Brian Cashman on adding Neil Walker: "It was an opportunity we couldn't ignore"
"Yeah, the other day when you told me Stanton hit a homer, I didn't see it because I spent that entire day trying to sign Neil Walker," Cashman admitted Monday afternoon, shortly after the team made Walker's deal official. "We've had several dialogues with Neil's representation, going back to last summer, and now obviously he's going to come in here. He's getting a late start, but we're excited to have him, and it was something we couldn't ignore when the opportunity still existed."
Indeed, the Yankees were linked to Walker at last year's trade deadline, and Cashman admitted that the team almost added Walker earlier this winter to play third base, but instead made a three-way deal with Arizona and Tampa Bay that brought Brandon Drury over from the Diamondbacks.
"My job is to evaluate with our staff what's available and measure it up, and our interest levels (with Walker) in the winter were as an everyday guy at third base," Cashman said. "But while we were having discussions with Neil's representation, we were also having discussions with Arizona on Drury; the financials (for Walker) were higher back then, and we made a decision to trade for Drury, so that kind of closed (talks with Walker) down."
The Yankees finally got their man in Walker, though, giving him a one-year deal with a $4 million base salary and up to $500K in incentives based on plate appearances. Walker did have some camp time in the free agent camp held at IMG Academy in Bradenton this winter, but he'll only have two weeks or so of real Spring Training with the Yankees, and that actually helped in the process according to Cashman.
"There was some lull in our conversations, but when he was still on the board in mid-March, we stayed in touch," Cashman said. "The value for us changed in that he'd be someone who can come off the bench as he competes for an everyday job; he's a professional hitter who we think can cover us at third, second, and first, so we approached it as a utility-type role. It's hard to have these conversations sometimes, but if you don't ask, you might not get the result we got today."
Cashman's words are very prescient there, as he insinuated that Walker wasn't necessarily guaranteed a starting role, and further said that Walker can "take a run at any opportunities that may exist, and if he eventually takes something from somebody down the line, so be it."
It's news that bodes well for those in camp competing for the second base job, including top prospect Gleyber Torres, who has not had a great spring at the plate in his return from Tommy John surgery, but doesn't necessarily guarantee them anything, either.
"This doesn't affect Gleyber in any way - he's still trying to get back on track and competing for a job here, and if he doesn't win one, he'll go to Triple-A and keep working," Cashman said. "Tyler Wade's also having a tremendous camp too…we have some good things going on at camp, but at the same time, this is another choice for our manager, and I'm trying to give Aaron (Boone) and his staff as many weapons as possible as we look to compete."
One thing Cashman knows can't hurt Walker's case though, even if it didn't necessarily factor into the GM's decision, is Walker's experience in New York.
"He has played in this market, and we've had a chance to see him a bit," Cashman said, "but we've done a lot of recon on Neil Walker, and everything has come back positive. I know he's very well respected across the game, and I think he likes playing in New York and likes what he sees here. We think it's a welcome addition and we're deeper because of it, and hopefully it will benefit us all."