2015 Second Base Recap: Neil Walker’s Days in Pittsburgh Seem Numbered

If Neil Walker was born in Bradenton, or Kansas, or California, or anywhere outside of the Pittsburgh area, then this off-season might have a different tone. Walker is a good player, but not a great player. He’s a great guy, and very insightful, which combined with the fact that he’s from Pittsburgh is why news cameras crowd him after every game at PNC Park, regardless of whether he had an impact in that game. He’s portrayed as a guy who is a core member of the team, and someone who should be extended, rather than upgraded over.

The reality here is that Walker ranks about middle of the pack when it comes to second basemen. He had a 2.4 WAR this year, which was tied for tenth (with former Pirates prospect Brock Holt) out of 20 qualified second basemen. Last year looked to be a career year, when he put up a 3.7 WAR after a huge season at the plate, but every other season has been him around the 2.6-2.7 WAR mark.

This year, Walker hit for a .269/.328/.427 line, which isn’t far off his career total of .272/.338/.431. He also struggled against left-handers, posting a .575 OPS, and those struggles were worse than his career numbers, which were already at a low .656 OPS. They resulted in Walker being platooned by the end of the season.

Defensively, Walker also struggled. He put up a -8.8 UZR/150, which was almost the same as his 2014 results, and slightly down from his -6.4 UZR/150 in his career. Out of 29 second basemen with 600+ innings, Walker ranked 28th in UZR/150 and 20th in Defensive Runs Saved.

The summary is that Walker is a poor defender, poor against left-handed pitching, but great against right-handers, which is enough to put him middle of the pack in the majors at second base.

The Future

Heading into the off-season, Walker is projected to make $10.7 M in his final year of arbitration. That seems like a high price to pay when you look at his strengths and weaknesses, but it’s about what you’d expect him to make on the open market, and it’s about what the Pirates would expect to pay for any replacement to put up similar numbers. There aren’t many good replacements expected to hit the open market, and the best ones would cost the same as Walker, and put up similar production.

The trade market could be an option to try and find a sleeper, similar to what the Pirates did last year when they added Francisco Cervelli to replace Russell Martin. However, it might be more difficult to find a sleeper at second base, especially since you don’t have pitch framing, blocking, and other defensive skills that are still a bit under-rated like you do at catcher.

The Pirates do have two second base prospects in the upper levels. The top prospect is Alen Hanson, who spent the entire season in Indianapolis. Hanson was a shortstop up until this season, when he made the switch to second base and showed much better defense. He’s got a good bat, with the potential to hit for average, hit for some power, and provide speed on the bases.

Hanson’s numbers struggled a bit this year due to consistency problems. He started off slow with a .549 OPS in April, which has kind of become a trend the last few seasons. He was great in May, but was up and down the rest of the year, finishing with a .566 OPS from August through the end of the season. The defensive improvements were a great sign, but the offense needs to be more consistent before Hanson can be relied upon as a starter in the majors. Hanson has also struggled against left-handers, which means the Pirates could be in store for another platoon situation in the future if that problem isn’t solved.

Max Moroff had a breakout season in Altoona, and could have propelled himself into the mix at second base. One interesting thing here is that Moroff did well against left-handers, and didn’t have much of a platoon split, meaning he could be an everyday option. However, Hanson has shown more power than Moroff, and much better speed and efficiency on the bases.

The Pirates were prepping both players at other positions this year. They’re both former shortstops that moved to second due to defensive issues, but both received time at the old position this year. They also both got time at third base. This is a common approach in the Pirates’ system. Sometimes it leads to a super utility role, like we saw with Josh Harrison. Sometimes it leads to a player settling in at one position, like we saw with Jordy Mercer, and even Neil Walker. With the need for a long-term second baseman, the odds are better that Hanson and/or Moroff end up at the spot, although they could both break into the majors as utility players.

With no immediate option at the start of the 2016 season, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Pirates to keep Walker. That said, with two options that could be ready by the middle of the season, they might want to go with an unconventional approach. Looking at the available free agents, there are a few guys who provide the same value as Walker, but can play other positions. Ben Zobrist is one of those players, although he’s 35 years old. Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy, and Howie Kendrick are players that are closer to age 30 who can play second base, provide about 2-2.5 WAR, and can play other positions.

All of these players cost less in 2015 than Walker’s projected 2016 salary. If the Pirates signed one of these players, they could start them at second base at the beginning of the year, and use them in a utility role in the second half if Hanson or Moroff are ready to take over. Or, they could shift to a utility role if Josh Harrison is available to move over to second base, which would come when Jung-ho Kang is healthy again (Harrison could also fill that utility role).

Walker wouldn’t be a great option for this type of role, as his range is poor and his defense wouldn’t be better on the left side of the infield, or the outfield. There’s always the suggestion to move him to first base, but that suggestion usually just assumes he will be strong defensively at the position. This ignores the fact that he’s played just seven minor league games at first base, all of which came in 2010. As noted above, he’s a poor defender and a platoon player.

That leaves Walker as a platoon option who would be making the transition to first base, all while getting paid around $10.7 M for his second base production. He has a career .803 OPS against right-handers, while Pedro Alvarez is at .794 and Michael Morse is at .787 (with an .808 OPS against right-handers). That small extra production, and the uncertainty of his defense at first base, wouldn’t be worth the price he’s set to receive.

If the Pirates do keep Walker, it should only be for second base, and only for the 2016 season until a replacement is ready. But it might be better to go with one of the potential utility guys on the open market for the same price, as that provides better flexibility in the second half, which could lead to a much stronger bench, and the same value at second base that Walker would have brought.

  • I’m not buying the “Walker shouldn’t move to 1b” argument from either Tim or NH. My simplistic view of this is that PRNW and Daniel Murphy are essentially the same player. Their offensive stats are remarkably similar. They’re paid the same. Neither has good range at 2b but they’re both athletes in their early 30s who’ve played multiple positions (not to mention football). And Mets fans want Murphy gone in favor of the prospect because of the perception his defense is declining (although he was slightly positive this year). You could literally compare articles on the two and switch their names/teams and they’d read the same.

    The difference being the Mets are fine with Murphy as a platoon 1b, and as we just witnessed, he actually shows up in the post-season. I don’t get why we couldn’t expect the same from Walker.

  • Oh man ! The yinzer’s screaming, crying and crocodile tears would be almost too much to take. And Bob Pompeani, along with Mark Maddon, Colin Dunlap and others probably would be hysterical.

    • While driving this morning I heard Neal Huntington on 93.7 with Cook and Andrew Fillipponi live. It was an amazingly candid Q+A for 10 minutes. Some of the highlights:
      1. “Morse gave us a productive two months.” He will cost the Bucs $5M next year.
      2. Not inclined to force Walker to switch to first, “not fair to him in his free agent year.”
      3.Kang recovery on track. He has “earned a starting position” but not sure if May or June will be return date. Governed by baseball shape.
      4. “10% or 8% of payroll for a closer would be unusual, but Melancon has to be discussed” because he is so outstanding and NH doesn’t want to lose shutdown tandem.
      5. Happ’s performance raised his profile and of course the Pirates are interested. Even with the three AAA prospects poised , NH said they will seeking a veteran starter.
      6. He doesn’t see a way to get rid of the wild card because the division winner would sit too long waiting for a three game playoff. TV loves the wild card as well. Thinks reseeding should occur.
      Alvarez was not mentioned. There was the talk about three best teams in baseball in the same division and a need to review what could have been done to start better and play better in the division. I had the impression that the topics were shared in advance because the questions were so direct and the answers were immediate and complete. If you can find it check it out.

  • Alvarez and Walker create an interesting dilemma. I say if they can get mlb-ready quality for them, trade them. If not, eat the salary for a year and then move on. Releasing either is a big risk, releasing both would virtually guarantee a lost season – as we would lose about 40% of our power.
    1B – I agree with Tim that Morse is intriguing and Bell has talent. But what if Morse has started his slide and Bell just can’t play first. (Two very realistic possibilities.) We would, once again be left with a void at first. Platoon Alvarez/Morse and leave it until Bell forces his way into the lineup.
    2B – You can’t count on Harrison being a regular based on last year. Mercer’s hitting has gone downhill for two straight years. Kang may not return to “normal” next year. Hanson has not matured. And Frazier and Moroff aren’t ready. I think the best bet is to keep Walker, Mercer, and Harrison and get a free agent. And again, let one of the minor leaguers push their way up.

  • Walker is so strong from the left side and weak from the right. Why doesn’t he just become a left-handed hitter? Does he know for certain that he’ll be worse against lefties from the left side? Isn’t it worth a shot?

  • Most of the positions are taken or will be taken in the very near future by prospects they won’t block because they are going to be cheap young players that need to move on with their development. Catcher Cervelli/Diaz 1stbase- Walker? Alvarez?Morse? until Bell. 2nd base- Walker,Harrison,Hansen 3rd-base Kang,Harrison SS-Mercer LF Marte CF McCutchen RF-Polanco So what position can we go out and upgrade for the long term that would improve our offense without neglecting defense. The answer: Shortstop. The only position we can really go out and make a deal for that would make sense. Not an easy position to upgrade but I think this is the direction to go. offense seems to be the way to go to win in October now days. Higher scoring games. finding ways to beat the aces by constantly keeping pressure on him. We didn’t win this division this year because the offense (plus Morton and Locke)

    • I very much agree SS can be upgraded, but your best bet is probably seeing how fast Kevin Newman can get through the system unless we’re talking about trading a heck of a lot more than Alvarez, Walker, and Melancon.

      • We need to do what we can do NOW. The Cubs are going to be a threat to start a dynasty. That’s how loaded they are and after the success they are having this year they will be spending a boat load on pitching this winter. We could be patient when it was only STL to worry about but now the Cubs are starting to close our window

    • Gee – I don’t know – there is a free agent outfielder who would fit right into right field and would cost something a team with a $120M budget could afford – and make the outfield much better defensively. That would free up a young prospect to be flipped for you shortstop upgrade of a solid arm for the rotation

      • why in gods name would you replace Polanco now. Polanco was an above average defender in RF in his first full year. He was 2nd in the league in OF assists behind Marte and he will only get better. His bat came around in the 2nd half this kid is about to become a star.

  • Nice piece, Tim. I agree he should stay at 2B or not at all. I would prefer to see him dealt.

    I’m sure I’ll get shredded for this for one reason or another, but here goes anyway. I recall Walker for Strasburg rumors/suggestions and I think that makes a lot of sense. Their year-to-year WAR is almost identical. They both have one year of arbitration left, and both will make about $10.5M this year. WAS doesn’t have a 2B (Rendon moving to 3B) unless they go with Trea Turner. They have a lot of good SP though they have ZImmerman and Fister as FAs this year.

    How about taking it a step further: Walker and Melancon for Strasburg and Turner.

    Would love to know what folks think Melancon’s trade value would be. Only comp I can think of in recent memory is Kimbrel, who got SD’s #1 prospect in return.

    • LOL Melancon and Walker for Strausburg and Turner You would have to break into the Nat’s GM’s house and hold a gun to his head while he was on the phone with Neil Huntington t get that deal done. Your talking about a very highly regarded ace and one of the top SS prospects in baseball

      • I will grant you that the perception is very different for Walker and Strasburg. Maybe that would make this impossible, but let me give you some data. These are the WAR for each player over the last four years:
        A: 3.0, 3.1, 3.5, 2.0
        B: 2.5, 3.9, 3.5, 2.3

        Can you guess which one is Walker and which is Strasburg?

      • I am SMFH on that one. It might even take another hostage Chris. Only a ” little ” unrealistic maybe ?

  • I think the answer at 2nd base for now is pretty obvious. You just gave Harrison a multi year deal and Jung Ho Kang has proven he can hit ML pitching. Once Kang is healthy Harrison becomes your every day 2nd basemen. You can’t count on Hansen this year if ever. He hasn’t really shown us anything offensively with any consistency. I’m torn on Walker. I think you go into spring training with the plan of transitioning Neil Walker into a 1st Basemen meanwhile keeping him sharp as possible at 2B. Start the year with Walker at 2nd and Harrison at 3rd until Kang is healthy. If Pedro is gone you go with Morse at 1st. I saw some very good things from Morse late in the season Especially being the only one with a clue on how to to approach Jake Arrieta (by the way…. why is it that the Cardinals a worse hitting team than the Bucs can find the right approach to at least score a couple off Arrieta? why? Because of the approach. Look at Morse’s single off him in the WC game compared to the rest of his teammates. This seems to be an issue with this team. Instincts).I can guarantee you Walker could make this position transition. He’s done it before with much harder positions to learn. Also, if you look at Walker’s career numbers He is is due for a big offensive year. It’s a trend with Neil. Good year ,ok year, Better year , ok year best year ,ok year I would bet on a .275 season with 20+ Hrs in 2016 Either way you slice it all 8 positions are basically already filled with last years players so i ask, Where is the upgrade offensively? This offense wasn’t good enough in 2016.

    • I don’t think you see an upgrade on offense, Chris. Almost certainly not if both Walker and Alvarez are gone.

      The improvement will have to come from preventing runs, not scoring them. Better pitching and defense.

      • I don’t think pitching is going to get better- its going to have to be on defense and better base running (getting more juice out of the orange)

    • If you couldn’t see the difference in how Arrieta was pitching against the Pirates in the WC game and the Cardinals in his next start, I don’t know what to tell you.

    • Sounds like you have a “hometown kid bias” I don’t think his offense plays well at 1st, not to mention, assuming he can handle the transition defensively at 1st base without any growing pains. Then, you have to look at what he does in the playoffs. No way do I pay him 11M…Much better ways to spend the money. I like the Uribe idea, or even better yet, would be Daniel Murphy, but I would suspect the suitors will be lined up for his services after his display in the NLDS. Thanks for the memories, Neil, but this is business and I’m sure you’ll understand.

  • This one is tough for me because I just like Walker and what he has brought to this team. I do believe we can move on without him but I would be concerned if we got rid of him and Pedro (and thats happening) with the total lack of power this team would have. I would be curious to see what if anything we would get for him. Based on this article it seems guys like him will be available in FA and no one will have to give up anything for them. If we are not going to get anything worth while then I think we might as well keep him. 10 mil for 2.5-3.5 War is pretty darn good

    • Everybody seems to want to trade them, but no one really has figured out a destination. Makes me think the return might not be much, either.

    • I just can’t help remember that the Cards let AP go for the long term health of the franchise. He was revered in St Louis as much as NW is here. I believe Walker himself knows this and hopefully remembers the good he did while in his hometown uni and smile at where we are going. Unselfishly preserving his value to the long term health of a team he loves. He got to do what each and everyone of us dream of doing. He will move on with class and order his season tickets for 2019 and the rest of his life. Not a bad gig.

  • I believe the Pirates will talk to many teams about Walker, Melancon and Alvarez this winter. I believe the Pirates are in a prime position to make changes to the team and the system which will not only help them be better next year, but also poised to stay competitive over the long-term by making all 3 of these players (and some prospects, too) available for the right price.

    I do think the Kang injury makes Walker the one most likely to stay though.

    • I think the return on Melancon should be great…the return on Alvarez should bring at least a decent bullpen arm to help.

      Hope we keep Happ and Blanton

      • Help me out with recent closer trades, I’m struggling.

        Huston Street? Pap and Kimbrel seem like tough comps because money was such a factor.

        I suppose it depends on what “great” means to each, but are teams really giving up A prospects these days for one year of a closer making $10m? And right or wrong, I still feel like Melancon is perceived to be a tier lower than the Champman’s and Kimbrel’s of the closer world.

        I could see a swap of a similar big league player, or maybe a couple B prospects.

        • I just spent a couple hours digging through closers that were traded off-season. The most useful comps are Addison Reed, Jim Johnson, and Craig Kimbrel

          Kimbrel was coming off 4 years averaging 46 saves and 2.8 WAR, with 4 years $66M remaining on contract. They got Padres #1 prosect (Wisler), a low ranked prospect, a round A compensation pick and $46M in salary relief.

          Reed after 2013 was coming off 29- and 40- save seasons (0.8 and 1.6 WAR), due league minimum in 2014 (last year before arbitration). He got Matt Davidson, Arizona’s #4 prospect (72 overall)

          Johnson after 2013 was coming off 2 50-save seasons (1.3 and 0.9 WAR, inferior to Melancon), and set to make 10M in arbitration, like Melancon Traded for Jemile Weeks (Oak #5 prospect in 2010) & David Frietas (Nationals #27 prospect in 2011)

          Melancon is coming off 3 years of 16, 33, 51 saves, averaging 2.0 WAR (2013 & 2014 as part time closer), due about $10.5M in 3rd year of arbitration

          Melancon would not be worth anything close to Kimbrel , but he’s better than Reed or Johnson. Half of the Kimbrel haul would be plenty.

  • Makes me wish we had moved Hanson for Byrd instead of Herrera.

  • Hanson’s OPS was barely over .700. I am not counting on him as a starter.

    • He’s still very young. Don’t give up on Hanson by any means. He may be ready to bust out next year.

      • Harrison already broke out in 2014. He’s in the middle of his prime years now. I expect him to improve on 2015’s numbers, but not by a lot. He’s a .725-.750 OPS guy to me…and probably on the lower end of that…which is still ok…he does a lot of things well.

  • Might the Pirates be better off signing a short term 3B option who could transition to a bench role like Juan Uribe or Kelly Johnson, then use Harrision at 2B and the new guy at 3B until (and if) Kang is back? Once Kang is back this would give the Pirates a good utility/PH without breaking the bank and without needed to rush Hanson or Moroff who are question marks to succeed as everyday players.

    Another thought both Josh Wilson and Don Kelly arre from Pittsburgh, cheap and available if the media needs a designated interview with a Wehner accent.

    • Roughly what I want them to do, David. I like Harrison at 2nd a lot more than 3rd.

    • Uribe wouldnt be a bad option, bat still plays well and fit the model of a guy who can play multiple spots if needed. Mostly 2B and 3B, but still.

    • No reason why you can’t have Hanson start the season in the bigs and help Harrison between 2nd and 3rd until Kang comes back, then see if his production warrants keeping hanson in the majors or giving him a little more seasoning at AAA for the remainder of 2016

      • Is the FO not concerned with Hanson’s Super 2 time as they are with everybody? Just seems you guys always factor that in but haven’t seen it addressed in this banter. Maybe I missed it.

        Also, want to say that all the metrics discussed fascinate me when you all really dig in. This is a compliment to the subscribers as well as the Tim and John and the crew. I believe it’s what separates this site from all others. I admit to being a novice in the categories you all put so much emphasis on but it’s interesting and a lot of you are spot on in your predictions.

        I’d bet a small pile there are many subscribers who are just like me. Keep it real and keep it cool.

        Thank you all!

        • If they send him DOWN later in the year, then its the same thing as delaying his initial call up. And no- they aren’t. Hanson isn’t expected to be a huge star, think Neil Walker here, who ended up being super 2. Good player, but not someone who will break the bank because of an extra year of arbitration

  • I would like to hear everyone’s guess on where Walker ends up if he’s moved. Offhand, I can’t think of anything obvious but I trust this crowd.

    • Walker to the Yankees for a catcher. Just kidding on the return but a move to NY wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Never thought I’d find myself in the position of defending Neil Walker, but this just seems needlessly critical.

    Since when on this site was 2-3 WAR *not* worth $10m?

    Put Carlos Santana at second base for a year and tell me how well he defends. Santana, of course, is a perfectly acceptable first baseman that would make an absolute fool of himself at second base due to his lack of range. Neil Walker has every skill required to be a good first baseman.

    The days of Walker as an extension candidate are long gone, but there’s absolutely no reason he can’t be a valuable part of the 2016 club. With as much uncertainty surrounding Kang, Josh Harrison, and the entire first base position, adding additional risk by betting on another player to fill Walker’s spot only to save a couple million bucks is right out of the 2011-2013 playbook. Those days are over.

    • “Since when on this site was 2-3 WAR *not* worth $10m?”

      Who said it wasn’t?

      • “That small extra production, and the uncertainty of his defense at first base, wouldn’t be worth the price he’s set to receive.”

        Lind, Pujols, Moreland, and Santana were all 2-win players exclusively at 1B with non-elite defense and offensive productive close to what Walker should be projected to do next season.

        • Walker wouldn’t be a 2-win player at first base.

          • I just demonstrated four players with similar offensive production and non-elite defense that were.

            • Lind: .277/.360/.460, 4.3 UZR/150
              Moreland: .278/.330/.482, 6.4 UZR/150
              Pujols: .244/.307/.480, 5.3 UZR/150
              Santana: .231/.357/.395, 5.3 UZR/150

              Walker: .268/.328/.427, -8.8 UZR/150 at 2B

              Out of the 29 1B with 600+ innings, those guys ranked 2nd, 7th, 8th, and 11th. They all had better offense than Walker, with the exception of Santana, who was the same level as Walker.

              I don’t see Walker going from being one of the worst defensive second basemen to being one of the best defensive first basemen. And even if he did that, he would need an increase in his power or on-base percentage to match those guys overall.

              • You know better than to assume recent production for future projections.

                Watch actual baseball games and tell me Carlos Santana has quicker feet or softer hands than Neil Walker. What do you honestly think his UZR would be as a second baseman? That’s an awful way to project defensive performance.

                Saying definitively that Neil Walker could not put up two wins as a First Baseman is incredibly short sighted.

                • Man, you’re contrary today.

                • If the Pirates can save money on Alvarez and Melancon (still worried about replacing him)…then keeping Walker wouldn’t be terrible, especially if he would play some 1B. I’m not sure we couldn’t get some production from a Juan Uribe or Ben Zobrist that wouldn’t be less expensive and of similar value. That’s why I said earlier it would really depend on what the return for Walker would be.

                  Any chance we could get Jose Abreu+ for Melancon and Alvarez?

                  • Seems like an odd fit strategy wise. If CHC sells on Abreu, that’d seem to suggest they are going for an overhaul and selling to rebuild system depth. Selling their best (and really only) major offensive weapon makes having a closer kinda pointless.

                    CHC has interesting young offensive “potential” but Abreu is gonna have to be the center of the attack unless they sell him for a few younger options.

                    • CHW, Cubs on the brain because ESPN wont stop shoving them down my throat anytime i check a score/schedule.

                • Are you saying that because Carlos Santana would be a bad defensive second baseman that this means Neil Walker would be a good defensive first baseman?

                  • No, I’m saying the reciprocal of that seems to be *your* logic for saying Neil Walker wouldn’t be a good first baseman.

                    You cannot look at a guys UZR at a harder position where his biggest flaw is a liability and assume UZR will also be poor at a lesser position where that flaw is mitigated.

                    What *I’m* saying is that strictly looking at Neil Walker’s skills tells me he absolutely has the ability to transition well to 1B. Good, soft hands, good footwork, poor range.

                    • What I’m saying is that there’s no guarantee that Neil Walker will be a good first baseman, and it’s a big risk to assume he could easily put up good defensive numbers, since he will be making an estimated $10.7 M.

                • I honestly see Tim’s and NMR’s points here- its hard to gauge because Walker’s lack of defense value comes from his lack of speed, not his inability to field. He is a VERY steady defender, but that isn’t valued at second base over range. Walker’s range vs. his counterparts at first base should actually be above average, and his ability to make the basic plays and his height and flexibility mean he should be as good as Rodriguez over there or close. On the other hand, the mistakes you make from not being familiar with the position could eliminate a lot of the value that his additional athleticism would add- I’m not saying its a wash, and I don’t think you’d see a negative UZR at first base, BUT i’m not sure you’d get the increase you need to be equal with those other players either.

    • We also have to remember that if they keep Walker and then tender him in Free Agency they will get that comp pick. I guess there is a chance Walker’s offers aren’t good enough and he takes the 1 year, but he seems like he’s been angling for one last big contract before he really goes down hill. I’d wager he’d take a multi-year offer from someone and we’d get that comp pick. When you figure in the comp pick along with what he offers the Pirates in 2016, I think the $10.7M is a lot easier to stomach.

      • Yeah, there’s that too. Seems like a riskier player type than what the Pirates seem to be comfortable with, but could you actually see NW settling on what amounts one year extension? Maybe I’m misreading the back and forth, but I’d say he’d turn it down out of principal.

      • QO is $15.8M this year, and so it will probably be $16.3 or more in 2016-17. No way can I see the Pirates risking that Walker would accept that.

        • You can blame the system, but shame on the Pirates if they can’t risk authorizing that kind of spending on just a one year contract when the *worst* case scenario is that they still get to have Neil Walker’s production.

          You’re sending Huntington to a gun fight with a spatula in this Division.

          • $125M is the new $120M – If you can’t afford to pay then don’t play…

          • Not sure if it’s the system, or the Pirates, or some of both, but it’s pointless to lament what any of us think they should be doing, when we know pretty well what is in the realm of possibility. Offering Walker $16M+ in 2017 is probably not in that realm.

    • Problem is WAR is position adjusted…
      It is a rough estimate – but walker at first base with identical production is worth about 1.5 WAR less – maybe more if he has about the same defense numbers

      • I’m well aware that WAR is position adjusted.

        The issue with your argument is assuming Walker sees zero defensive improvement. Range, or lack there of, is exclusively what drags down his UZR at 2B (-9.1 last year, -11.1 in 2014). That, obviously, would be greatly mitigated at 1B. Turning that into a positive, as less agile guys like Carlos Santana and Adam Lind have been able to do, basically overcomes what he gives up in positional adjustment going from 2B to 1B.

        I can respect those who aren’t comfortable assuming he can make the transition, but he’s already accomplished harder moves and absolutely has the skills required to succeed.

        • His defense would have to be MUCH better to offset the 1.5 [actually it is probably closer to 2) haircut he would get for his offense just for moving to first – at least if I understand Fangraphs calculations.

          I actually think this comes down to opportunity cost – Over $25M gets freed up if they move/don’t resign Walker, Melancon, Alvarez and perhaps Stewart. I think that would buy true top of rotation starter – or a 4+ WAR bat

  • This is an interesting situation. I really think it depends on a couple of things: (1) what we can get for Walker, (2) the health of JHK, (3) the cost of other options, and (4) the preparedness of Hanson. I am really intrigued by Hanson’s speed and ability on the base-paths….if we aren’t going to have the power numbers, we need to make up for it with speed. Marte, Polanco, and Hanson could/should provide 100-120 steals over a full season.

    • As with Bell, I think the Hanson stuff needs tempered too. I’m with you on the speed, but getting on base consistently seems to be his problem. Up and down year from what I remember John and Tim writing.

      • Oh I agree about having concern, but that speed added to Marte and Polanco could be special and some times you have to take risks to get ahead. We won’t always have a guarantee at every position.

        • So long as Hanson isnt leadoff i have a fair amount of hope for his baseline ML results. Seems like he will eventually (assuming a low start like he seems prone to) be a guy who gives you decent yet not all star level production. Not the greatest OBP, but not bad. Not a .300 hitter, but decent. Not a ton of power, but enough for his position. Slot him into the 7th or 8th spot and its a well balanced lineup.

          • That’s how I look at it too…with speed from the bottom of the order? I’d be happy with that.

    • 3 guys with 30+ steals is asking for way too much.

      • Cutch can steal that many too.

        • There is no way Cutch will ever break 15 again. He’s terrible at it & he doesn’t seem interested enough to improve

          • Low totals =/= terrible. He’s actually very good at it, but increasingly selective. He doesnt run as much, but he’s been able to consistently steal at a good enough rate to make it worth it.

            I suspect much of it is injuries/fear of injuries that causes his selectiveness. Team is clearly fine, if not telling him, to not have him run a ton.