One of the Milwaukee Brewers two remaining free agents, Neil Walker, appears more likely to return than previously thought.
At the beginning of the off season, Neil Walker was said to be looking for a four-year deal. That would definitely put him out of the comfort zone of Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns. It was assumed at the time he wouldn’t get that many years. A three year deal sounded more reasonable.
In previewing the landing spots for Walker, the Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, and Milwaukee Brewers were considered possible destinations for the 32-year old second baseman. But the Angels have acquired Ian Kinsler and no longer need him. The Mets are reportedly a “highly unlikely” place for Walker to sign. And the Blue Jays acquired Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals and don’t have a glaring need.
How likely is a return to Milwaukee for Walker?
Walker is running out of options. The Milwaukee Brewers are one of the few places that he fits in.
We’ve said since the beginning of the off season that if Walker were to return to Milwaukee, a one-year contract is all he would get. With Mauricio Dubon, Isan Diaz, and Keston Hiura all close to the Major Leagues, a multi-year deal for Walker makes little sense.
Walker provided a big boost for this team when he arrived in the middle of August. Why not bring him back? The only argument against resigning him before was that he wanted a long term deal. That may be out the window now that there are no clear suitors for his services. MLBTR projected Walker to re-sign with the Brewers for two years at $20 million. That extra year seems a bit much if no one else is bidding for him.
Are there any other destinations for Walker?
The Boston Red Sox may have interest in Walker, but the odds of them making a serious run for him are small. They still have Dustin Pedroia who will return from injury at some point in the first half of next year. Unless Boston makes a run, The Milwaukee Brewers will be bidding against themselves in the pursuit of Walker.
Walker took a $17.2 million qualifying offer last year to push back free agency. Another one-year deal may interest him in hopes of finding a more robust market next winter. That strategy could end up worse for Walker. The 2018 free agent class is packed with stars. A soon-to-be 33-year old second baseman may get lost in the shuffle.
Perhaps a one year, $10 million deal with an option for 2019 would be enough for Walker to return to Milwaukee. It’s likely the best deal he’s going to find in this market. With no one else searching for an upgrade at the keystone, he may have to take whatever Stearns offers him. Walker’s leverage slips every day he doesn’t have a contract.
This off season has not gone the way most experts predicted it to go. Most of the top free agents haven’t signed yet and there isn’t a ton of movement. If the market hasn’t warmed up for the top guys, finding a home for Walker may prove difficult.