MILWAUKEE -- Slumping since the All-Star break and sliding fast down the National League Central standings, the Brewers added a hitter they hope can help.Switch-hitting second baseman Neil Walker had already embarked on a multi-stop journey from Philadelphia to New York to Milwaukee late Saturday night when the Brewers announced
MILWAUKEE -- Slumping since the All-Star break and sliding fast down the National League Central standings, the Brewers added a hitter they hope can help.
Switch-hitting second baseman Neil Walker had already embarked on a multi-stop journey from Philadelphia to New York to Milwaukee late Saturday night when the Brewers announced they'd acquired him with cash from the Mets for a player to be named. Walker hoped to arrive at Miller Park in time for the Brewers' Sunday afternoon series finale against the Reds, at which time the club would have to make a corresponding roster move.
"I'm excited to be back in a playoff race," said Walker, minutes after Milwaukee's 10-inning, 6-5 win snapped a six-game losing streak and boosted the Brewers to within two games of the division-leading Cubs and Cardinals. "It's a place I'm very familiar with, the NL Central and Milwaukee. I'm looking forward to itm to get there, meet the team and hopefully help them as much as I can. I've always felt pretty good there."
In 51 career games at Miller Park, Walker has 16 doubles, 11 home runs and 31 RBIs with an .866 OPS, which is well above his career mark of .775.
A switch-hitter who played his first five big league seasons with the Pirates, Walker will be a free agent at season's end. He has about $4.7 million left on his one-year contract, an undisclosed portion of which the Mets are covering. He is slashing .264/.339/.442 with 10 home runs this season, marks that would represent a boost for the Brewers, who entered the night 25th in the Major Leagues and last in the NL with a .672 OPS at second base, a position primarily manned by Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard.
Walker amassed most of his production before suffering a partially torn left hamstring in mid-June. He spent six weeks on the disabled list before returning July 28, and has a .569 OPS in 45 plate appearances since then. He did finish his Mets tenure strong, though, going 6-for-9 with a homer in his final two games for them.
"I think we're banking on a professional hitter who has a robust track record of hitting quality pitching, especially from the left side of the plate," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "It took him a little while to get his timing back, but he seems to be back to his normal state right now."
Second base has been chief among the Brewers' problems. With Villar unable to build upon a breakthrough 2016 season in which he posted an .826 OPS and led the Majors with 62 stolen bases, Sogard fueled the offense after a mid-May promotion from Triple-A. But Sogard injured his ankle on July 4 and is 5-for-38 since returning from the DL.
From the All-Star break through before Saturday's game, all three players had been quiet:
• Walker: 45 PAs, .267 OBP, 53 wRC+
• Villar: 68 PAs, .250 OBP, 43 wRC+
• Sogard: 43 PAs, .214 OBP, -18 wRC+
Walker's health leading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline was a topic of discussion this week, after reports surfaced that the Mets nearly traded him to the Yankees last month. That deal allegedly was nixed by the Yankees over concerns about Walker's health, prompting a pointed response from the player on Friday.
"I was healthy and I still am healthy," Walker told the New York Post.
"He was an excellent player," Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. "He played second base for us and did very well after the departure of Daniel Murphy. He had some injury issues at the end of last year, and this year, as well, but first-rate guy. Very important in the clubhouse. I'm very glad we had him for the time that we did."
Stearns hopes Walker does the same with the Brewers. They are open to using him at first base or third base in addition to second.
Stearns declined to offer any clues about the nature of the player to be named later in the deal. The teams have six months to finalize the trade.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.