On Monday morning, it was reported that the Yankees signed infielder Neil Walker to a one-year, $5 million contract. Marc Carig of The Athletic reports that the Yankees were the only team to make Walker an offer this offseason. Presumably, Carig means a major league offer as the Royals offered Walker a minor league deal and he understandably turned it down.
That detail comes as quite a surprise. Walker is 32 years old and has battled injuries over the last two years, but he’s one of the better-hitting infielders around and provides a lot of versatility with the ability to play second base as well as first and third base. That no team felt it could use Walker enough to not even bother making an offer is mind-boggling.
Last season, between the Mets and Brewers, Walker hit .265/.362/.439 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 448 plate appearances. He missed about six weeks last summer dealing with a back injury. The Brewers, knowingly acquiring Walker with his back issue, enjoyed the .843 OPS he posted in 38 games between mid-August and the end of the season.
Everyone has been tiptoeing around the word “collusion” with all of the talk about labor issues over the last few months. This isn’t, by itself, evidence of collusion, but it sure is a red flag.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.
Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.
Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.
There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.