Milwaukee Brewers: Is Neil Walker still in their plans?
By John Schnabl
The Milwaukee Brewers have a question mark at second base, but that question isn’t answered by Neil Walker.
The Milwaukee Brewers have rightly determined that signing a quality starting pitcher is their priority. This will take up most of their financial resources, making the signing of Neil Walker very unlikely. After acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, it was a surprise to hear Mark Attanasio indicate that they still had enough money to sign a big name starting pitcher.
What are the options at second base?
Without Walker, the Milwaukee Brewers are left with Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez, and Eric Sogard as options at second base. The Brewers want Villar to take over the starting job and are hoping he returns to his 2016 form. If Villar can’t reclaim his 2016 glory, Perez and Sogard become serviceable platoon options. Both are decent offensively, plus they are better than average in the field.
In 2017, Sogard posted an impressive .393 on-base percentage in almost 250 at-bats. Sogard was ranked number one in on-base percentage among NL second baseman. Perez, who can play several positions in the field, put up double-digit home runs and stolen bases last year. A platoon situation isn’t what the Brewers are hoping for, but they seem comfortable starting the season with it.
But why not Walker?
Last year Walker was a solid late season addition for the Milwaukee Brewers. He posted a very impressive .409 on-base percentage in 149 plate appearances. His return to the team will come at a price though.
Todd Frazier recently received a two-year, $19 million contract. Walker may end up getting something close to this. Plus, the second base free agent market is thin which will only increase his value. A small market team with limited resources can’t extend too many multi-million dollar contracts to players over 30. Walker has injury issues as well. He has on-going back issues including having back surgery in 2016. Walker is okay defensively, but has seen several of his offensive stats get worse. As an example from 2016 to 2017, he had a decrease in home runs by nine and a 20-point drop in batting average.
Next: The Lorenzo Cain Trade Tree
Walker would look great in a Brewers uniform in 2018, but a contract has to come at a price that gives the team financial flexibility. This doesn’t seem possible because he is looking for a big contract, and the Milwaukee Brewers are a small market club. In addition, they have serviceable options at second base and need to save money in order to acquire a top of the rotation starting pitcher.