The Pittsburgh Pirates have had discussions on an extension for second baseman Neil Walker, according to Bill Brink at the Post-Gazette. Brink says that the discussions are preliminary, and nothing is close at the time. He also offered up that Howie Kendrick’s four-year, $33.5 M deal is a reasonable comparison, but that a rival executive thinks Walker could get more than Kendrick.
Walker is currently under team control for two more seasons. He’s arbitration eligible this off-season, and is projected to make $8.6 M. I’d agree with the rival executive that he’d probably get more than Kendrick, since he projects to make close to $20 M in his final two arbitration years. Kendrick’s price would mean his first two free agent years could be had for about $7 M each.
The topic of extending Walker comes up every off-season. I don’t think it’s a move the Pirates should make right now. They’ve got him under control for two more seasons, and they aren’t getting much of a discount on any free agent years if they extend him now. They can go year-to-year with him, and then try to re-sign him after the 2016 season if they still need a second baseman. That might not even be the case, since Alen Hanson could take over before then.
Another issue with extending Walker and guaranteeing his salary would be his injury issues. He has had back issues, which don’t go away with age. He hasn’t missed a ton of time with the injuries so far, usually resulting in short trips to the disabled list. However, an extension talks about buying control of his age 31 season and beyond, and at a high price. He’s already an injury risk now, and could be even more of an injury risk as he hits the other side of 30.
This isn’t saying that Walker has no value to the Pirates, or that they should get rid of him. It’s just saying that there is no point to an extension now, since they still have him for two years, and can re-visit an extension when he’s closer to free agency and they have a better idea of their second base situation in the future, and his health going forward.