An exceptionally quiet winter for the Marlins finally brought some news on Tuesday.
The Marlins signed veteran infielder Neil Walker to a one-year contract, the team announced.
Walker, 33 and a veteran of 10 Major League seasons, played five different positions last season for the Yankees and, as a switch-hitter, provides the lineup with a much-needed left-handed bat.
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Walker will be used primarily in a lefty-righty platoon role at first base with Peter O’Brien but also expects him to play around the diamond.
“The versatility of Neil Walker brings us something that is definitely appealing,” Hill said.
Walker’s deal is for $2 million, according to the The Athletic, which is substantially less than what the Marlins would have paid to keep similarly versatile but defensively challenged Derek Dietrich, who was non-tendered and remains a free agent.
Walker hit just .219 with 11 home runs last season for the Yankees. But, over his career, he has hit .268 with 141 home runs with four different teams, including seven seasons with the Pirates. His best seasons came in 2014 with the Pirates when he hit .271 with 23 home runs and in 2016 with the Mets when he hit .282 with 23 homers.
He has played primarily at second base for most of his career but also saw action last season with the Yankees at first and third bases and the two corner outfield spots.
Starlin Castro has the second base job locked up for the Marlins.
The signing was the first significant addition to their 40-man roster, as the Marlins have remained quiet all offseason. But they are actively shopping All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, with the Padres and Reds showing the strongest interest.
“It has dominated a lot of our offseason, to say the least,” Hill said of trade talks involving Realmuto.
To make room for Walker on the 40-man roster, right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren was designated for assignment. Wittgren was one of the Marlins’ most effective relievers last season, and the Marlins could try to trade him.
With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training on Feb. 13, Hill said the Marlins are continuing to explore the free agent market.
“There’s still a number of players we’re in touch with,” Hill said.
The Athletic reported on Tuesday that the Nationals have hired former Marlins manager Jack McKeon to serve as a special advisor to general manager Mike Rizzo.
After serving as a special advisor to former owner Jeffrey Loria, McKeon, 88, decided to take a year off rather than return under new ownership.
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