TAMPA, Fla. -- When the golf cart rolled to a stop outside the clubhouse on the first-base side of George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday afternoon, Neil Walker popped out of the passenger side, a soon-to-be-replaced Milwaukee Brewers equipment bag slung over his right shoulder.Marking the conclusion of what the
TAMPA, Fla. -- When the golf cart rolled to a stop outside the clubhouse on the first-base side of George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday afternoon, Neil Walker popped out of the passenger side, a soon-to-be-replaced Milwaukee Brewers equipment bag slung over his right shoulder.
Marking the conclusion of what the veteran infielder described as a "crazy offseason," Walker and the Yankees agreed to a one-year contract worth $4 million, adding another splash of experience to a lineup that is expected to be among the game's best.
"This is a really talented group," Walker said. "That's one thing you're happy about as a player, to have that opportunity to get to the playoffs and a World Series. You look around here and there's arguably the best group of guys that there is in the league. I'm excited to be part of this whole process."
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General manager Brian Cashman said the 32-year-old Walker will be asked to play first base, second base and third base, positions that he manned last year for the Mets and Brewers. Because of Walker's late arrival and the performance of others in camp -- most notably Tyler Wade -- Cashman said Walker is not being guaranteed a starting role.
"If he takes something from somebody over time, so be it, but he's getting a late start given the fact that we're probably about two weeks away from leaving Florida," Cashman said. "We're excited to have him. It certainly wasn't part of our game plan at first, but it was something we couldn't ignore when the opportunity still existed. I'm happy he picked us."
Wade, who entered play on Monday with seven hits in 24 at-bats (.292), did not seem to be concerned by the arrival of another challenger.
"I'm glad we got him," Wade said. "It's a big bat, big power. Switch-hitter, too, so he adds versatility and he plays all over. I'm excited we got him. ... I'm not worried about it. If I continue to play my game, I'll be all right."
Walker's contract includes incentives of $125,000 for 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances. Even if Walker reaches them all, the deal represents a massive dip from the $17.2 million he earned last year after accepting the Mets' qualifying offer.
"When it comes down to it, I didn't have an offer from anybody until three days ago," Walker said. "That was certainly frustrating. It came together fairly quickly starting the middle of last week. I'm happy to have a few weeks to get ready for the season."
The Yankees have had interest in Walker at least as far back as the previous Trade Deadline. Shopped by the Mets, Walker landed with the Brewers; in 111 combined games, he batted .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs.
Walker spoke to the Yankees about a deal this past winter, when Cashman pitched Walker on being the starting third baseman. Those talks fizzled when Brandon Drury was acquired from the D-backs on Feb. 20, prompting Walker to participate in the MLB Players Association free-agent camp held in Bradenton, Fla.
"More than anything, my hope was that I would land somewhere that was going to be competitive and had a chance to win," Walker said. "At the end of the day, you can't really control what happened in the offseason. I'm just happy to be here and happy to be on a contending team."
Cashman said he was negotiating Walker's contract during Saturday's game against the Mets, which is why the GM said he missed Giancarlo Stanton's first homer in a Yankees uniform. Walker's contract gives the Yankees approximately $15 million of wiggle room to keep payroll below $197 million.
"It made too much sense not to complete something here," Cashman said. "Hopefully it protects us and improves us."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.