The Yankees need to find themselves at least one infielder before spring training rolls around. Starlin Castro and Chase Headley are gone, and while Gleyber Torres is as close to ready as he can be, he offers enough versatility to give the team some options. It would be easy to have Gleyber at second and someone like Miguel Andujar at third, but do they want to go that route out of the gate? What if it doesn’t work out? Maybe the Yankees should look at Neil Walker as a possible alternative.
At the age of 32, Neil Walker is a free agent for the first time. He was an above-average bat during his days with the Pirates, averaging a .272/.338/.431 batting line over seven years while regularly hitting double digit home run totals. To make him even more attractive, Walker is a switch hitter, which will help the Yankees replace Headley and even out the lineup against right-handed pitching.
Even better, if you’re worried about such things, he seemed to handle himself well during his time in New York. Traded to the Mets before the 2016 season, Walker hit just as well in that big ballpark as he did in Pittsburgh. He also seemed to handle himself in the spotlight and be somewhat of a clubhouse leader. By the 2017 deadline, he was traded off to the Brewers where he would continue to hit well for a team that was still in contention.
At this point, the Yankees are largely powered by their homegrown talent, but if Brian Cashman feels the team needs some veteran leadership, Walker would not be a bad option. While Gleyber is primarily looked at as a second baseman, he can move to third base if needed. It wouldn’t be perfect, but this team is already planning to head into the season with two right fielders in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, so the Yankees are clearly not looking for perfection here.
The problem with this whole plan is what Neil Walker himself would prefer to do. Jon Heyman recently reported that Walker is looking for a four-year deal. That sounds like a little much, but you have to shoot your shot. Even if he takes a two or three-year deal, that still might be too long for the Yankees. Optimally, they would want him on a one-year deal, but that’s not happening. Cashman could also sign him to a longer deal, just without a trade clause, allowing the team to move Torres to second and still go after Manny Machado in 2019. Would Walker be ok with that?
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com has already stated the Yankees do plan to bring in an infielder from outside the organization, but it’s hard to say whether or not Walker would be the kind of guy the team would be looking at. It feels like Cashman would prefer to make a trade for a veteran on a short-term contract, like Josh Harrison or Jed Lowrie. However, if the Yankees are going to sign a veteran infielder, Todd Frazier sounds like the more likely bet.