Pirates Open to Discussing an Extension With Neil Walker

Jon Morosi reports that Neal Huntington says the Pittsburgh Pirates are open to discussing an extension with second baseman Neil Walker.

I wrote last month that there is no need to extend Walker. The Pirates have him under team control for the next three seasons, and through his age 31 season. An extension signs him for ages 32 and beyond. He’s good offensively for a second baseman, ranking eighth of 26 second baseman with a .757 OPS, ninth with a 114 wRC+, and tenth with a .333 wOBA. However, his defense is below average, which makes him an average to above-average player at best at second.  That was all at the age of 27, which should be a prime year for Walker. There’s a good chance he could decline at age 32-33, especially when you consider his injury history that has already appeared at a younger age.

The only way a Walker extension would make sense is if it was a team-friendly extension made for cost certainty over the next three years. That might allow the Pirates to operate with more certainty when offering multi-year free agent deals to other players. But there’s no need to extend Walker, and he might not be needed beyond the 2015 season, with a possible Alen Hanson/Jordy Mercer middle infield ready to take over by mid-season 2015.

  • From a wins above replacement perspective, Walker’s best season was last year. True his batting average fell off, but his OPS stayed about the same and his fielding has been pretty consistent . Some of the batting average fall off I have to believe is from being moved around in the lineup.

    2011 – .273 AVE, .742 OPS, .992 FPCT, 2.3 WAR
    2012 – .280 AVE, .768 OPS, .985 FPCT, 2.5 WAR
    2013 – .251 AVE, .757 OPS, .989 FPCT, 3.9 WAR

    Something else. With Pittsburgh pitching focusing on keeping the ball on the ground, Walker’s total chances per game started led 2B in the majors last year (660 total chances / 125 games started = 5.28 chances per start).

    Agreed that the health of Walker is an issue, however, the Pirates paid how much for Clint Barmes to get average defensive play with little offense?

    • Barmes rated as the best defensive shortstop in the NL in each of the last two years.

      • Tim,

        Gold Glove at shortstop last year was Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) in the NL with .978 fielding percentage (Barmes was at .972). This year it was Andrelton Simmons (Braves) with a .981 fielding percentage. Troy Tulowitzki, Pete Kozma, and Jimmy Rollins all had higher fielding percentages this year than Simmons. Barmes finished with a .968 fielding percentage (non-qualified).

        Of the 10 qualifying short stops in the NL, only Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs) finished with a lower fielding percentage (.967) than Barmes.

    • FR: Agree with all that was stated about Neil Walker. I have stated the same argument and have also added Range Factor (RF) – for the record, Neil finished 7th in fielding percentage among the top 20+ second basemen in the majors, and 2nd overall in Range Factor. I am a simple man who thinks that if you field well and get to more than almost any other qualified second baseman, you are damn good defensively. But, the response I got was that Range Factor does not take defensive shifts into consideration? Maybe an asterisk should be attached to guys whose Managers employ defensive shifts? Sometimes, too much information can be just as crippling as too little information.

      I recommended signing Neil to a long term contract before the end of the 2012 season, and I am still good with that. When you see so many 2B getting paid big bucks for less performance, I wonder what the hold up is with the Pirates. I would recommend at least a contract through the first 2 years of Free Agency. This is a no brainer that needs to happen. We are already going to get hit for at least $4.5 mil in Arb this year – lock in the future costs with a good contract – say 5 years, $38 mil with a 6th year CO of $12 mil.

  • Don’t sell Walker short, he’s above average A fan favorite plus I doubt that it will be a Cano type deal.

  • Chris, I have to disagree with you on this one. I love walker. Great kid. Played against him in high school. But loyalty gets you know where in a competitive sport. It’s one thing with an all star like cutch. It’s another thing with an average 2nd baseman. You want to talk about loyalty. Look at the stadium across the street. The steelers are so “loyal” to their veterans that they give them massive contracts and now they have no cap space and over aged players that can’t compete at a high level anymore.

    There is no reason to extend walker. As Tim said, he can’t hit lefties. He is an average defender. I think it’s funny that Tim consistently goes with statistics that are proven to be effective in evaluating players but you want us to trust your seeing in the future predictions. I hope you are right that walker will bat .270-.290 with 20 homeruns for the next 3 years and if he does great cuz we still have him under control . Then after that he will decline. If not before. Walker is a good ball player but he is no where near a great athlete with great talent like the top players.

    • For his price and being a top 10 offensive 2nd basemen (some years higher) and being a good defender, He is not average. Yeah trust my eye because I have scouted players of all kinds for 7 years now. This is a team friendly kind of extension . Yes you can be loyal. especially that pays for his contract over and over again with his popularity. The fans he draws the jersey’s he sells. Anything you pay him he has brought in with his name. Average 2nd basemen do not do that

    • You sound like Tim’s agent whatever Tim says right?

      • Haha because I agree with Tim that means I’m his agent? Does that mean your Chris’s agent cause you agree with him? Your statements are all based off your opinions. That’s it. No facts. No statistics. It’s all based off what you think. I’ve scouted , played , and coached. Does that mean you should all take my word? If he is looking for a team friendly deal then yes I’m all for signing him. If he is looking for top dollar then no we don’t need to. Again pirates have 3 years to see how he does. Why does he need an extension? He just came off a bad year. He’s an average to below average second baseman. He can’t lefties at all. Again, I like Neil but just because he is a fan favorite doesn’t mean you have to keep him. People will still show up as long as they are winning. Doesn’t matter if walker is there or not. Again you don’t understand much if you are too busy saying we need to keep him because he will sell jerseys for the team

  • Tim,
    There’s no problem with healthy discussion and yes we can agree to disagree
    I respect you and amount of work you put in to report what the typical fan does not see, They Minor leagues mostly. There are reports out there that the Pirates have interest in Trumbo and/or Aybar. What kind of return would the Angles get back in a trade with Pittsburgh. Would this kind of trade covet a Polanco or Taillon. Would Hansen,Justin Wilson,and Nick Kingham get it done? too little? too much?

  • All I know is Neal Huntington has been one of the smartest GM’s in baseball the past few years. If they are open to discussing an extension with Walker the it’s the smart thing to do. Like I said Walker makes more money for the Pirates franchise than they would ever be willing to pay him.

  • Jordy Mercer is a solution long term at SS. 2nd maybe but He will never be the player Walker is. Next couple years Walker will hit closer to his 2010 -2012 numbers only more power is coming each year. Most of the Pirates people see Walker as a 270-290 hitter with 20 Hrs the next 3 or 4 years. Please trust me here. We haven’t seen the best of him yet

    • Mercer had better offensive numbers than Walker, and he played a harder defensive position.

      • No doubt Mercer had better offensive numbers. Walker also had more Ab’s. Also Compare Walkers first 500 Ab’s with Mercer’s. Walker hit like 296 his rookie year. in 400+ Ab’s Walker had a pretty big 2011 and 2012 until the back injury. I’ll assure you Jordy Mercer doesn’t have near the upside of Walker offensively

        • Why are the first 400 at-bats significant? Walker hasn’t done that since. Also, the injuries have been a constant problem for Walker, and it’s one big reason why I say he shouldn’t be extended. Those don’t go away after age 31.

  • This is a subject that irritates the heck out of me. One of the few things I disagree with Mr Williams on. Where do you get that Neil Walker is not a good defensive 2nd basemen? Neil is beginning to be regarded around the league as VERY GOOD. Top 6 or 7 defensive 2nd basemen in baseball. No joke . It’s gotten better every year. He’s been a gold glove candidate for crying out loud. You don’t get consideration if you are not good defensively ,unless you are a Yankee,Red sox or Cardinals player. That was in his first full year. His offense fell of a little this year yes but I look to his 3 previous years Top 7 or 8 in baseball. YOU SIGN NEIL WALKER because he is a loyal leader for the Pirates. He pays for himself over again because of who he is. It’s time to lock him up long term . He’s going to take a discount. I’m better you can get him for cheap at the back end of the contract. Age 28 -31 is a hitters prime no matter what people tell you not 26. Thanks

    • Here are the UZR/150 numbers for second basemen. Walker is 12th of 19 qualified fielders.


      If you want to look at defensive runs, he ranks 14th.


      So who are these anonymous people who regard Walker well defensively? I don’t care about the Gold Glove nomination. That’s often awarded based on offense.

      Also, even if his age 28-31 seasons are his prime, they’ve got him under control for those years. An extension signs him beyond those years, which is my point.

      • It’s called loyalty to the players who deserve it. He is a leader. I’ve been around the proffessional game my entire life and so have my uncles and grandfather I do not care about Bill James stats. He turns a DP as well as anyone. I do not want to be paying him tons of money when he’s 34 but I also do not want to ;insult the man who has been so loyal to the franchise and the community. From what I have heard Tim Walker only wants a little more than his arbitration was We may actually save money . If he goes off the next couple years he may come at a discount

        • There’s no room for loyalty in these situations. You’re talking about extending Walker into his years where players typically see a massive decline. Plus you’d be paying him a lot of money. He’s already injury prone and struggles against lefties. It would be a bad decision to bring him back at ages 32-33+ at a higher salary, all things considered. The only argument for extending him is that he’s from Pittsburgh, and fans really like him. But you can’t make baseball decisions based on that. You have to make them based on “Bill James stats”, or just stats in general.

          Keep in mind that the Red Sox have won three World Series titles since hiring Bill James and adopting his stats. I don’t know why people still trash him.

          • LMAO You can call those titles anyway you want it but i’m not giving credit to a guy who never laced up the cleats and competed on a professional level. I’ll give the credit to the players and the coached who played and coached a more efficient approach . I’m sure Boston’s payroll size has nothing to do with those championships. Billy Bean is doing an excellent job in Oakland but remind me how many titles he has won? Who is the last small market team to win the World Series? I agree teams are building a more efficient team but You cannot win on that alone. There is a whole lot that goes into winning and leadership and chemistry is a good part of it.

            • The statistical approach is all about putting the best players on the field. I’m not giving full credit to James, but Boston always had a top payroll. They only started winning championships when they went with the statistical approach.

              Your comments about James, and about the need to play the game tell me that we’re going to just agree to disagree on this one.

        • would you be defending him if he wasn’t from here

      • Since when is the gold Glove based on offense unless your name is Derek Jeter

        • Since always. Look at this year. Carlos Gonzalez won over Starling Marte, even though Marte was clearly the best left field defender in the league. Gonzalez even missed a lot of time, more than Marte missed.

          • I’ll agree with you on that one, But that falls into The same department as this years Yadi winning over Martin who was clearly better. It was a popularity contest , had nothing to do with offense. Anyways Walker wouldn’t become just a finalist for the award on his popularity or his offense He hit 12 Hrs that year and batted 273 or something. He was a finalist because in his first full professional season he was better than most . This is 2 years later and he’s even better. Walker could be signed through 2018

        • Since Tim Williams said it was….look up the micro-mini stats!!

      • I don’t place any stock in those numbers. they do a poor job of accurately calculating defensive contributions. How about fielding percentage, double plays turned…..just as arbitrary in my opinion

      • I think the issue is that you are using “qualified” well there are a ton of second baseman in the majors, you can’t compare neil vs. just the starters who’ve had enough innings, because they typically are already at the top of the heap. if there is 17 qualified, and he’s 11th for example, that doesn’t make him a below average second baseman if 13 of those 17 are above average…….think of it in terms of scouting grades instead of comparing them against eachother. He he a net PLUS or Minus at second base. If he’s a plus he’s above average, if he’s below, he’s below average

    • Well spoken..

  • NO! Extending Walker makes ZERO sense. They control him until he’s 32 years old already, and there’s no need to lock a guy up past his age 32 season if they’re just average like Walker. Plus, Walker is coming off the worst season of his career and is becoming injury prone. Just say no to extending Neil Walker!

    • Marty…I agree!

      • Plus, between Mercer and Hanson the Pirates have long term answers for 2B. One of which is already in the Majors, and the other only about a little over a year away.

    • M aybe just one additional year to give cost certainty and level out the arbitration years…..? no big issue there. Walker is not below average defensively, the advanced metrics are not good enough to make that statement Tim. I’d say he’s slightly above average