Pirates Have Had Discussions on an Extension For Neil Walker

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.

  • Led all major league second basemen in slugging percentage in 2014 and was in the top 10 in a few other offensive categories and is a switch-hitter. He has some value. He’s not fast but is a smart base runner and doesn’t have a ton of range but is fundamentally sound defensively. Not the worse guy to have play second for you.

    • Actually, Harrison led all 2B, 3B, and SS in slugging, batting average, and OPS last year. It’s just that Harrison did not have enough AB’s at any one position to nab a Silver Slugger award.

      1. Stanton (OF) – .555
      2. McCutchen (OF) – .542
      3. Rizzo (1B) – .527
      4. Kemp (OF) – .506
      5. Morneau (1B) – .496
      6. Upton (OF) – .490
      7. Harrison (2B, 3B, SS, OF) – .490

      Batting Average:
      1. Morneau (1B) – .319
      2. Harrison (2B,3B, SS, OF) – .315

      1. McCutchen (OF) – .952
      2. Stanton (OF) – .950
      3. Rizzo (1B) – .913
      4. Puig (OF) – .863
      5. Morneau (1B) – .860
      6. Posey (C, 1B) – .854
      7. Kemp (OF) – .852
      8. Werth (OF) – .849
      9. Freeman (1B) – .847
      10. Lucroy (C) – .837
      11. Harrison (2B, 3B, SS, OF) – .837

      • If he didn’t have enough at bats then he didn’t actually lead all second basemen. He started at 2nd 13 games.

    • Actually, Walker had very poor defense overall last year. Multiple guys who run numbers for teams displayed how far Walker fell off on defense, and it was shocking. Walker has solid offense for 2B and is valuable as a switch hitter. But he isnt without issues. Last year was the first year he showed decent numbers against LHP, so questions remain as to how useful he will be going forward in that role. Last year was his first year at over 16, i believe, HRs. That power is good for 2B but moving him to 1B and seeing im regress to 15-20 HRs give him average power for his spot. As it is, he provides top 3 level offense at 2B with below average defense that needs to see improvement. If his power is legit from last year, he is a better 1Bmen than 2Bmen for the team.

      • Oh, sorry Lukas. I didn’t realize Walker was so useless for the team. Maybe they they should trade him for a new utility vehicle to drive around the stadium, lol.

        • Where in the wide world of sports did you read me say he was useless? Pointing out a players faults isnt anything more than realizing every play has negatives. Walker is very valuable, which doesnt stop him from having problems to his overall game. There can be gray area in life…

      • That’s a good summary of the situation, Lukas. The defense is clearly an issue at 2B, to the point that it would not surprise me to see someone else starting there at the beginning of the year, since this front office values defense.

        • The defense is not clearly an issue. He makes the plays he is supposed to make and that is what any manager will tell you they want, relying on stats “only” to tell the defensive quality of a player is the wrong way to go. Who on this roster or in this system is going to replace Walker defensively?

        • I dont think they are moving Walker this year. Shifts allow them to hide his defense to a certain degree, and they likely see giving him another year to rebound defensively as a better option that moving the entire infield around. Moving Walker would almost certainly mean Harrison at 2B, and at this point likely make Pedro a 3Bmen again. Doubtful they want to move Walker due to defense and have him play 3B. If his power returns to career levels, his value also takes a hit at a corner IF spot.

  • I wish they would have just added one year after free agency last year or the year before like so many wanted. 3 more years of Neil sounds about right.

  • People keep bringing up Hansen as a replacement. Let’s see him actually play like a top prospect and show some consistency with his play and attitude first

  • Pirates in on Antonio Bastardo. I stI’ll think this teams needs one more SP. Whether it’s Volquez or this year’s reclamation project. I am fine with Morton or Worley or Locke at 5 but that leaves a 3 or 4 spot open. Especially if you want to match this improving division.

  • I saw a rumor snider to orioles for Brian Matusz

  • Give him a front end loaded contract .2015 season through the 2018 season then pay him like a utility player for the last few years. He deserves an extension before we go to the year by year signing

  • Last I looked, Walker wasn’t going to Piratesfest, and I found that interesting.

    If the FA years salary were tied to games played, then go for it.

    • Walker and some other guys are at Snider’s wedding in Seattle this weekend.

      • I resent how informed you are sir.

        • Nah. That was public info a few weeks ago. I’m guessing Snider had the wedding planned first. And you don’t move a wedding date for work if you want to maintain marital bliss.

          My issue isn’t being too informed. It’s being too underemployed at the moment 🙂

      • I’m more the Willie ‘Mays’ Hayes of the Pirate threads… My opinions may be unhinged , so long as my wit and mature writing voice comes thru , I am satisfied.

  • There is a point in extending him now. The sooner they show him they want to keep him the more chance we have of keeping him. He probably pays for half his salary with his name alone. I’m not usually into making emotional decisions but he means a lot to the city aND to the organiation. Not to mention he is a silver slugger award winner and he could move to 1st or 3rd if need be. He will demand a lot because of production but I guarantee he doesn’t bleed them for every thing he could get on the open market.it would be at some sort of a discount. It would be hard to find the same production elsewhere for the same production. He brings in a lot of fans and money. Sign him before its too late

    • I would require he move a personal trainer in w him. Maybe he hurts his back so often cus he looks like me.
      I hurt my back alot. I am fat.

  • See , we are like gold fish to them… They threw a few flakes into our little fishbowl and we forgot what we were thinking to chase the fish food.

    • C. Feb I am amazed at the comments portraying us a a big market team paying free agent market prices because we signed one player to market value. Liriano gets singed and now money is being thrown all over the place. Pinch me am I dead!!!!!

      • LOL ! I realize the sour grapes tone…

        Just tell us we can’t spend it… It’s the misinformation that frustrates me.

        • We still have to be smart and spend money wisely. And I trust that Neal and Co. Will do just that. Going crazy on a Walker extension anything beyond 3 years just isn’t going to happen

          • I agree. Isn’t happening. Shouldn’t happen. And thats not to say Neil won’t play his entire career at PNC or that you and I wouldn’t love that..

            My point is , it is irrelevant . They are distracting us from the irony of the cost of Eddy , for example , would put us roughly in the ballpark of our limit… They inflated the max payroll beyond truth and now have to back track..

            • So you are saying you want them to reach their max payroll by Opening Day? You find a wise strategy is to spend all your usable money by the start? Because the team saying they can spend 95 million doesnt mean they want to do it before games matter.

  • Don’t take this the wrong way but why do we keep wanting to have a long term relationship with players who can’t win a World Series. I love Walker, Liriano, JHay and all the gang, but once, I would like the signing about a player whom we have that won’t decline, continue to get injured, retire or need a position change. I realize small market baseball is what it is but I want to open this link one day and read “Pirates reach long term deal with what seems to be a real upgrade to help win it all.”

    • This team can absolutely win a world series with what we have in the upper levels of this organization . The pitching is either here or within a year away and the few holes we have there are pretty sure answers to.

    • Followed the next year by “long term deal player has surgery, team loses (insert great young player hitting FA) to Red Sox.” One bad long term big payroll contract and the team is saddled with a bad deal that makes it tough to make the whole roster division winners. For smaller market teams, 1 player isnt the whole game. David Price is a stud, but is also an overpaid stud.

    • Travis Ishikawa has two rings.

      Getting to the playoffs is what matters. After that it’s mostly a crapshoot. In no known universe were KC and SF the best two teams on paper last year. In fact, SF wasn’t the best team in any of the three seasons they won the WS. They just played better in October than anyone else.

      The one thing that was noticeable about this year’s WS team – other than Ish looking a bit silly in LF and almost blowing one game late, SF was operating at an extremely high level fundamentally. No mental mistakes. Opportunistic. Designed plays worked like they were supposed to.

      IMO, Bucs have the bodies. The heads still need some work.

  • I have no worries of them actually extending Neil Walker anymore than I think they are splurging $6m on a relief arm… I don’t believe any of it.

    I appreciate smoke screens for the benefit of other clubs or agents but all this fast talking really kicked up a notch with talk of whatever budget remains. The 2015 budget can be independent of extension talk from ’16 thru ’19… Extending Walker or Harrison or anyone else has nothing to do w 2015 competitiveness…

    I don’t say spend to spend, but $6 or $8mill could surely be invested wisely now to ensure present day success. Win and the funds to extend will be available.

    • If the real budget threshold is $88m or whatever the case… Just be straight w us. I would rather accept we spent all we can , than wonder how we are the only MLB club that had more budget available than we needed , so we gave $8m back to the owner.. Adding more major league talent would be overkill , Mr Nutting,, Here’s $8m back for the rainy day cookie jar. Thanks anyway.

    • Well supposedly we were minutes away from inking Neshek when the strop nabbed him which I think will be a blessing

      • Could’t agree more. So much misinformation out there.. Neshek was real close w the Buc’s according to Neshek’s camp… The Astro’s bought it too.

        • So anything the media says that doesnt come with a signed contract is all smoke? Isnt that a bit dull of a person to think? We act like all teams should be 100% truthful with what they can spend, how they can spend it, and when they want to spend it but then scoff at notions of them “almost” signing someone as if its clearly all lies. When they miss on a player, that money isnt pocketed by Nutting. Its not an accident that we have a fantastic Latin America ties and programs. Money is put into that, which has and continues to help the ML team. This offseason should honestly stifle any of the talk about the team being cheap or not true to their word. A week ago, they said they plan on being above 90 million this season at some point. Current payroll estimates have us at 85ish, so adding a bench bat+allowing for in season payroll increases shows they were being honest. They said they would spend to get pitching, they did. I was ready to get mad if they didnt upgrade, but this FO had a fantastic offseason in addressing needs.

          • I appreciate how they do business. I understand misinformation as a tool in every aspect of the market. It would be ‘dull ‘ to take it all on its face. I am sharp enough to know that extending Neil Walker has nothing to do with” 2015 opening day payroll”.

            Where do ya live Lukas ? Love to buy ya lunch and talk over all this stuff over a steak.

  • All of this moving to first or third base stuff is purely speculation. If he moves to first he would likely be a league average hitter there at best, I don’t see that as something warranting an extension. A move to third is more possible, but I still feel any extension talks should be looked at from the angle of Walker as a second baseman, and with that being the case I think his skills and durability are on a decline to the level where an extension doesn’t make sense at this point. This upcoming year we will see if he can stay healthy and how Hanson handles the upper levels. I say re-visit this then.

    • He’s going to hit better than James Loney wherever he plays.

      I still can’t believe people here were lining up to sign Loney last year.

      • Well if Walker played first base last year he would have only been about a 2 win player, and thats in a career year. Normally, at first base, they would have similar value. Loney hitting for higher average and Walker slugging more.

        • Loney has only been above 2 once (2.7) and at 2 one other time. He was 0.9 in 2014, so Walker would’ve been at least a win better for a bit less money.

          Walker would project to be a slightly above league average 1b. The Bucs haven’t had one of those since LaRoche other than one GI Jones season.

          Anyway, no extension is necessary.

          • And some people on here throwing numbers around such as 5 years, 60 million dollars would be overpaying for a 2 win player is my point. Basically, his bat doesn’t play there and by the time hes eligible for free agency either Bell or Allie will be able to play for next to nothing.

            • Understood. But keep in mind some of the same people who are saying Neil’s bat can’t play at 1b were the same ones talking up Loney. That’s all I was going for with that point.

      • Man , you got that right.. He is a poor man’s Garrett Jones for triple the money….
        Maybe not quite but It baffled me that we totally washed our hands of a guy who was a fan fav , a part of the core that helped turn us around and comparable numbers to Loney , and we would not have had to committed multiple years to G.I. either… The grass is always greener , I guess…

  • William Wallace
    December 10, 2014 4:49 pm

    No please say this is not true.

  • A below market value extension for Walker is a great idea and there is reason to think it could happen. First, you get the hometown discount concept, and second, Walker is undervalued in the mainstream sense of contract values (he doesn’t hit a ton of hr or have a bunch of AS game appearnces). Walker has become a steady 3 win 2b about to play his age 29 season. With the crazy market inflation this winter (approaching $7.5 million per win), waiting to sign him could cost well north of $15 million a year. Walker has outproduced Sandoval in WAR over the last 3 years and he just got a massive deal. Buying out his age 31-33 seasons now at a price range around $12 million is very smart move. If they do not, Walker will be gone in 2 years. You give him a 5 year $60 million extension and you are buying maybe 8-9 wins. Walker should easily live up to that contract even if you start his decline at 31 (3,3,2.5,2,1.5= 12 wins of value).

    • One point I wanted to stress more. Tim’s idea of waiting to see and signing Walker after 2016 is incredibly unlikely to be an option. Neil very likely will command a contract in the $80-90 million range at that point.

      • Teams don’t really get free agent years at discount rates when a player is entering 3rd and 4th arbitration years, you get discounts when you sign Marte and McCutchen because they were signed with 1 year 70 days and 1 year 123 days of service time. Walker’s is going to get at least $12 million next year in arbitration and has little to no incentive to sell his free agent years at a discount at this point.

        • I know that, but in Walker’s case there is reason to think he would give us a break. Kendrick only got 4/$33 million, so 5 year $60 is not out of the ballpark.

          • 5 for 60 is outrages. 3 for 33 would be max

            • $15 million per year is far from outrageous for a 3 WAR player. At the current market rate, Walker is producing $20 million a year in value. That said, however, it remains to be seen how long he can sustain his level of production. If you figure a regression of 0.5 WAR per year after age 30, then I doubt a 5 year contract extension would work out well for the Bucs. But 3 years for $45 million seems to make sense.

              • Again you are speaking about market rate. We do not need to pay market rate for Walkers free agent years

          • Walker is likely to make $20 million in arbitration the next two years. I think it would be a little cheap to ask him to sell three free agent years at $13.3 million and $8.5 or whatever Kendrick got would be a non-starter but what do I know.

            That said I really don’t get the rush to extend Walker, these extension close to free agency usually don’t end well.

        • Well other than to stay with his hometown team and to keep it at a discount to fee up resources to use to build a championship team. Believe it or not some players still care about winning over money

          • Certainly possible, but at some point it is almost taking advantage of the player.

          • Love the sentiment, but no they dont. What you mean to say is some players are willing to take slightly less at times to help a team. No player takes a serious discount unless he has question marks in his game. We got Cutch at a huge discount not because he didnt want 30 million more, but because he hasnt shown MVP talent until the year after. Almost no player in sports gives up over 6 million dollars easily. The MLBPA would even pressure any player into not doing that. Slight discounts are always doable, but i dont see NW passing on millions that his family can depend on.

          • Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel
            December 11, 2014 8:08 am

            the Pirates will do what’s best for the Pirates.so I can’t blame Neil if he does what’s best for him.

    • Also, assuming Hanson is your future 2B is no reason to devalue a strong current asset. An affordable extension makes Neil more valuable. His bat would also play at 3B these days as 2B and 3B hit almost the same right now.

      • That’s also assuming hanson will even be around, he has been dangled as trade bait before, most recently for d.price. not saying he will or won’t be traded it’s just a possibility. ( can say the same for any player)

    • No way would I do that deal. His decline will probably begin around the age of 32. So you would be paying a premium for 2 or 3 years of declining performance. Spend the resources elsewhere and just let him play out his arbitration years.

  • If the extension talk was for more than 1 FA year I don’t think it should be entertained by the FO. Buy out that 1 year and see where he is with health and production then. He will be 32 then and the Pirates likely would have controlled his best years by then. Age and injury will probably make him a candidate for a steep decline in and beyond his age 32 season.

    Now if they were to move him to 3b where his back may not take the same beating, I could see them adding an extra year or 2, up to his age 34 season. That then makes you wonder what they would do with Harrison, specifically once Hanson is ready to go.

  • If he wasn’t local I would say J Hay could play 2nd cheaper. Trade Walker to fill 3B or 1B. However he is local and I think the best move is waiting until mid season to extend him.

    • I would offer him a 3 year contract buying out one free agent year with a 4th year option. If he says no I would then tell him to hit the bricks!!!

  • I could see it being reasonable if they envision him playing 1B after Pedro. But then what if Josh Bell develops into the 1B slugger he’s capable of becoming? Tough decision.

    • Ben wins the prize.

      This is the only way the Pirates extend Walker. He’d make a fine first baseman and his bat seems to be aging nicely.

      This is simply the Pirates lining up a long range plan that fits with the fewest moving parts. And I, for one, think it is a good idea at this time. I remember when Pops moved to first from left. Not saying they are the same, but I think PRNW would make a good 1b.
      “2B or not 2B? That is the question!”

      • I don’t want him as a first baseman. I would do the deal if he could handle 3rd base but no way would I play him at 1st base

        • Lol why?1st is a much easier position. 20-25 hrs from a corner spot is darn good.he gives us options being a switch hitter as well

          • He has had one season of hitting more than 16 home runs. What makes you think that power is sustainable, and not an outlier?

      • That is all assuming his increase in power can be sustained over time. If the power dips back into 15-20 territory, he provides good not great value at 1B and still has the injury issues.

  • This is one of the hardest decisions. I really like Walker a lot but I would have a hard time giving a long extension to someone who has missed significant time over the lat three years because of a bad back. With that said it might not be a bad idea to but out his arbitration years for cost certainty and see where his market is at that time.

  • This should be an interesting comment section.

    • I’m ready to get my ass beat. Let’s go. I am already in the fetal position , covering my face.

    • Love your profile pic, btw. Ah , Sid Thrift. Thanks for the memories.

      • If I wasn’t 10 at the time they traded the great Tony Pena I am sure I would say Sid Thrift is a madman ! Who are these bums ! ? (Lavalliere , Dunne , Van Slyke)