Neil Walker’s Going to Sign Somewhere. Why Not Atlanta?

Neil Walker’s Going to Sign Somewhere. Why Not Atlanta?

The market has been weird this offseason. Accusations of collusion and an MLBPA grievance filed against four teams have marred things a bit. Some of this is a bit overdone as it was a weak class of free agents and a class expected to receive record deals will follow in 2018-19. Further, players have been offered contracts, but often have declined in hopes of a better deal. In the end, though, there remain several free agents that are both productive and could come cheap.

I am shocked by one player in particular who remains unsigned. I’m shocked not only because he hasn’t been signed, but that there have been crickets connected to him. Teams nowadays apparently hate consistent production. Former long-time Pirate Neil Walker is just sort of sitting there and I don’t understand why. The Yankees were interested but passed in favor of acquiring former Braves farmhand Brandon Drury. The Orioles and Royals are also in on Walker, but neither appear willing to give him much in terms of a guaranteed contract. One team that hasn’t entered the discussion is the Braves – and why the hell not?

Because of Johan Camargo? I’m a fan of Camargo and believe he’s capable of putting up 2-win seasons, but let’s overstate what we know about Camargo. He’s a late bloomer and the potential to be more than we have seen thus far is certainly there. He’s also an impatient hitter who had a .275 wOBA against right-hand pitching last season in the majors. That jives with his minor league production, where he was better hitting southpaws than he was against righties. Let’s not ignore this and just hope he does better than he ever has before. Camargo has struggled throughout his career against right-handers and that could be a problem.

But there’s Rio Ruiz to bat against right-handers!

Who said that? I will find you. And I will show you data until your eyes bleed.

The Braves recently grabbed Ryan Schimpf and he’s a bit interesting as a platoon option to go with Camargo. Back in 2016, he did have a .377 wOBA against right-hand pitching over 225 plate appearances. That could work, but he’s such a project because of his wonky swing and strict adherence to the flyball revolution mantra. Can we really count on a return to the 2016 form?

Camargo hasn’t proven he can hit right-handers, Schimpf has questions whether he can hit anything other than majestic flyballs to the outfield, and Ruiz has questions whether he can hit anything. Like, at all.

Enter Neil Walker – a proven commodity and likely a dang cheap one at that. For seven seasons, Walker has posted between a 2.1 fWAR and a 3.7 fWAR. Both marks have come in the last two seasons, interestingly enough. He’s a career .272/.341/.437 hitter with a .338 wOBA and 115 wRC+. Oh, and he doesn’t turn 33 until September. He’s belted 14 or more home runs in six straight seasons. Like Camargo, he’s a switch-hitter, but he hits righties better traditionally (.349 wOBA career, .344 wOBA last three years).

But I hear you. He’s a second baseman, right? Of course, so was Brandon Phillips. Apparently, playing third base isn’t that hard. Tell ’em, Wash.

Besides, Walker has already embraced a utility role by playing in 17 games at first base last year and five games over at third base. It was the first time since 2010 that he moved around the diamond. He won’t be Camargo’s equal at third base and the Braves would be wise to switch the two if the score is tight late in the game should Walker be playing. However, Walker’s range has always kept him from being elite at second base. With less range needed at third base, Walker should be passable. In theory.

But he’s a lot more expensive than Schimpf, I understand. But how much more expensive? The market is producing a number of relative bargains at this point. Carlos Gomez, who is still decent in center field, received $4 million after a 2.3 fWAR season. This guy was an MVP candidate just four years ago. Logan Morrison hit 38 home runs last year and he settled for $6.5M. Eduardo Nunez got a two-year deal with an average value of $4M. Walker, who is receiving minor league offers, could be had for pennies on the dollar.

How should he be used? Certainly, he can play some third base with Camargo. I’m not saying it should be a strict platoon, but something along the lines of Walker getting 70% or so of the playing time when the Braves face a right-hand starter. Over the last three seasons, they’ve faced an average of 124 right-handed starters. If Walker gets about 70% of the starts there, that’s nearly 90 starts. Of the 30% of the time he’s not starting against a right-hand starter at third base, maybe you move him to second base for another 15 or 20 starts. Some of those starts would be to rest Ozzie Albies while most would give Albies a chance to move over to short and rest Dansby Swanson against some tough right-hand pitchers. And certainly, getting Walker some time at DH in interleague play is also workable.

And hey, can Walker venture out to left field? Might as well find out.

Of course, injuries will mess up any sort of plans we put together, but it’s certainly possible to find Walker a minimum of 120 starts.

Let’s flip the script slightly. Why shouldn’t the Braves go after Walker? Well, it would make it harder to add talent later with Walker’s salary on the books. However, if anyone is telling you that Atlanta couldn’t afford to add Walker, they are merely lying. The opening day payroll is currently on pace to be $6M less than last year’s opening day payroll and nearly $20 million less than the payroll the Braves finished 2017 with. The money to add a reasonably-priced Walker is there.

Does Walker bring enough bang for your buck? Considering he’s been good for 2 WAR a season, getting him at roughly half the price that 1 WAR is valued at, the answer there seems pretty obvious. This assumes a $4M salary.

Adding Walker makes too much sense for the Braves. He’s not blocking anyone – Austin Riley could use another year in the minors in my opinion. He’s not taking away at-bats from proven sources of production – sorry, Charlie Culberson. And he makes the Braves better. But, what should a contract look like? How do the Braves convince Walker to come down to Atlanta?

My offer – one year at $4M with a team option for 2019 at $8M. The option could increase to a max of $12M should he receive enough playing time and avoid the disabled list. If the Braves decline the option, Walker is due a $1.5M buyout. At worst, Walker is paid $5.5M for 2018, which is certainly much less than he earned in 2017. On the other hand, it’s a better offer than those minor league deals he is receiving.

If he doesn’t sign, it’s because he’d rather play for a winner. That said, since the Royals and Orioles seem like the only other teams showing much interest, his best chance to win may come in Atlanta as surprising as that might sound. So, let’s make this happen, Alex Anthopoulos.


I’m not high on the idea of the Braves signing Walker. He feels more like a complimentary piece on a playoff caliber team, which is great and all. The Braves need a legitimate middle of the order bat, though. As crazy as it sounds, a Schimpf/Camargo platoon probably comes closer to filling that need- being that Schimpf probably sees more plate appearances against the RHP.

I still feel Mike Moustakas is the best fit for the Braves, and that he’ll come at an affordable price. Sign him up, play Acuna in LF this year and let Nick finish out his contract in RF. In the meantime they could shift Austin Riley to RF in the minors this season, which he could probably handle. That shores up the team for 19 on paper. Then you could go all in on Kershaw, as it’s been suggested before on here. And if Swanson struggles again this season, they’d still have enough cash to make a play for a 2B next offseason and maybe move Albies back over to SS.

It’s kind of silly. Of course, Walker would make the team better and outplay his contract. This is a no-brainer. It was also a no-brainer to pick up one C. Gomez or C. Dickerson and release/bench Markakis. If either puts up 2 WAR or more then they would be worth their contract and Markakis’ combined. Honestly, what’s wrong with having 2 super UTIL guys that bat opposite hands?

King, if Dansby fails then Camargo is a more than adequate SS and you can go all in on Machado (SS) as well as Kershaw. I’m not sure Walker isn’t better than Moose. Moose hit more HR last year but that was a first time deal in a HR-happy environment. Moose is not as versatile as Walker. Walker has shown his performance over several consecutive years. Go back and look at Terry Pendleton’s stats. He had barely hit double digit HRs until the Braves picked him up then he hit 20+ for two years and won a batting title and MVP (at 30/31). It sure would be nice to have a starter-capable reserve when the first big injury hits. Walker would have been a nice fill-in for Freeman last year and could have easily moved to 3B when Freeman came back.

Even if the Braves had to pay 1/10 with a team option, Walker would still be a bargain. As would Gomez or Dickerson…….. sigh.

Roger, I just don’t like Camargo in the everyday lineup. I believe last year’s stats were boosted by a bit of luck, and he’ll fail to repeat. That’s not to say he isn’t useful, or a solid player. He absolutely is- as a reserve. His pattern of struggling against RHP before last season will be problematic though if it were to continue as a regular.

As for the Moose vs. Walker debate, I think Moose is clearly better. Walker is more versatile, surely. There’s value to that. Moose is the better bat though, which is absolutely the more pressing need on the team. Yes his homerun total spiked in his contract year, in a year where homers were also up. I know that’s the knock. The thing is playing half his games in KC also makes that a bit of a feat. You put him in STP, with it’s short RF, and he seems a sure bet to continue to belt around 25 a season… which would be right in line with his average single season output of 23. He’s a legit middle of the order hitter. Walker just seems like more of a #2 hole type guy, which the Braves have so many of.

I do agree though that Dickerson would’ve made the most sense, and it baffles me why AA wasn’t a hair more aggressive there.

And T-Rad, there’s a lot not to like about the idea of signing a guy with the idea you can trade him if he performs. It’s a half-measure aimed to seem like the GM wants to field a winner, when in reality they don’t care. If a team is going to sign a guy, they should do so with a real commitment to winning, and keeping him long-term- and winning should be every team’s goal.

It’s just a lottery ticket. If he’s good – we get some prospect for him. If he’s not – we’ve lost only some money. Small risk, medium reward.

And, what’s more important – he could be easily sold at deadline, if he’s any good. His signing would be a perfect example of moneyball philosophy.
What’s not to like?

One more thing to mention is that Walker does not cost a draft pick whereas Moustakas does. Which makes Walker an even better deal. Honestly, I would take either at this point. The deals are so good and the players are of such a type that they won’t interfere with developing prospects or signing the big kahunas next year.

It looks like Moustakis is going to re-sign with KC…for what looks to be a one year deal (CarGo likewise with Colorado).

If Moustakis proves in 2018 that his 2017 (38 homers) was no fluke….then he’ll be in line to get a good contract/be a decent ‘consolation prize’ in his age 30 season for teams that miss out on Machado and Donaldson during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason.

A lot of teams are hoping to have room in their payrolls for either Machado or Donaldson. Moustakis should welcome the opportunity to prove in 2018 (for a team that he’s familiar with) that he’s worthy of a good contract after this season.

Moustakis just signed for one year $5.5 mil…with a $1 mil buyout on a 2019 mutual $15 mil team option.

I know that a lot of you may be thinking ‘damn, he only signed for $6.5 mil guaranteed. However, the loss of a 4th round pick (to go along with the 3rd rounder we lost because of The Coppy Sanctions)…would be hella pricey (not only would The Braves be losing the 4th round pick…but also the associated signing bonus allotment that is assigned to 4th round picks)…ESPECIALLY when The Braves would only be having Moustakis for one year.

True, 4th round picks are far from a guarantee to make a MLB roster. However, the overall picture is being able to have sufficient signing bonus money to sign a good draft class.

If AA ‘goes for it’ in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason and signs Machado, Harper and Kimbrel (all of whom will obviously be offered Qualifying Offers from their teams)…The Braves would end up losing their 3rd, 4th AND 5th round picks in The 2019 Draft. While pricey….I’d have no problem with that..because of the amount of time that those three players would be under Braves control PLUS the expected CONTRIBUTIONS that those three would be making to The Braves on the field!

However, to give up a 4th rounder for one year of Moustakis (in a year that, at best, we’d hope to contend for a one game Wild Card play-in game)…isnt a good signing to make. While losing 3rd, 4th and 5th round picks in one year would be a hit when it comes to signing a Draft Class….I’d rather lose a 3rd, 4th and 5th round picks in ONE YEAR…than lose a 3rd round pick in three straight years (if The Braves were to ‘spread it out’ and only sign ‘one impact player’ a year for three straight years). Given that Machado and Harper are position players in their mid-20’s….The Braves will be positioned to get good value for most of what will probably be 10 year-ish contracts for each player (perhaps offer each player an opt out after year 6…when each will be entering their age 31-32 season).

Moustakis, by declining the one year Qualifying Offer ($17.5 mil) from The Royals….is going to end up costing him $12 mil, lol! Wow! Still, if he has a good year in 2018…he’ll enter the upcoming Free Agent Market as the 3rd best option (with a lot of teams itching to spend money and fill a need for a power hitting 3rd sacker….after losing out on Machado and Donaldson).

As far as Walker…he doesnt really move the needle for The Braves. Sure, a number of things could ‘go well’ for The Braves in 2018, making them ‘a sleeper contender’. However, if AA is really ready to ‘do his job’..he’ll use The 2018 Season to give our PLETHORA of young players ample playing time (especially in The 2nd Half of The Season)….allowing them to prepare/position themselves to be MORE PRODUCTIVE players going into The 2019 Season.

Just imagine if The Braves had kept Dale Murphy instead of trading him to The Phillies after The ASB in 1990? David Justice would have stayed at 1st base (he didnt go on his 2 month homer bender..until after Murphy was traded, allowing Justice to ‘feel comfortable’ playing Right Field). Hitting 20 homers in the last 2 months of The 1990 Season NOT ONLY gave Justice The 1990 ROY Award..BUT it ALSO prepared him to be our cleanup hitter/RBI producer during The 1991 Season!

Look, I WORSHIPED Dale Murphy growing up! I HATED to see him traded! However 1991 DOES NOT happen the way it did…IF Justice didnt get a chance to play ‘with a clear mind in right field’ the last 2 months of The 1990 Season! I know that most of you hate the idea of AA trading away veterans who ‘could’ help us play for The Wild Card in 2018 at The Trade Deadline…..however it is ESSENTIAL that AA NOT ONLY get whatever prospects he can to fill The Lower Levels of The Minors…BUT ALSO give Soroka, Allard and Wright starts in the last 2 months of The 2018 Season (along with Clouse, Watts and others opportunities to pitch out of the bullpen as well to close the season).

Just one more year…..if this season plays out like I hope/expect it to…then The 2019 Season could very well MIRROR The 1991 Season (perhaps the only difference is winning ONE MORE GAME at the end of the year, lol). While I’ll be watching The Braves on The MLB Package…I’ll DEFINITELY be watching Soroka, Allard, Wright pitching as well on The MILB Package!

The fact that the Braves didn’t make a play on Moose when we’re talking about less than 10 million dollars on, essentially, a one year deal is beyond frustrating. Gah!

I couldn’t care less had the Braves surrendered a 4th round pick, because the draft is a bit of a crapshoot in some regards. I understand not wanting to give up the slot money attached to it on a one year deal with an option, to a certain extent. However, given the rebuild is in an advanced stage, they should probably be looking at college level players coming out… which would seem to lessen the need to worry about over-slot type deals.

At any rate, kudos to Dayton Moore & the Royals for the move and putting a better product on the field.

King….I have no problem giving up a 4th round pick to sign the right player (if The Braves do what I want them to do during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason, we’ll be giving up our 3rd, 4th AND 5th round picks….by signing Machado, Harper AND Kimbrel)!

However, Moustakis IS NOT the right player to give up a 4th rounder for (not so much worried about the pick itself….it’s the signing bonus allotment ESPECIALLY since we’ve already lost our 3rd rounded this year FOR NOTHING because of The Coppy Sanctions).

At least in The 2019 Draft, we’d lose those 3rd, 4th and 5th rounders (and the allocated signing bonus money) for 3 players (in theory) who would be around for WAY LONGER/BE MORE PRODUCTIVE than Moustakis!

Given our The Braves (assuming that our young players during The 2018 Season show that they are ‘ready for Prime Time) are slated to be ‘big spenders’ during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason (which means that no matter what, we’re going to lose some draft picks in The 2019 Draft)….it is IMPERATIVE that we ABSOLUTELY NAIL our picks in The 2018 Draft (ESPECIALLY knowing that for the next 4 years, we’ll be SEVERELY LIMITED in what we can do in Latin America).

We need to NAIL The 2018 Draft….AS WELL as NAIL what we get back in return (lower level prospects that’ll need a few years to develop) when we have to start trading from our surplus of pitching prospects (I’m not so much worried about flame outs…..I genuinely feel that Coppy did such an AMAZING JOB of acquiring these high upside starting pitching prospects…that there will simply NOT be enough spots to go around. In other words, we’re going to have some starting pitchers who may not be good enough to be in Atlanta’s Rotation when all is said and done…HOWEVER are still quality MLB Starting Pitchers that OVER HALF of the teams in MLB would CREAM IN THEIR PANTS if they could get their hands on them, lol).

That’s why AA needs to be patient and give these young pitchers time to ‘show us’ what they have (which means come The July Trade Deadline….Teheran, McCarthy, Kazmir should all probably be GONE. I’d hold off on trading Folty, until the Trade Deadline in 2019, when we’ll have others who’ll possibly be ready to take Folty’s spot).

Think about it…when all is said and done….if our prospects live up to their capabilities (the sheer number of Coppy’s Collection…is unprecedented in MLB History. We lost Patrick Weigel last year, whose a LEGIT prospect, and we didnt even miss a beat, lol. Even if we lost Allard and Wentz this year to ACL…we’d still be FINE, lol. The Depth/Quality….priceless)!

When our Rotation is ‘finalized’..then AA will be able to start making trades from those AAA prospects who are ‘knocking on the door’, but cant pry it open because the door is ‘firmly shut’, lol. Those prospects…will allow AA the opportunity to restock the lower levels of our Minors! I anticipate these trades happening…around 2020.

If Albies, Acuna, Swanson, Freeman, Inciarte…are all the real deals/mainstays…then that leaves only catcher (I’m ok with Flowers/Suzuki signing a 2 year deal to stay with The Braves after 2018…giving Jackson and others time to develop), left field and 3rd base as the only positions of need. AA simply has to sift through and use his payroll flexibility to sign THE RIGHT power hitters to fill those positions. Other than signing Craig Kimbrel to be THE HAMMER (again, I feel that Minter would benefit from pitching behind Kimbrel for a few years. Minter’s injury history makes it tough to totally depend on him, given his young age, to be our closer come playoff time)….our pitching staff will take care of itself from within!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *