The Miami Marlins have signed versatile infielder Neil Walker to a one-year contract.
A 10-year veteran, Walker adds some power to Miami’s lineup, having hit at least 10 home runs in nine of the past 10 seasons. Walker, 33, spent last year with the New York Yankees, hitting .219/.309./.354 with 11 home runs and 12 doubles in 113 games. Walker’s deal with the Marlins is worth $2 million, according to The Athletic.
Walker saw action at five different positions last season — first base, second base, third base, left field and right field. Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill said Walker will primarily platoon at first base with Peter O’Brien, but could also play at second, third and in the outfield.
As a switch-hitter, he brings a left-handed bat to a lineup that is dangerously thin from that side of the plate. Shortstop J.T. Riddle is the only everyday lefty in the lineup.
“We wanted to add left-handed offense,” Hill said Tuesday night on the team’s Hot Stove Radio Show. “He’s a switch-hitter who’s better from the left side and a tremendous complement to our existing left-handed inventory of players.”
Walker has also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. He has a lifetime .268/.339/.430 slash line with 141 home runs during his 10-year career.
To make room for Walker on the 40-man roster, the Marlins designated reliever Nick Wittgren for assignment. The move seems odd, considering the right-hander is coming off a solid season where he posted a 2.92 ERA in 32 relief appearances. Wittgren, 27, also has three more years of team control.
The Marlins, however, could still elect to trade him — potentially in a deal involving catcher J.T. Realmuto. DFA rules stipulate a team has seven days to either release, trade or place said player on irrevocable waivers.
Realmuto has been at the forefront of trade rumors for the entire offseason, but those discussions have increased over the past week. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves have all reportedly discussed trade scenarios with Miami for the All-Star catcher.
The 27 year old is coming off his best season, hitting .277/.340/.484 with 30 doubles, a career-high 21 home runs and 74 RBI in 125 games. In addition to earning All-Star honors for the first time, he nabbed a Silver Slugger Award.
Top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers) and Francisco Meija (Padres) have been floated as potential return targets. Reds third base prospect Jonathan India — a former American Heritage-Delray standout — and outfield prospect Taylor Trammell have also been discussed in trade rumors.
While the Marlins have publicly stated they’re willing to go into spring training with Realmuto — who’s under contract for two more seasons — a potential trade would likely need to happen before pitchers and catchers report to camp in two weeks.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls on [Realmuto]” Hill said.
“It’s dominated a lot of our offseason to say the least. … “As I always say, we’re always looking for ways to improve our ball club and create a sustainable winning product, so we have to use our inventory accordingly. So we’re always looking at ways to get better and J.T. is a very popular topic at the moment.”