Would some like veteran utility man Neil Walker factor into the Marlins plans for the 2020 MLB season?
It doesn’t seem likely the Miami Marlins will consider keeping any of their potential free agents, but retaining a veteran who is set to leave South Florida may be beneficial to the continued development of the young roster.
Determining which player to extend an offer to might seem difficult. The obvious choice would be Starlin Castro, who led the team in home runs (22) and RBIs (86) this past season after catching fire in the second half of 2019. Castro’s contract becomes an issue, where are the Marlins don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money next season knowing it could only be a one-and-done situation.
Castro is set to make $16 million in 2020 but there is a $1 million buyout clause in his deal this offseason.
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Curtis Granderson still wants to play baseball, but more than likely that won’t be in Miami. The veteran outfielder has served his younger teammates well in helping them develop as professionals. Granderson did provide some power last season (12 home runs), but his batting average was below .200, which makes it difficult for the team to offer him a new deal.
Martin Prado would be the overwhelming choice by Marlins fans to return to the organization as a utility player next year, but his 10 year with the team is more than likely finished. Like we’ve talked about before, the only way I see the soon to be 36-year-old remaining in Miami is part of the coaching staff or a member of the organization in some capacity.
That leaves Neil Walker as a potential candidate to remain with the Marlins.
Like Granderson, Walker signed a one-year free-agent deal this past off-season. Walker’s versatility, with his ability to play third base, second base, first base and in the outfield makes re-signing him a better option than the others mentioned. Walkers 2019 campaign wasn’t without time on the I L. For the season, he hit 261 with eight home runs and 38 RBI. That may not have been the type of production the front office was looking for, but in a utility role, it was still enough to potentially give the team pause in deciding whether not to bring him back.
The Marlins will have a decision to make to determine whether they want to open the vault and bring in a high-priced veteran first baseman or keep the nucleus of players they have currently to work with. If everything works and remains status quo, Garrett Cooper would be the team’s starting first baseman, and if Walker were 10, he would serve as the primary back up given Cooper’s injury history.
Cooper slugger 15 home runs in a shortened season and has the potential to reach 25 or 30 dingers if he remained in the lineup.
Walker has gone on record stating that he wants to remain in South Florida and serve as a mentor to younger players who are cornerstones of a developing franchise. Brian Anderson would certainly benefit from Walker remaining with the team as he can play third base and has spent plenty of time in right field.
Isan Diaz, the team’s second baseman of the future and a potential power source, is somebody that Walker singled out prior to the end of 2019 as a player he would like to work with and help develop as a major leaguer.
The good thing about potentially retaining Walker’s services is that it should be cost-effective for the front office, where as much as $45 million comes off the payroll for next season. Walker’s deal was $2 million for 2019. He could possibly take the same kind of deal or slightly more which is a low-risk, high-reward benefit if the Marlins can add young bats to the 26-man roster.