The Phillies added another player Wednesday to the competition for the final spots on their roster by signing veteran infielder Neil Walker to a minor-league contract.
Walker, 34, hit .261 last season with a .738 OPS in 381 plate appearances with the Marlins, pulling himself up after a rough 2018 with the Yankees.
Walker started half of Miami’s games last season and has played five positions — first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field — over the past two years. His versatility and his success last season coming off the bench (11 for 34 in 33 games used as a substitute) will give Walker a chance to win a job.
The Phillies will carry five bench players, with jobs seemingly ticketed for outfielders Roman Quinn and Jay Bruce and a backup catcher, likely Andrew Knapp. Walker will join Nick Williams; Nick Martini, who was claimed off waivers earlier this month but can be optioned to triple A; and a cast of veterans on minor-league deals in the race for the final two spots.
The team began the offseason by signing two-time All-Star Josh Harrison, who was Walker’s teammate in Pittsburgh, to a minor-league deal. The Phils then invited Phil Gosselin, Matt Szczur, Mikie Mahtook, and Ronald Torreyes to spring training on similar pacts.
Walker and Harrison could be considered favorites as camp nears. They can bounce around the infield and play occasionally in the outfield if needed. It’s also hard to beat their experience. Walker and Harrison have played 20 major-league seasons combined and have been to the postseason. They’ll need to prove this spring that they can still contribute.
Harrison had a .759 OPS from 2014 to 2017 but combined for just a .606 OPS over the last two seasons. Walker won a Silver Slugger in 2014 and had a .795 OPS from 2014 to 2017, but his OPS dropped to .700 over the last two seasons.