ranks among second basemen:

  • fWAR: 11th
  • wRC+: 8th
  • HR: 4th
  • OBP: 12th

Even since 2014, that status has remained remarkably consistent:

  • fWAR: 9th
  • wRC+: 5th
  • HR: 6th
  • OBP: 10th

This is the equivalent of acquiring a single year of Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, or Joe Panik, all projected to put up about the same fWAR over 600 plate appearances. Kinsler and Pedroia will make triple that of Walker.

There are a lot of young players on this team, and adding a player like Walker isn’t going to suddenly stunt the growth of the farm. Great prospects always find their way on to the club. With a team as close as this one is to a World Championship, a team with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in their prime, you also can’t waste this prime opportunity. This acquisition is as simple as: adding good baseball players for small amounts of cash is a good thing, and it will pay dividends. The Yankees lineup just got scary-good, and now I can’t wait for Opening Day.