MIAMI -- It isn't taking long for Neil Walker to buy into what the Marlins are building, and the 33-year-old welcomes the opportunity to be part of the plan.Walker, who signed a one-year deal with Miami on Tuesday, picked up on the organization's enthusiasm while talking with manager Don Mattingly
MIAMI -- It isn't taking long for Neil Walker to buy into what the Marlins are building, and the 33-year-old welcomes the opportunity to be part of the plan.
Walker, who signed a one-year deal with Miami on Tuesday, picked up on the organization's enthusiasm while talking with manager Don Mattingly and president of baseball operations Michael Hill.
"They both were really excited about the young group that they have," Walker said on a conference call Wednesday. "More than that, they wanted to supplement those young guys with quality big leaguers that were not only going to be able to contribute, but also be able to make an impact on the younger guys, and teach them how to be professional, and show them the way."
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Walker reportedly signed for $2 million, and he's being asked to provide leadership and production on a largely inexperienced team.
"Obviously, it's going to be a work in progress, with how the roster is set up," he said. "There's not a ton of in-between. There's a handful of guys who are over [age] 30, and there's a lot of guys who are basically 25 and younger. There will be a lot of opportunity for a lot of different guys."
Miami, a team that lost 98 games last year, provides a change of pace for Walker, who reached the playoffs in 2018 with the Yankees.
"After speaking with Michael and Donnie, it just seems like they believe in what they're doing, they believe in the direction they're going, and they believe in the guys that they have, going in that direction," Walker said. "Their enthusiasm is certainly contagious, and something I'm excited to be a part of."
Walker is the first significant offseason signing for the Marlins, who are open to making more low-cost free agent signings before Spring Training opens on Feb. 13.
Walker addresses one of organization's biggest needs -- a proven left-handed hitter.
"I felt my skillset was probably better suited for the National League, instead of the American League," Walker said. "I was a little more interested in what some of the National League teams were doing. Miami, as the offseason was rolling along, made a lot of sense. When they reached out, we took the offer very seriously, and we found some common ground, and we were happy with how it turned out."
A second baseman for most of his career, Walker promises to also provide depth at first base and third base, plus he has played each corner outfield spot.
Walker may wind up splitting time at first base with right-handed hitting Peter O'Brien.
The veteran infielder also aims to bounce back from a down 2018 in New York, where he appeared in 113 games and posted a slash line of .219/.309/.354 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.
For his career, he's a .268/.339/.430 hitter with 141 home runs and 568 RBIs. He also has a string of nine straight seasons with at least 10 home runs.
With the Pirates in 2014, Walker was a National League Silver Slugger Award-winning second baseman.
Another reason Walker opted to sign now was to avoid a repeat of 2018, when he signed with New York in early March. The lost preparation time, he felt, factored into why he batted .165 in March and April.
"Not being able to get the quality of work that comes along with Spring Training was really detrimental to the first month-and-a-half of my season," Walker said. "That was one reason why, regardless of the situation, I felt like it was the right thing to do to sign at the time of year that I did. I am happy with the opportunity I'm going to receive in Miami."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.