First Pitch: Breaking Down the Neil Walker Trade

When I tell people what I do, the first question they ask is some variation of “Are you from Pittsburgh?”, which only leads to confusion when I say that I’ve never lived in Pittsburgh. My dad’s family is from the Pittsburgh area, and I spent the first 12 years of my life in central PA. But I have no emotional attachment to the city of Pittsburgh. I like the city. I like sandwiches. I like the baseball team. But this is also how I feel about Tampa and several other cities (and the list would grow if you remove the baseball team part).

So the fact that Neil Walker was from Pittsburgh never had any impact on my analysis of him as a player. I thought he was a good player, but not a great player. Offensively, he was above average at second base, and defensively he was well below average. Overall, this put him middle of the pack at second base. The Pittsburgh impact often elevated him higher than that for some people. But if that has no impact for you, then he’s a guy that you’d want to see on your team, but who isn’t quite irreplaceable.

That isn’t saying it will be easy to replace Walker. In fact, I’ve said many times this off-season that this will be difficult. It looks like the Pirates will be going with Josh Harrison as their second baseman once Jung-ho Kang returns, and unless Harrison sees a return to his 2014 offense — which would require a boost in power — then they’ll fall short of Walker’s production. Harrison will be an upgrade defensively, but the Pirates will lose some offense, which they’ll have to find a way to make up elsewhere.

As for the overall trade, I thought it was a move that made sense for both sides. The Mets get the second baseman they needed. The Pirates got the starter they needed. They could have probably found a way to get a starter while keeping Walker. But they make up for that here with the value that Niese brings in the long-term.

Earlier today, it was passed along to me the comparison between Niese and Mike Leake. Here is the comparison:

Leake was projected to make $56 M over four years, and we should find out in the upcoming days or weeks how much he will actually receive. Meanwhile, Niese will get three years and $30 M maximum, and only $9.5 M of that is guaranteed. If he does well in 2016, they can bring him back in 2017. If he does well in 2017, they can bring him back in 2018. If they don’t need him either year, they can trade him. There is literally zero long-term risk with this contract, and only upside to be had.

Independently, that isn’t enough to justify the addition of Niese. Having a guy for X amount of years doesn’t matter if the player isn’t good. And I’ve seen plenty of complaints that Niese isn’t a good player, which has me wondering what people are basing that on. Niese isn’t coming off a great year in 2015, with a 4.13 ERA and a 4.11 xFIP. However, he’s had some strong numbers before that, and was a 2.0-2.7 WAR player each year from 2011-2014.

The Pirates have a good track record of getting the best results out of their pitchers. Niese fits into their trend as a high ground ball pitcher who can get some strikeouts when needed. If they can get his pre-2015 numbers, then he’ll be a steal for the next three seasons.

One hidden impact of this move is that the Pirates have now moved on from Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. Those two were the weak spots of the infield defense. Harrison will upgrade over Walker on defense, and it won’t be difficult to upgrade over Alvarez. If they get someone like Mitch Moreland who has strong defense, then they’ll see a big upgrade.

Niese had the seventh best ground ball rate among starters last year. He joins Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke as three of the five best ground ball left-handers in baseball, and three of the top 20 qualified starters in terms of ground ball percentage. Gerrit Cole makes the same list when you expand to 30, and if Charlie Morton qualified, he’d be on the list.

The Pirates put a huge focus on getting ground ball pitchers, and the rotation they now have will lead to the best results in the league once again. The defensive shifts will help, and the improved infield defense on the right side will be a big improvement. This will help all of their starters, especially Niese, who should revert to his best numbers with the Pirates. He’s a lefty pitching in PNC Park with extreme ground ball numbers, playing in front of what should be a strong defensive infield that is maximized by defensive shifts, and working with one of the best pitching coaches in the game to get him to his best form.

There will be questions for the Pirates at second base in 2016, and it’s possible they’ll see a short-term downgrade at the position. But it’s also possible that they’ll get a starter who can put up league average numbers at a below-market rate for up to three seasons. If the move to add pitching works half as good as most of the other moves they’ve made for starters in recent years, then this trade will end up working out very well for the Pirates.

**I want to take a moment to address the ridiculous theories going around about Neil Walker and any rifts with the Pirates. There has been a long standing theory that the Pirates don’t like Walker, simply because they didn’t bring him up right away in 2010, and then they didn’t name him as the official starter at second base over Aki Iwamura when he came up.

To the first issue, Walker struggled in his first two years in Triple-A. He had a .694 OPS the first season, and a .791 OPS the second season, with the latter being fueled by late season success. He followed that with a September callup, where he hit for a .194/.275/.222 line in 40 plate appearances.

Pedro Alvarez arrived in Triple-A at the start of the 2010 season, and the Pirates had to find a new position for Walker. He moved around a lot, playing third, first, left field, and second base. When Aki Iwamura started to struggle, Walker got playing time at second on a consistent basis. The Pirates brought him up and said he would be a utility player at first, but after less than a week, he became the starting second baseman, and only had four starts at third base before that transition took place.

As for the timing of the move, Walker ended the 2015 season with five years and 166 days of service time. If he would have been called up just a week earlier, he would have been eligible for free agency this off-season, rather than having one more year of control remaining.

To recap, Walker entered the 2010 season as a 24-year-old who didn’t do well in his first two seasons in Triple-A, and was being moved off his position by the top prospect in the system. He started showing success, and they quickly found a spot for him. He was called up, and wasn’t given a guaranteed starting spot immediately, instead having to wait a whole week to be the everyday starter. He also was called up at just the exact time where the Pirates could keep him for an extra year.

It sounds like they hated him, alright.

There’s also the extension stuff, with the Pirates not working hard to extend Walker. But they’re not required to extend him. I’ve written many times why he wasn’t a good extension candidate. They already had his prime years under control, and an extension pays him big money for his decline years. The best approach was either trading him in this type of situation, or keeping him until he walked via free agency. The fact that they didn’t extend him, and didn’t pay his asking price when they talked to him early, says nothing. Tons of players across baseball go without signing extensions. It’s common.

Also, I don’t like calling out other people’s work, but feel it’s necessary to point this next part out. Dejan Kovacevic mentioned yesterday that Walker was benched in 2010 in the minors for not running out a pop up, and that caused a huge rift between him and Kyle Stark which eventually led to this trade.

I don’t recall if Walker was benched for this, but I’m going to assume it’s true. I’ll assume it’s true because pretty much every single hitting prospect in the system gets benched at some point for not running out a ground ball or a pop up. As you could guess, not every player takes it well, although it’s always short-term. I’ve never heard of this type of thing leading to an irreparable rift. The idea that this was the butterfly flap that led to a trade 5.5 years later is a stretch, especially when the clear answer to the trade is that Walker was in his final year, making more than the Pirates were willing to spend, and had value on the market. If that’s indication that there’s a rift, then the Pirates will have rifts with pretty much every player in their system at some point in time.

The Pirates have never been afraid to make an unpopular move. If they truly didn’t like Walker, they could have dealt him well before this. Instead, they kept him for almost the full duration of his team control, and traded him at a time when it made sense to deal him. It’s normal, and has nothing to do with a small punishment in the minors almost six years ago, which actually happens with every player in the system.

So, no. Walker wasn’t traded because Neal Huntington or Kyle Stark didn’t like him for petty reasons in 2010. He was traded because it made sense to deal him before his final year. And his eventual replacement in Alen Hanson? A guy who has been benched a few times for not running out a play. Just like pretty much everyone else in the system, including the model players. That process is used as a small punishment to enforce hustle on every play, and nothing more.

I like Dejan, but his theory on this is a big stretch.

**The Rule 5 draft is tomorrow morning, and we’ll have a preview, along with coverage of the event. The Pirates have two spots open on the 40-man roster, so they’ve got what they need to make a pick.

**Pirates Trade Neil Walker to Mets For Jon Niese. The full timeline of the trade talks today. Something to consider about the off-season: we hadn’t heard a word about movement on a Walker trade until today. That’s partially because teams got interested after Ben Zobrist went off the board. It just shows how some players can hold other deals up, and how quickly things can move when that block is out of the way.

**Pirates Have Shown Interest in Mike Napoli. More rumors about Napoli today. Speaking of holdups, it seems the first base market is being partially held up by Chris Davis. The trade market might have broken through today with the Adam Lind deal. I’d expect things to really take off when Davis signs.

**Clint Hurdle on the Off-Season, Harrison’s Role, First Base, Marte in Center. A transcript of Hurdle’s most notable comments today.

**Pirates Could Make a Run at Scott Kazmir. This would be really interesting, and the addition of Kazmir would set up a trade of one of Charlie Morton or Jeff Locke. That would line up well for a Mitch Moreland deal. That said, I’d be surprised if the Pirates do end up with Kazmir.

**Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Named to All-Star Game, Osuna Homers

  • I didn’t realize there was much fall-out from this until I started watching the local news tonight. They asked Walker if he had been willing to play 1st base. Walker said something like this organization knows I’ve already been willing change positions I’ve already done it many times. That they never offered it as an option. Tonight they are airing the interview with his dad. Walker didn’t really seem to claiming bad blood he just answered the question. If Kang isn’t ready to start the season what will they do at 3rd now that Harrison will probably play 2nd. Considering they could have Neise for 3 years the Pirates probably got the better deal. The Mets probably think they got Walker as steal at 10 million for 1 year.

  • On another note, “I like sandwiches,” might be my favorite sentence in any of your articles, Tim. I know what you were getting at, that you like the sandwiches Pittsburgh has to offer, but that it read a bit like you just wanted us to know in general–and unrelated to anything else–that you like sandwiches amused me enormously.

  • This trade made a lot of sense. Both players have similar values net values, (15.4 fWAR for Walker and 12.9 fWAR for Niese since 2010, less than a difference of a half a win per year), with Niese’s two team options making up that difference in value, but each player is more valuable to his new team than to the one who traded him.

    Yes, the Pirates will need to do something to replace Walker’s offense, but their bigger hole was in the rotation, and when Kang gets back they have a capable 2B in Harrison. The Mets, on the other hand, needed a 2B and have an extremely deep rotation. I think Huntington nailed it when he called this a “baseball trade.” The Mets improved from this swap, and the Pirates are in a really good position now to do the same, if they haven’t already.

  • I AM from Pittsburgh, and LOVE the city, and this is the most reasoned, analytical reporting I’ve read on this trade. I mentioned on DK’s site that if Neil Walker had been born anywhere other than Pittsburgh the fan reaction would have been far more muted.

  • Glad you made a point about DK. I was taken aback by his approach and hammering so hard on Stark et al. I have no doubt DK didn’t say those things lightly, but I swear he holds that Hoka Hey stuff against Stark forever… even if it didn’t have any long term negative impact on the organization. How can you say he was desperate to get rid of Walker when they could have traded him a million times? It’s not like another team wouldn’t have wanted a solid hitting infielder.
    (And even if Stark had a vendetta and holds the GM’s ear, getting a solid pitcher in return – a decent baseball trade – doesn’t smell of good riddance.)

  • Hard for me to get behind this trade, though I do understand it. I now think it’s more important to keep Melanceon and then ever.

    I sure hope this isn’t “it.” The off-season so far looks like this:


    Pedro Alvarez
    Neil Walker
    Aramis Ramirez
    AJ Burnett
    JA Happ
    Antonio Bastardo
    Joakim Soria
    Sean Rodriguez



    That’s a lopsided score card.

    Right now the Pirates have holes in the starting rotation, bullpen, first base, and the bench. I understand they one 98 games last year but, to me you add to a team that one 98 games. You don’t blow it up and start over. I realize that the off season isn’t over yet but wow!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 10, 2015 11:32 am

    The fact that Walker is from the Pittsburgh area was a nice story, but in regards to this trade it has no impact on my opinion of it – and I am from Pittsburgh originally!
    With that being said, if Niese ends up being our #3, I don’t like this trade at all, because he’s not close to a #3 – and the rest of the bottom of the rotation will be weaker. If he’s our #4 (or better yet, #5), then I am okay with the trade. The financial aspects of it still do not make sense to me, as I thought the motivation behind getting rid of Walker was to avoid his future high salary? Niese is in the same salary range, so still makes little sense to me from that angle.
    Now, if NH feels he can legitimately compete with Niese, Morton, and Locke as our #3, #4, and #5, he is dreaming. We will doomed for third place – because that is a very weak bottom of the rotation – and pales in comparison to the Dodgers, Nats, Cubs, Mets, Cards, DBacks, Giants, etc.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 10, 2015 11:26 am

    Tim – where in central PA did you live for 12 years growing up? Just curious….

    • Near Altoona

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 10, 2015 11:25 pm

        How about that, although I was born in Pittsburgh and lived in New Castle, PA for a few years, I spent most of my childhood growing up in Altoona. Small world! 🙂

        • I moved a few years before they got the team in Altoona. I moved about 45 minutes away from Lynchburg, but never went to a game until I started this site. They always had one prospect at the level under Littlefield that I’d want to see (literally one, usually a pitcher), but he always got promoted before I could get over there.

  • So are they done? Everybody is now saying Niese is our #3 starter…is that what NH said already? I’m just asking, because if thats the case, then this deal is not good. If they sign another pitcher, a legit #2/#3 starter, then I’d be fine with the trade,but going into the season with Cole, Liriano, Niese, Morton and Locke signals to me that they are giving up any chance to win the division.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 10, 2015 11:36 am

      We can only hope they are not done and Niese is NOT our #3, with the likes of Chuckie and Locke following him – ugh!

  • Oh my goodness people. Do you remember what people said when they signed Burnett? Liriano? Volquez? Happ? Neise might not have the upside of these 3 but I’m almost sure he also has the best recent numbers of any of them when they became Pirates

    • They also didn’t give up a major league player for any of those guys. I would argue that all of those guys minus happ proved alot more/had a higher ceiling then neise. And they were not paying them what they are paying neise. Burnett we got money from yankees, liriano incentive based. We also didn’t create a hole in our lineup with the other guys. Weren’t a playoff team at that time. Happ was a last second deal to replace aj for the short term. Not comparable.

  • Walker called out the Pirate’s management while at AAA, and basically said that he felt the Pirate’s had no idea what direction they were going in. After the trade deadline passed and no help was forthcoming by the Pirates in 2012, Walker was one of those players who were upset with management for not giving them any help. A team meeting with Hurdle/Huntington was held after that. Walker should have been extended long before this, your opinion not withstanding, nor any stronger then my opinion that he should have been.

    Huntington had issues with Walker, and that is my opinion, supported by many other people elsewhere as well.

  • Didn’t realize how big Niese was 6’3″ 230 lbs . I actually predicted this exact deal before the winter meetings and have named Niese as a potential target since last July . I wanted to get him then. Then I didn’t want it to be Walker but it makes sense now. The Angels and Nats were interested…. I wonder what they were offering, another reason why this is a good deal is the Pirates toughest competition in the division struggle vs lefties. They have 3 now

  • If payroll increases every year can we really complain that much about money? when Huntington took over ,please don’t quote me on this it came from Paul Zeise, payroll was at 50 million. Now it’s almost doubled. If it goes up 10-15 million a year I’d be really pleased with that

    • I would agree but they are still bottom five they were really far behind now just far behind

      • But we can’t realistically ask one of the smller market’s to spend with the larger market teams. This is a business.Nutting isn’t in it to lse money and no one can blame him for that. He’s a millionaire that in this business to make more millions.

        • Chris your a smart guy, even though we might not always agree.

          You know for damn sure that TV deal has them by the balls, while everyone else is making serious money off their own.

          And it’s only going to get worse. Christ, #1s are making 30-35 now. The Pirates aren’t paying a guy on their roster half that yet. That’s scary.

        • he’s actually a billionaire, just saying. The best way an owner makes money in pro sports is to increase the value of the franchise when they sell the team. Only way that happens is by winning. Mario is selling the Penguins now after they won a cup and been in the playoffs every year. Its time to cash out. Nutting I dont think is thinking that way. It would be smarter if he invested on the front end to try to put this team over the top to win a WS now. After that he could increase ticket prices, eventually down the road negotiate for a much better TV deal in a couple years. The value of the franchise after winning a WS would be at an all time high.

          • This is a good point. In the scheme of things, Nutting has so much money that spending a few million here or there is the equivalent of me buying a 100$ worth of beer. Not to mention that the Pirates are making him more money every year. The payroll cap is artificial. It’s not universal for ‘small market’ teams. And I’m convinced like Mallorie that Nutting will make more money if they spend wisely and win a WS.

          • Great point malorie

        • That’s my point though you are close. You could make a few shrewd trades like they have done before, add a little bit more payroll to plug a hole, and compete while u still have these guys in their prime. Cause they won’t be able to resign cole and cutch.

    • Payroll, specifically lack of, is absolutely not something that should be argued in this deal.

      If anything, this is about good use of the payroll given.

    • Never understood those arguments. Everyone’s payroll has climbed relatively.

  • Getting Niese was a great move by the Pirates. There are Mets followers who think the Mets got the shitty end of the deal here. He will definitely help the Bucs to win this year. If he works out well, we still have him at a reasonable price for the following 2 years. If he doesn’t work out as planned, the buy outs are cheap. He will be their 4th starter, not their 3rd. They are still deals to be made. My guess is that they sign or trade for a solid #3, leaving Locke and Morton to battle it out for the 5th spot. Melancon is the next to go. I believe that Taillon and Glasnow will be ready this summer and that will add two potent arms to the mix.

    • I sit right next to a diehard mets fan from there in my office. He thanked me yesterday afternoon and said good luck enough said

      • The fans say this but most of the baseball world thinks more of Niese than the skeptical fans . What we do know with almost certainty is Ray Searage will get the best out of Jon Niese. His best has been the stretch from 2012-2014 when he had -ERA/WHIP 2012- 3.40/1.17 (which is very good and I would take from a #3 starter) 2013-3.71/1.44 ( not great but still a solid #4 much better than our # 4 from 2015 and 2014-3.40 again with a 1.27 whip. His 2 best seasons he’s pitched over 187 innings. I’ll take it

        • Ha!

          You clearly don’t know Dan Warthen, do you? Yes, Searage will fix all.

          • Keith law “this is a great deal for the mets, pirates would really need neise to improve to get back same value, if not at least they can buy him out”
            Law I think has a pretty good track record. Lol

            • Exactly my thoughts as well. The Pirates need to work their Searage magic just to get them back to even in this trade.

              They paid for what Niese *could* be not what he is now, which is the exact opposite of their previous reclamation pitchers.

        • Niese was also eminently available each of the past two seasons with nobody actually valuing him enough to make a trade.

          But please do tell me what “most of the baseball world” thinks.

        • And y is it a guarantee searage can improve everyone. There are plenty of guys he hasn’t as well. Searage is great but u don’t trade that kind of asset for hope. U sign a reclamation guy cheap for that hope.

      • Diehard does not equal educated.

      • Same thing I got, a huge smile and “WTF were the Pirates thinking?”

  • I understand the move from a business standpoint. This was a GOOD move whether the fans like it or not. This guy is a proven ML starter . He’s had a couple down years but on a much smaller scale than some of the guys who have been brought in here as reclamation projects and also smaller upside but this guy could easily be a better pitcher for the Pirates because or Ray Searage ,the atmosphere, and the park and if he does that we can keep him for up to 5 years. If everything goes well with our top pitching prospects Neise will still be around when those guys are settled in as major leaguers . Neise would then be in the 4 or 5 spots. A major upgrade from Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke if he pitches the way he can.Those two fold like a lawn chair at the first sign of trouble. This move is NH’s first step of getting those two out of this rotation. Thank God. Pirate fans should rejoice . I’ll miss Neil Walker as I grew up near Gibsonia and watched him grow up. The Pirates did nothing wrong here except not being entirely up front about wanting to extend him because if they wanted it to get done it would have happened. If they didn’t want to that’s understandable. but don’t act like he’s not willing to negotiate at all because I know for a fact he was. Anyway Neil walker was much more than a “middle of the pack” 2nd basemen in this league on and off the field. Range is 1 part of a players overall game A Joe Morgan quote from 2014.”Neil walker turns a double play as good as anyone I’ve seen in the game today”

    • We are trying to win a championship I thought this year. “IF” the prospects work out! Who won’t even be here til midseason at best. When they do neise will be an improvement over locke and morton. Everything ur saying equals passing on next year. Don’t you think they should be making moves to improve for 16 and beyond,not just beyond?

      • That’s why I said “when those guys are settled in . It doesn’t mean they can’t compete now. They can. They need to make the team better and they still have time to do that. I believe they are worse right now than at the end of the 98 win season but it’s not opening day yet. Even if they do regress This is a business, in a small market. They are still set up to be able to contend for years to come

        • Niese projects to be *exactly* as valuable as Morton and Locke. He’s just *not* Morton and Locke, and so you *think* he’s better.

          • Look at the career statistics he is an upgrade over both Morton and Locke. Even this past year in a down year compared to his previous 3 he was better than both

            • Chris, I’m only interested in “career statistics” for their use in projecting *future* performance, since that’s the only thing that now matters to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

              Niese projects to be very, very similar to both Morton and Locke.

  • Would you trade one year of Ben Zobrist for Niese and his 2 options? Not saying everyone will agree with this but Fagerstrom argues Neil Walker matches up almost identically with Zobrist over last 3 years.

    • Minus the position flexibility very true

    • Good article, but anything that only takes into account offense will help Walker….a ton.

      He can, and i think will, be very similar in overall offense to Zobrist going forward. But he’s worse on defense, and if Zobrist got to Walker-like on defense it’ll tank his overall value. He’s identical to Zobrist on offense, but defense is a thing.

      • Actually the article touched on defense. Zobrist had a minor edge over Walker at 2B the last couple years

        • It touched on it for about half a second, and clearly didnt care enough to do close to the same analysis that it did with offense.
          Zobrist has been a solidly better defender the last couple years than Walker. His injury/health is what would stop him from continuing to do so.

    • Neil Walker is no Ben Zobrist, not even close.

  • At the end of the day we are passionate about our team. This move isn’t a playoff team type move if neise has to be your 3. He may be a 3 on a bad team but not this one. Our rotation was our strength last year being able to trot out 3 really strong guys with a great bullpen. You have taken that advantage away and if they trade melancon could potentially take away that strong bullpen. Not to mention losing a ton of offensive production from pedro and walker. Only improving your defense doesn’t make up for one let alone all three. That is not even considering the improvement in our division and the nl. You may need to win 98 again just to make the wild card.

    • Id guarantee you dont see 3 teams win 98 games again, because history shows even good teams dont consistently win 100.

      Team can get better and “only” win 95. Which will be maddening for any team that does that, but it happens.

      • Your definitely right luke cause no way this team wins 98

        • Good lord, if you wanna just piss on this team go for it but i made a totally valid point that even good teams find ways to only win 95 and you came with “yeah this team, we suck”.

          Id put money down that STL and CHC dont both win 98 this year. Maybe one, and even that seems generous. Great teams winning 95 is common.

          • The cubs have improved, giants have improved, dbacks really improved. We replaced aj/ja production with Jon neise at very best a 4 on a winning team and lost 43 hrs and 148 rbis. I’m being realistic.

            • Yes, the offseason is full of totally realistic reactions to teams moves. ARI wins their division easily im sure.

              • I’m glad we didn’t give up the money or prospects that the DBacks gave up to get better. 200+ million ,a significant position player (Inciarte which would have probably been Polanco) our top Prospect (Glasnow) and our 4th best prospect Taillon for Greinke,Shelby Miller,and a reliever .

            • We didn’t lose 43 HR’s and 148 RBI’s. It’ll be Pedro and Neil’s production minus our replacement production – not P & N’s production are just gone and nobody will fill their positions. No trade happens in a vaccuum, and we’ve just started to make moves. This also doesn’t take into account all the runs we will save with an improved defense. There is no way to judge these trades until midseason at best – and no way to judge them with authority until years later.

  • Getting back to baseball…while I understand the GB rates, and have even heard he’s going from a team that never shifts to one that does it a lot…he still missed less bats than Locke and allowed more hits. I just can’t wrap my head around that.

    And NMRs right. What could Searage tell Niese that Warthen couldnt? First glance of what I know about this guy, hes physically not what he was with the shoulder. The dip in Ks back that up.Not sure how a coach and ballpark change make a difference like the others.

    • Injury issue is a valid point, but a change in teams can take his GB heavy approach from risky to great. PGH shifts more than the Mets, and is set to have a better defense overall.

      Any pitcher who throws some many GBs will enjoy PGH more than most teams, since PGH is already set up for a GB heavy approach. I think what makes Searage effective isnt that he totally changes what a guy goes, but takes what he does and tweaks it. How can he do something another coach couldnt? By seeing what’s worked vs not worked and get a player to throw a pitch more/less and/or fix arm slot issues.

      Niese’s health needs to be good, but “what can Searage really do” could be blindly said of 2-3 arms he brought in and helped improve. He can do a lot of things others havent done as effectively to get slight improvements. Surely might not work here, but its relatively clear what Ray tries to do.

      • Set to have better defense?

        You don’t even know who will be starting at half the damn positions! This twisting to justify a marginal trade is just hilarious.

        Look, this wasn’t a *bad* trade. It won’t fully derail the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016. But for christ sake call a spade a spade for once.

        • I have multiple times said i dont love the trade. Maybe its not me that keeps assuming things. Maybe me saying, mutliple times, i dont love the trade was pretty clear. I called it a marginal trade, but since i didnt apparently follow that with “and what are we doing, we didnt solve anything” im crazy.

          I know Harrison/Hanson provides better defense at 2B than Walker. I know Morse provides better defense than Pedro. I know Mercer is a solid option at SS. I know a healthy Kang is a fine option at 3B, and Harrison is decent in the short term before Kang is healthy.

          Without any additional moves, we all know the defense improved. We are set to have better defense because Walker was a cardboard cutout range wise and you get better from Pedro by default.

          • If Hanson opens as your opening day 2b you are going to have some REALLY anemic bats in that infield. Hanson, Morse, Mercer oh my. Let’s hope Kang is good to go real soon.

            • Im extremely curious as to where Kang is at, and for anyone who believes that moves can be a sign of where players are at i would hope that moving Walker means Kang is doing as well as the team expected in terms of arriving soon.

              I said a week ago i felt like Walker was staying. Partly because of Kang, so im hopeful the team sees Kang as able to play really early in the season. If not, moving Walker does put a ton of pressure on Hanson early in the year for more than 1-2 weeks.

          • Exactly. “Improved” is damning with faint praise when talking about Walker and Alvarez. Simply “improving” won’t turn the defense from a liability to an asset.

            • Thats certainly fair, but it’ll turn us from Mets-like to better than the Mets.

              Whether we have great defense or decent defense, what we aren likely to see is poor defense with Mercer-Kang-Harrison

        • Please take off your yinzer glasses!

          Positions for next season.

          Cervelli – catcher
          Morse / Lefty – first (upgrade)
          Harrison / Hanson – second (upgrade)
          Mercer – short
          Kang / Harrison – third

          Pirates will be upgrading defensively at TWO positions. I’m not sure how ANYONE can reasonably argue against that FACT.

          Just so we’re clear, Neil Walker was a STATUE at second base and Alverez was the worst defensive first baseman in major league baseball! that my friend is addition by subtraction.

          Niese is a cost controlled 3/4 left handed starter, with a high ground ball rate. He will be pitching for a team that is set up for ground ball pitchers and half of his starts will happen in a park that is favorable to left handed pitchers.

          There’s no “twisting” to justify a “marginal trade”. This was a solid baseball move, with the potential to be a really excellent move for the Pirates.

          • Thanks for playing, now go talk to someone who also doesn’t know what they’re doing.

          • This team is currently significantly worse then last years. Maybe the defense is improved, but hitting is way worse, starting pitching is worse, and when melancon gets traded so will bullpen. There is still alot of offseason to go, but alot of our competitors are better and we currently have to call neise a 3. Yikes

            • And if neil walker was so bad defensively he still was a 2+ war player for years 3+ at times so that’s alot of bat to go with it

            • Chris, I’m not sure I would agree with “significantly” worse. There is still plenty of off-season.

              Any type of minor move at first base to set up a platoon will upgrade the position over last season (bringing back Morneau for example).

              Personally, I think that at worst, (factoring in both offense and defense) Harrison in place of Walker is a wash.

              The Pirates depth has taken a hit. with Harrison at second, they have no super-sub.

              I would agree that at the moment, on paper, the pitching is worse. I would like to see them bring in another big league caliber starter (to make Niese a 4). However, with Glassnow and Taillon in the wings, I’m not sure that they will.

              • They lost 43 hrs and 148 rbis plus replaced solid playoffs team ja/aj 3 production currently with Jon neise and realistically will need to replace melancon when he is traded. There is time but that is alot

                • I agree they lost quite a bit of offense, however the replacement players (no matter who they are) will contribute some offensive production.

                  For example Josh Harrison

                  Steamer projections 147 games – 654 AB – 11 HR – 76 RBI – 2.5 WAR (by the way Walker’s 2016 WAR – 2.4)

                  Happ and Burnett going 16 – 9 is going to be hard to replace, but if Neise wins 11 (certainly not out of the question) I’m not sure you could have realistically expected much more from Happ in 2016.

                  And although some don’t want to hear this, based on the financial constraints the Pirates operate under, I’m not certain that investing in another “solid” major league starter (with two big time prospects waiting in the wings) is a move the Pirates will make. On this point, I hope to be wrong.

                  A rotation of Cole, Liariano, Kazmir, Neise and Locke/Morton would be more than solid. If the Pirates pick up a marginal lefty first baseman to platoon with Morse, a solid super sub (not Rodriguez) and make a few shrewd bull pen acquisitions (something they seem to do frequently) the Pirates will have put together a team that should be in contention (no matter what they do with Melacon).

                  • Pitcher wins!

                    Gold, Jerry. Gold.

                    • You seem to be an angry bitter person.

                      You also seem to know very little about the topic at hand. Should you really be participating in a discussion about the 2016 Pirates when you can’t even figure out half of next year’s infield configuration?

                      Remember, it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

                      One more thing

                      JA Happ’s Composite projections for 2016.
                      IP 160 – 9-9 – ERA 3.83 – WHIP 1.29

                      Niese 2016
                      IP 134 – 7-8 – ERA 3.96 WHIP 1.35

                      Does that make you feel better? In case you’re unable to break those numbers down, the numbers basically say that Happ will be slightly better than Niese next season. Which was the point I was making and you tried (unsuccessfully) to mock.

                    • Hahaha, yeah bud, keep thinking that. Move along and talk to someone else.

                    • so will Locke!

                  • I agree mostly but kazmir is another lefty. That’s alot of lefties. You need a solid hitting platoon partner not marginal. And if they would have added a prospect or two with walker you could potentially get a controllable young guy that’s inexpensive that would have made up for what was lost. Angels were interested, maybe get a santiago that way.

                  • Tracy, I hope you noticed that Steamer projects Niese as our number 4 pitcher, just behind Locke, and just ahead of Morton. You will basically be having Locke ( or his clone Niese or Morton)throw 60% of your starts!!!

              • I agree with those guys waiting I don’t think they will bring in another pitcher that’s y I don’t like the neise thing even more cause that would make him a 3 opening day. Good insight tho

              • Tracy… Morneau had an OPS outside of Coors less than .690…

                I do not get the love for him

    • It’s not like the pitching coach is the only factor here.

      The Mets finished 21st last year in DRS. They had huge holes at 2B (ranked 25th), SS (30th), and 3B (28th). They ranked 29th in defensive shifts.

      The Pirates have strong options at SS and 3B, and will be upgrading their defense at 2B and 1B. They also ranked 6th in defensive shifts.

      Niese had the 7th most groundballs of starters last year. Even if the quality of coaching remains the same, he will see a big upgrade with a much better infield defense, and better strategy to maximize the effectiveness for ground balls. Not to mention, it won’t hurt being a lefty in PNC Park for half his games.

  • Tim, U r correct, the Pirates did not make this trade just because they didn’t like Walker. However, there definitely was animosity there — on both sides. The disciplining of Walker in the minors was a childish over reaction by Starks.
    Walker did not run out a pop up that was called an Infield Fly !!! The Bucs also were treating him like some new management teams seem to do — weeding out players from the previous regime.

  • Is it true nh said they probably won’t target another pitcher in free agency, ie no legitimate #3?

    • No, I don’t think he said that. They do seem to be targeting a true #3 that would allow them to remove either Locke or Morton from the rotation.

  • I think Tim is underselling Walker….Overall, this put him middle of the pack at second base. Please Tim name us 14-15 better overall 2BMen. I like your articles and will continue to subscribe here, but man the constant Pirate apologist is beyond annoying. How many times have you said “Trust” this off-season? Good God

    • His offense is absolutely far better than middle of the pack, but overall he finished last year 10th out of 20 in WAR.

      Not a stretch to think that, going forward, Walker’s overall worth at 2B is very much near middle of the pack for full time starting 2Bmen. Unless we assume his offense goes back up to that career year level, he’s a solid but far from top 2Bmen.

    • The drumbeat that Walker was a “bad” second baseman started on this site. Based on a range statistic. The man has sure hands, was very good on the turn, taking and making throws, and making relays. He projected leadership in the field. He had a low error count, which jumped a little last year because of Pedro’s butchery. Tim, if he is a “bad’ second baseman why did the Mets, with their significant resources, acquire him?
      IMHO there is no way this team as presently constructed makes the playoffs. Look at the leadership and production lost off the roster and the lack of adequate replacements.

      • His bad defense started 2 years ago when he threw out the 4th worst UZR/150 and 4th worst UZR with middle of the pack DRS. Taking into account that defensive stats take time to normalize, last year was a good chance to prove them wrong for Walker.

        He put up the 2nd worst UZR and 3rd worst UZR/150 with still middle of the pack DRS. He does turn DPs well, and gets most of what he gets to. But his overall defense lacks, based on stats from any site that covers baseball, because he has some of the worst range at his position that requires range or you allow far more hits than others.

        • You are remarkably predictable Luke…and always take the bait.
          Address the real point….if he is “bad” why are the Mets and their fans so pleased to pencil Walker into their starting lineup?

          • Because fans inherently value offense more and have seen likely about 5 games worth of his defense?

            Of course they are pleased to have him, they had no 2bmen a day ago and now have one that hits well. They know about as much about his defense as we do about any random player on their team.

            For a comment that talked down to me, fan reaction hot take is a poor way to act like im dumb here.

            • Man are you having a bad day on this site. Read your second paragraph out loud to yourself. So, you the guy who will pull out any stat in isolation to defend a position now argue that the Mets are ignorant about Walker’s defense and the Bucs are equally ignorant about the talent on the Mets roster. You really do get pitiful at times. The Mets fans didn’t make the trade….their front office did.

              • Yes, the guy who uses stats a lot will go “fans are dumb, his stats that i showed you are why he sucks at defense”.

                You only want to be a prick because you dislike me, not because im making invalid points. I’ve shown you stats as to why Walker’s defense is bad and worse that a guy like Zobrist, i’ve said why fans of a team who dont know a guy wont be as aware of defensive stuff or care.

                You are Trumping this discussion by just calling me names every sentences and acting like its true or funny.

                • Name calling is your profile, not mine…and it always starts when you are challenged.
                  The creation of fake quotations twisting other people’s opinions is also a unique trait of yours.
                  You are becoming an amusing sideshow on this site.

                  • You seem to be able to show everyone else how hilariously flawed they are with your deep wisdom.

                    Must be a fun trick at parties where you tell everyone how better you are than them.

      • Agree completely mike t

      • I never said he’d a bad second baseman.

        I said he’s a bad defensive second baseman. That’s backed up by stats and the eye test.

        Even with the bad defense, he’s still a good second baseman. In this very article I wrote that he’s going to be difficult and maybe impossible to replace, value wise, next year.

    • I’ve been saying that about Walker for a long time, well before this. I don’t see how this is being an apologist, saying a current Pirates player at the time isn’t the best at his position and being realistic about his limits on defense.

      Last year, out of all 2B with 400+ PA, he ranked 12th in WAR, tied with Brock Holt. There were 11 guys ahead of him that year. And the difference between him and the guy ranked tied at 16th was 0.1 WAR.

      The “trust” was also in reference to their success in the past. You’re free to do whatever you want. I’m pointing out that they’ve earned the right to fail before being criticized for their approach.

      • Personally, I think you take way too much stock into WAR. Kevin Kiemaier finished 3rd in the AL in WAR, do you believe KK was the 3rd best player in the AL? I sure don’t. Point is, there is other useful tools to use when evaluating a player. Also, you bring up Holt as being tied with Walker in WAR for 2B, are those 400+ PA all coming from 2B? Again, nothing personal and I learn a lot from you as well as other from this site. I guess when you try to project player salaries and use WAR as a base, that’s when you lose me….It’s much more involved than that, with many layers involved.

        • I use WAR as the starting point, and expand from there. It always comes with the disclaimer that it’s not perfect.

          In Walker’s case, I look at where he ranks, and then I dig into why he ranks that way. He ranks high with his offense, which makes sense when you look at the numbers. He ranks low with his defense, which also makes sense when you look at the numbers and see him on the field.

          Kiermaier is a great example of this process. You just looked at the WAR and dismissed it. But if you look further, he had a .718 OPS, which was in the same range as Aramis Ramirez, Brandon Moss, and Billy Butler. Now imagine the value those guys would have if they were the best defensive center fielder in the American League. It might not be perfect, but you can see why he’s rated so high.

          I’ve noticed the biggest disagreements with these values come on the defensive side. Walker is seen as better than he is because he’s got good offense, but his poor defense gets discounted. Kiermaier doesn’t have great offense, but amazing defense.

          I’ll admit the defensive stats aren’t perfect. But I do think they point you in the right direction, especially when they use multiple years of data. But defensive quantification is still fairly new, and because of that, we’re still in the early stages of people realizing the importance of defense. As a result, I think it’s still underrated, which leads to these types of disagreements about overall value.

  • Tim … I tend to lean towards your take as it makes more business sense. As you said, The BMTIB had years to “get rid” of him. They may have disliked his hustle as a kid and/or even been annoyed at his lack of eagerness to sign a below market extension early in his career. It may even be the root cause of not aggressively pursuing him for an at or over budget contract later in his career (which would have actually been a bad business decision). But they didn’t give him away – they got a pitcher coming off a sub-par year who pitched like a #3 over the past 5 years

  • Some people will believe anything DK writes. He could write “The sun rises in the West” and people would take it as fact. That is truly sad.

    • And some people will lap up anything Tim writes just the same.

      This is a hell of a place to be calling out other fans for who they choose to believe, and yes, I’m looking at you.

      • I’d like to meet these people.

        • If you honestly cannot see that there are folks on this site who will literally agree with just about anything you write I don’t know what to tell you.

          • Agreed. Pogues, apologists, and sycophants in abundant numbers.

          • You might want to consider the possibility that readers here can agree with much of what Tim publishes because they considered his arguments and drew the same conclusions Tim drew. That does not mean these readers are lapping up Tim’s writing. It means they agree with him.

            Being argumentative is not a virtue — except, of course, for persons living on Tedious World, which can be found in the same solar system as Bizarro World and Ass Backwards World.

        • Ummm. When do you want to meet?

    • DK once told me that their was no SANTA CLAUS! Imagine that! But he said he had proof but was unable to report it because it was off the record.

  • “The Pirates got the starter they needed…But they make up for that here with the value that Niese brings in the long-term.”

    No, they didn’t, and no, they will not.

    The Pirates needed a mid-rotation starter. That, Jon Niese most certainly is not. There is the *possibility* that he rebounds to the point of being a #4, but at that point you just described a reclamation starter. Reclamation starters shouldn’t cost a 2-win player and they should have upside. Niese does not. Also, before we sit back and expect Searage to work his magic, Niese just came from working under some Dan Warthen guy. You may have heard of him, and if you haven’t, you should probably pay attention to baseball outside of Pittsburgh a little more.

    The Pirates also cannot be paying free agent prices for back end work. If they could draft and develop pitching worth a damn, these should be the spots Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, etc will fill for pre-arm costs.

    I don’t see where this deal makes sense unless the goal was to get rid of Walker.

    • If they could draft and develop pitching worth a damn, these should be the spots Nick Kingham,

      You mean the guy that had surgery. Or the OTHER guy who would probably be starting for us, Taillon?

      You mean THOSE guys?

      • Yes, Foo, those.

        Drafting pitchers is inherently risky. They break. A lot. We knew this even before the TLS “epidemic”

        If you’re only successful enough at drafting and development that two injuries derail your plans, you weren’t actually ever successful enough at drafting and development.

        • They hardly drafted any pitchers in 2008. The one guy they did sign, Justin Wilson, pitched for them and was traded for Cervelli.

          The 2009 draft was a disaster.

          2010 saw a bunch of guys opt for college, but still has Kingham, who would have been up last year had it not been for Tommy John. Also had Sadler and Cumpton, who were both depth options until Tommy John.

          2011 produced Cole already, and will produce Glasnow this year.

          By mid-season, they will have 3-4 starters in the rotation who came up through the farm system. Until then, they will have to continue their successful approach of turning every pitcher into gold.

          As it stands right now, they do have two starters who were developed in the system: Cole and Locke.

    • Based on Tim’s previously posted stats of starters, Niese would qualify as a number 3. With some risk because he was coming off a bad year

      • Tim was wrong.

        • To clarify, those are stats I posted. It’s not some random opinion. It’s a study that was done by some smart baseball analysts at The Hardball Times which I updated.

          Also, Niese’s stats are well established and not as bad as you say.

          • And your stats were applied wildly incorrectly. A #5 starter is not one with a 5.15 ERA. Not an a team that expects to win.

            Niese, at best, is a #4.

              Check out the comparison between locke and neise.
              Also what gets lost isn’t as much a 3 or a 4 or a 5. It’s being a 3 for a playoff caliber team not a bottom dweller. This isn’t a championship move, this isn’t keeping up with division. If they do nothing else to improve the rotation they are not even close to a playoff team anymore. Dbacks improvements, giants bounceback, cubs improvements, and we still have more offseason to go.

              • Which is why i fully refute this as purely a “baseball move”.

                The Pirate gave up more value than they received, didn’t fill a need, and created a hole while doing it.

                • “Didnt fill a need.”

                  Well, they inherently did. They had a need for a SP, and found a SP. Totally fair to say they didnt fill a need as well you you want or with a high enough talent, but they literally did fill a need at SP with a SP.

                  They filled a need while creating a hole, but to their credit it’ll be easier for them to find a 2Bmen on their roster than a useful SP as we currently stand. I dont love the move, but its false to say they didnt fill any need with the move.

                  • “They had a need for a SP, and found a SP.”

                    Absolutely not. You’re moving the goalposts, Luke.

                    They didn’t have a need for the back end of the rotation. They just didn’t.

                    • Utter bullshit. You moved them if anyone did. They had a need for a SP, fans just scream that it had to be a #3 arm. The team doesnt give any crap about that, they went and found an arm to fill an open slot.

                      Im not arguing Niese is a #3, but that we needed an arm and got one. To argue we didnt fill a need means you have to argue the only way we fill a slot is with what fans consider an appropriate #3. It’s like fans screaming we didnt do anything to replace AJ at the deadline. They did fill a need, just not with a guy fans liked as able to produce the expected production.

                      They came into the offseason needing a ML SP, and got one. Its underwhelming, but they now dont have a need for a SP. We can disagree with their approach, but not with the fact that they did find an arm that rounds out the rotation.

                    • You have got to be shitting me.

                      Go find me one place on this site where Tim or anyone has said that a marginal back end starter would fill the pitching need this winter. Just one. I’ll be waiting.

                    • I can find a ton of people saying we needed SP.

                      And i can also find many places that disagree with the notion that Niese is only a marginal back end SP. Its gone from “he’s not a 3” to “He’s back end” to now “marginal back end”.

                      In a few posts, is he going to be out of baseball? He’s flawed, i’ve said that the entire time, but you are taking last years stats and now calling him barely ML SP.

                    • No, I’m the only one here who’s looking at *projected* performance, Luke.

                    • And that projected performance isnt marginal at the 5.

                      And him playing in a different ballpark with different defense can and may change his projection. But we wont discuss that, because it’ll be beside the point in a discussion of future value of a player somehow.

                    • Yes, it is! 4.00 FIP is absolutely a marginal back end starter on a contending team, when said team *already* has two other starters projected to do the same.

                    • Didn’t the Royals have Guthrie, Duffy and Young as backend starters with FIP above 4?

                    • Yep, and they replaced Guthrie with an ace while Chris Young break FIP with his pop ups.

                    • Niese in no way has ever been a marginal back end starter- what planet are you on where an FIP of a even 4 is a martinal back end starter?

                    • The same planet where every other analyst is also calling him a back end starter.

                    • funny- I don’t see names listed there in your land of extreme over-generalities. he is a 3-4, I’d say “back-half” starter, but he is definitely not a kaboose

                    • Coming off a .9 win season with a 4.41 FIP, projected to be around a 4 FIP moving forward…

                      You can call it whatever the hell you want, but that’s a back end starter on a contender.

                    • I’m sorry, I guess the rest of his career is irrelevant, and only 2015 exists- my bad.

                    • I’m still awaiting a list on this extremely large group of analysts who all say his is a fringe backend starter.

                    • Niese is better than Locke or Morton by all accounts- so how does this not help.

                  • They needed to fill a playoff team number 3 they did not. I’m afraid they are gonna balk on 2016 and hope taillon and glasnow pan out in 17. Wasting a year of cutch in his prime.

                    • They could have potentially got a neise type production from a reclamation type player if you are gonna go by their track record, costing less, and either keeping walker or trading elsewhere

                    • Im not arguing that Niese might be a poor number 3, but the point made above was that they didnt fill a need.

                      We needed a SP, and got a SP. Its changing the argument to suggest otherwise. They needed a SP they feel can produce well, and apparently they think thats Niese. You disagree with who they chose, but they did fill the need at SP.

                    • Complete, utter, bullsh*t.

                    • Fair enough. We disagree.

                    • I completely agree with you Luke- I think NMR all day has been struggling with PMS frankly.

                    • That theory is misguided. The same reason they only got neise in the deal is the same as why they’re trading walker in the first place (injury history, below avg. defense, 30+). You aren’t going to get a solid #3 starter for one year of Neil Walker at this point in his career. Sure, they could have went out and got a prospect or two, but they went and got a reliable starting pitcher. They only have 5 legitimate major league starters throughout the entire system right now, you can’t just bank on glasnow, taillon, kingham, to stay healthy and produce this season. They needed depth there and got it.

                    • They needed to package walker with prospects for an upgrade not a downgrade

                    • An upgrade where? Starting pitching or second base.

                    • Pitching

                    • Isn’t that what they just did though, major league rotation before trade cole liriano morton locke (no other options in minor leagues to break camp with because of injuries)

                    • Cutch’s prime is irrelevant, he’s not michael jordan

                  • And since when has it been easier for the Pirates to fill a position player need over a pitcher?

                    This is where the cognitive dissonance comes into play. We were supposed to “trust” the Pirates to find cheap pitching, right? Han’t that been what Tim has preached all off season?

                    The Pirates did not do that here. They just didn’t.

                    • My belief is that they’ve earned the right to fail before being criticized, rather than being criticized immediately over the idea that they could fail all because they have a different value of a player than someone else.

                    • Then why even write the damn article if all we’re allowed to do is compliment everything they do in flowery praise?

                      This isn’t black and white. It’s completely possible to question a move based on merit at the time it was made *while still* allowing for the very real possibility of being wrong.

                    • You can say whatever you want. I’ve never told anyone what they can and can’t say. I just explain my own thought process and where my opinions are coming from.

                    • You strawmanned that and never bothered to actually deal with what i said.

                      Its a fact that we have more options for 2B than we do SP, so filling a SP role (while with a guy many feel isnt great) does fill a need. Im not arguing he is great, that we are easily going to win this deal, but that you cant logically argue we didnt fill a need. We have Harrison for 2B, and Hanson until Kang is healthy to allow Harrison to move.

                    • Oh give me a break.


                    • You are taking today to just call anyone who disagree with you dumb or clueless and its not needed. We disagree, but im not calling you a moron for your opinion.

                      Stop acting like you are smarter than everyone for a disagreement that isnt trolling on either of our parts. We disagree, it happens.

                    • Haha, *I’m* the one acting smarter than everyone else?! Oh, okay.

                    • No you are right, im the only one talking down to people. Only me, not anyone else discussing things and calling people clueless and unable to discuss things.

                    • You’re the only one crying about it, that’s for sure. I know I can be a dick, I own it, and don’t expect anyone else to take it easy on me because of that.

                    • Never said take it easy on me, but you werent owning it so much as insinuating i am and that its crazy to point out that you have called about 5 people dumb, clueless, or without rights to argue something.

                      I surely am a dick as well. Im not crying, just pointing out that disagreement in this area surely doesnt mean one side is wrong and dumb. Neither of us, or any of us discussing this, are trolling or being irrational without some type of backing behind our opinion.

                    • NMR, you’re a really knowledgable fan and I appreciate your insight, but that doesn’t mean you’re right all the time.

                      Whether we like it or not, Niese fits the profile the Pirates look for in a SP. LH, ground ball heavy, who eats up lots of innings. These guys have proven to perform well, especially at home.

                    • And I will looooooove to be wrong, buddy!

                      You’re correct on all that, but the Pirates have done well at finding guys who fit that profile for far, far less *and* with more upside.

                      I’d rather have signed a “typical” reclamation pitcher like Masterson than give up a 2 win player *and* almost 10% of payroll.

                    • We can agree this move on the surface doesn’t fit what was expected return for Walker. I appreciate your willingness to say what you think, even if I don’t agree with it all the time.

                    • You as well, sir.

                    • They didn’t when they signed Morton either, but Niese is reliable and he is worth 9 million based on his production and provides better value for his contract than walker did for his, whether you like it or not

                    • Haha, oh, okay.

                  • I don’t understand how some people can point to WAR all day long and then ignore it when it doesn’t support their argument.

                    Niese doesn’t come close to doing what Burnett and Happ did last year.

                    • Niese was a 2.0-2.7 WAR player from 2011-14.

                    • And two of the years before the shoulder. Been a hell of a drop since then.

                      For this trade to work and for them to take those options he has to do 2 WAR or better right? That’s a stretch, Tim. It really is when his numbers look like Lockes.

                    • Are we paying for past or future performance, Tim?

                      You guys are twisting everything you’ve ever believed in to justify this.

                    • Wrong. The Pirates have a strong track record of getting pitchers to their best form. Niese is one year removed from being a two win pitcher. It’s not out of the question that he returns to that.

                      I’m not justifying anything. Everything I’ve said matches everything I’ve ever said about pitchers the Pirates bring in.

                      I understand you’re very upset about this trade. But you are being extremely condescending this morning.

                    • Hahaha, that’s precious. You calling anyone else condescending.

                      “Niese is one year removed from being a two win pitcher. It’s not out of the question that he returns to that.”

                      Exactly. And if they would’ve gotten Niese for reclamation prices – as the did with *every single other reclamation pitcher* – this move would be fine.

                      But they didn’t. They’re still paying him $9m *and* giving up a projected 2.4 win player.

                    • I’m not the one cussing everyone out this morning and telling them what they’re actually saying or the motivation behind their thoughts.

                    • I never ignored it for the Niese point, in fact i pointed to more of the stats on Niese than most do.

                      If you go “look at last year” only, then you look at Niese vs Walker last year. If you go back farther, Niese gets a ton of credit along with Walker. Its about looking at WAR and at WAR over a period of multiple years along with age+health and seeing the future projection.

                      I dont think Niese is a mid 3 ERA guy, but a sub 4 ERA guy who does things PGH likes. I dont love the move, but i get it.

                    • Thank you!

                    • Happ had basically the same stats as Niese did prior to Happ being traded to Pittsburgh. So we’re going to assume that while Happ improved, Niese can’t?

                    • Do you believe those 11 starts of Happ last year are the real Happ?

                • We get that you hate the trade. That’s fair. But to claim there’s no way Niese will fill the role AJ/Happ played is pure speculation at this point. Nobody knows how he will perform next year.

                  • See that’s the thing. I don’t “hate” this trade. I don’t think it makes the Pirates better, and wouldn’t have done it myself, but “hate” is way way too strong.

                    The only thing I’m strongly disagreeing with is folks bending over backwards to justify the move.

                    • Strongly disagreeing? That’s one way of putting it. Oh well, what else do we have to do this time of year to feed our love of baseball but strongly disagree about player movement?

                    • You got it, buddy. Just tell me to shut the hell up and we’ll find something tomorrow to chat about. 😉

              • Just because you believe the Pirates aren’t even close to a playoff team anymore with this roster doesn’t mean it’s true.

                Games aren’t won in December. How many times have we seen teams try to construct an All-Star team over the winter and see it blow up in their face the last few years?

                Lastly, I trust NH and his staff a whole lot more than you and the “experts” writing about baseball when it comes to constructing a winning roster.

              • He’s not the #3 starter until he starts game 3 of the opening series vs the Cardinals. There’s nearly 4 months until that day. They still want a starting pitcher

              • This isn’t the only thing they will do- they are still looking for another starter.

            • The average of the top 15 rotations was 5.00. The best was 4.15. Number 11 was 5.45. Means if you got better than 5.45, you had a top 10 result from your 5th starter.

              You are using assumptions of what each rotation spot SHOULD produce. This study was meant to show what they DID produce.

              • But it’s clearly being used to justify what SHOULD be a 5th starter, Tim. Come on. Playing dumb in this conversation is getting very old.

    • Nmr u hit the nail right in the head with this one. They needed a three and maybe if he does well got a four. I don’t see why they couldn’t trade walker and a prospect or two for a more capable option. League average pitcher will not keep pace with your competition. As much as we want to talk about an improved defense as a result, you now have a team that were middle of pack at best power wise to a below average one.

    • Good point about Warthen.

    • Did you see the statistical comparison between Niese and Leake over last 5 years? So do you also think Leake is a #4 SP at best? Because I have a feeling he’s about to get paid like he’s a strong #3 by someone.

    • NMR- what the hell are you talking about? Niese is still a #4 based on last year first of all. Second of all, Niese himself has been a 2 win player his entire career. Niese is a stretch to be a #3 on a playoff team, but is certainly a strong #4 by all accounts, and we did in fact need a #4 given the struggles of locke, allowing us to slide Morton to #5 starter. Doesn’t change the fact that we still need another mid rotation starter, but this does fill a need. We are getting a pitcher whom can probably command about 12 million a year right now with team control for up to 3 years for 9 million and with the ability to cut ties at any point if he goes south with no additional money owed. What part of this aren’t you getting?

  • You handled the DK article very nicely.

    Imma be not nice and say it was hilariously dumb and typical DK when he starts grinding his axe. Wasnt shocking he made up a rumor when they let Walker go, hell we called it.

    • Tim was little more than a fan with a blog when the stuff Dejan is talking about happened. You can believe what you want, but Tim doesn’t even deserve a seat at the table in this discussion.

      And remember, I’m the one who gave up my yearly subscription to Dejan and came over to Tim’s site.

      • That happened in 2010. At the time, this was all I was doing. It wasn’t making enough to be a full time job, but it still was my only job at the time. That was the first year I decided to expand and travel to cover every team. It was also the first year we did the Prospect Guide.

        Furthermore, it’s the same group running things with the same tactics. What DK described still happens like once a week throughout the system. So it’s not like I needed to cover things in person at the time to know exactly what happened, and who was involved in the decision.

        • That’s fine, and I really don’t mean this to be a personal attack on you, but you simply did not have the kind of access to refute or confirm Dejan’s story(ies).

          • I do have the access now. I was also a credentialed media member at the time for the minor league teams. And it’s not like I can’t ask what happened in a past situation.

            And this isn’t a story that I need some top level secret clearance for. I know how the minor league system works, and it was largely the same at the time.

            What exactly do you think is so irrefutable about his story? Because the only thing I’m saying for sure is that benching Walker for a pop up is extremely common, and definitely didn’t play into this trade or any other decision.

            • Nothing is irrefutable about his story, *if* it’s coming from someone with the internal access to verify he was wrong.

              I do not believe you did. No more, no less.

          • NMR … I get your point but it is poor debating to say that your co-debator (Tim in this case) can’t say anything because only you (or DK) know all the facts. For instance, this article below written by neither Tim or DK is interesting because it paints Walker in the position of a typical kid who wasn’t being promoted because, in his own manager’s words, he wasn’t focused. As soon as Walker got the message, he as promoted in two weeks…

      • Dejan, sadly, lost all his credibility in this discussion awhile ago. I like his writing, he’s a great writer who gets great stories outside the field of play.

        He decided to take that talent and fuck it up with a clear hatred of Stark that has gone on many years. So DK doesnt deserve a table at this discussion either since he has shown a clear irrational hate of Stark since he started covering him.

        Which isnt to say Tim deserves anything, but the DK has basically forfeited the right to make up rumors about Stark at this point. I guarantee he still believes the Hoka Hey crap was a real big story that showed Stark is a moron.

        Love DKs writing, appreciate his access to players, give him 0 credibility on stories He was a guarantee to make up a rumor he never really reported before the minute Walker left. It was predictable, throw out a random rumor about how NW hated someone in the FO and its why he left and the team didnt treat him fairly.

        What really just happened was DK lost his biggest source inside the clubhouse. The “pulse of the team” and “team leader” he uses when discussing morale and deadline moves? Id bet big money it was Walker.

  • Tim
    Is the “military theme” Dejan wrote about really an issue in the minor league system?

    • I only had a chance to scan through that thread yesterday, so I didn’t really see this comment. What is the military theme, and what is the issue?

      Maybe this answers your question, but I’m just asking for clarification.

      • He continually harps on the “hold” Kyle Stark has on the front office and his training tactics he puts players thru…references military style exercises…I thought Bob Nutting stopped those?

        • I just went back to see what you were referring to. If it’s the comment about hiring front office guys with military backgrounds, then that’s something that isn’t true. The four guys who were just promoted are:

          Ron Hopkins – Oakland A’s scout for eight seasons and Special Assistant to the GM in 2002. Also scouted with Texas, and was Special Assistant to Jon Daniels in 2010. Was just promoted to Special Assistant to the GM by the Pirates. So now he’s served that role under Billy Beane, Jon Daniels, and Huntington.

          Matt Ruebel – Former Pirates pitcher, then turned scout. BA named him one of ten future scouting directors in 2012. Was named Special Assistant to the GM.

          Rodney Henderson – Former MLB pitcher, then scouted for the Mets. Promoted to pro scout.

          Everett Russell – Long time Pirates scout and a college coach before that. Just promoted to pro scout.

          As for new hires:

          Mike Mangan – Was just hired as the assistant scouting director. Was a scout with Toronto since 2000, and scouted with Cincinnati in the mid-90s.

          They don’t have anyone in the front office that comes from a military background that I’m aware of. Maybe the trainers, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

          The idea that Stark has a hold on the front office isn’t accurate. It makes it sound like he’s secretly running things. The truth is the Pirates bring everyone in the mix, including Stark. Him especially, since he’s the Assistant GM. He’d have a say in everything, just like in Los Angeles where any one of their 12 GMs or Assistant GMs would be involved in the decisions.

          As for the exercises, I reported at the time that these were overblown. The funny thing about that is they probably wouldn’t even be a story today. I’m not saying that because the Pirates are winning (though they’d probably be hailed as innovators if the news came out now). I’m saying it because the workouts were basically Crossfit, which wasn’t mainstream back in 2012.

          I don’t think anything was stopped, except for the SEAL trainers coming in. But that’s not a big deal, because it was never anything that mattered to begin with.

          I also saw someone referencing Alex Dickerson and saying the Pirates ruined his body. He came to the system with chronic back problems, and several scouts pointed out to me that he had a horrible build that wasn’t athletic at all. A big reason why we were always lower on him than anyone else. His injuries had nothing to do with the Pirates. In fact, they tried methods to improve him, including stretches and orthotics, and eventually moving him to the outfield to limit wear and tear.

          • Good stuff…thanks….

            • To be honest, and because I’ve seen DK make this comment before, I think the military stuff is partially fueled by the military style haircuts that pretty much everyone in the scouting and development side has (short buzzcuts).

              Keep in mind, these guys operate out of Florida most of the time.

              As someone who also operates out of Florida, and who also gets very short military style haircuts once a month, I can tell you why they probably all get this haircut: it’s so damn hot in Florida during the summertime when you’re standing out on a baseball field for 3+ hours.

          • Didn’t two of the FO people just get industry awards? One thing you can’t be critical of is that the Pirates hire very smart people. I criticize like others at times but I have been impressed with this managements approach.

    • NO! He blew it out of proportion. DK being DK.

  • here is a thought ,if the pirates sign kazmir. Niese does not pass medical and is sent back to the mets.

  • Defense aside…without Walker and Pedro, where are they going to get left handed bats?

    • Seems like a short-term problem with Bell and Hanson taking over soon.

      Also, they’re looking for a left-handed hitting 1B to pair with Morse.

      • Do you think Hanson will be held back for super 2 or could he break camp with team.

        • Hanson isn’t really a guy you need to hold back. The system has so many options for the future that they will probably move on from Hanson before he even reaches the final years of arbitration. He also doesn’t project to be a star, so the impact of Super 2 wouldn’t be as big as it would for Glasnow or Bell.

          • Could the plan for Hanson be to call him up a few weeks into April? We really haven’t seen the Pirates do this. They stick to the super two clock. I could see Gift or Florimon (A plan I dislike) for a few weeks then Hanson up. Then again once Kang is back Hanson might go back down anyways so it may not matter.

            • If Kang starts the season on the DL, I think it’s more likely that Hanson comes north with the Pirates and then send him down for three weeks “to work on his pitch selection” or something like that when Kang comes back.

            • Or just Have Hanson start the season with us and send him down later- service time is service time, doesn’t matter how it comes

        • Hanson has been horrible at start of every season. This fact alone should disqualify him from starting year in Pittsburgh.

        • Yea, I follow what you and Scott are saying. Lot of 2b types breathing down Hanson neck.

          • but Hanson is the best of them and the closest- i think Tim is a little off base thinking they will move on from Hanson so quickly. Hanson wouldn’t be a top 10 prospect on this team if he didn’t “project to be a star” unless our views of what a star is, are very different

            • Lot of investment in middle infielders recently.

              • high round picks yes- but none with an upside higher than Hanson realistically. it isn’t like any of them are power hitters, the next ozzie smith, or guys who will steal 50 bases. Hanson has more power/speed combination than anyone else we have at middle infield in the minors at any level

                • I think we are gonna have to agree to disagree. I think Hanson is the most vastly overrated of the next class of rookies.

                  • Well- we don’t necessarily have to agree to disagree, I’m still waiting why you feel that way, or which 2nd baseman you see in our organization have better defense at 2nd, better speed, or better power. Because i don’t see any…

                    • Abraham Nunez.

                    • who?

                    • Lol. The reason I have my doubts about Alex Hanson.

                    • I’m not following sorry

                    • The Pirates had a player in the late 90s. Abraham Nunez. Top 60 prospect in baseball. Never hit consistently. Utility player. Switch hitter. Streaky.

                    • Yeah yeah, i know what you are talking about now. Sorry, we weren’t on the same page. I didn’t follow prospect ratings back then, I didn’t remember he was so highly touted. The one thing you are missing though, is that it wasn’t like someone else came up later or was blocked by Nunez that was better…… my question was, whom in our minor league organization has more tools at middle infielder than Hanson, and I still don’t see anyone whom has more speed, power, range. We have a few folks who can hit or play D, but no power or much speed. Nunez never had any power or speed either, so i’m not really sure what made him so highly regarded.

                    • Nunez’s bat and speed were highly regarded. They just never translated. Glove no question better than Hanson’s.

                      Sorry, just not a fan. Hope Im wrong.

                    • Alen. Auto correct

              • so if Hanson doesn’t rank out as a star- then we just wasted a hell of a lot of high draft picks on guys whom at best will not be as good as hanson, not real reassuring with our recent draft strategy

  • Please remember Neil will make $10 million as a player. This is more money than all but a few Yinzers will earn. He was a great community guy and I wish him well. PBC is run with very tight budget constraints and they do not stray. They do not have room for emotional ties. Can his replacement be better we do not know. But I pity the poor eastward who replaces him!

  • One thing…this deal is basically Walker+1st round pick (comp for QO FA which Walker will be when he leaves next year) for Niese…something to keep I mind.

    • No way Neil gets a QO next year

      • Huh? You’re crazy…Daniel Murphy got a qualifying offer from the Mets and Walker will be only 1 year older and with better production than Murphy when he reaches free agency next year. For you to say he won’t receive a QO means that you don’t think in FA Walker will get a multi-year contract offer…which is ridiculous.

        • Depends. NY life for a ballplayer takes time to adjust. Something he doesn’t have.

        • Crazy? Not really. Very similar production , not clearly better. He also has a chronic bad back which ages him a little more. Will he get a QO? I doubt it. The Mets won’t need him and won’t have the money to waste on him. If for some reason he does, it will clearly impact his multi year contract because a team will lose a draft pick for an aging second basemen with no range and a bad back. If he accepts the QO, the Mets will be stuck with him for another year. Me thinks it is you who is the crazy one.

          • The only reason not to give Walker a QO is the same flawed logic that made the Pirates fail to give one to Burnett.

          • Haha. You can feel free to call me crazy, but the fact of the matter is that Walker WILL get a QO. That is what happens in baseball. That is not up for debate. I would ask you to find a player who has put up the WAR that Walker has (again without projecting him to completely crap the bed in NY) and is his age who didnt get the QO, but I am not sure you could do that.

            Comparing Murphy and Walker:
            Walker 15.4 WAR in 3426 PA
            Murphy 13.8 WAR in 3619 PA

            Walker has a superior ISO (30% better), superior wRC, a superior wOBA, has better OBP and SLG and is (although slightly) a better defensive player. So please tell me again how he will not be worth a qualifying offer?

            Walker is a better (overall) player than Ian Desmond and Murphy (both of whom received QOs)…and Walker will be (EASILY) the top 2B amongst FA next year….and, in fact, will be one of the top 5 infielders in FA next year.

            Unless Neil Walker completely falls apart in NY…he WILL receive a long-term deal from someone in 2017 and therefore WILL get the QO.

            • Injuries could cause it, not just bad performance. His second base days may be over by the end of next season as well, which could also hurt his value

      • The other issue is that you really must think Walker will go to NY and suck…bc if he keeps up his 2+ WAR he is easily worth 15M

        • Walker is truly one of the most consistent players in the majors the last 6 years…his numbers are basically the same every year besides a little variation in power numbers. No reason to believe he will be too much different in NY for one year.

          • And that is, exactly, why he will get the QO and will get a multi-year contract.

            • I wish he fit the Pirates’ plans, but if he did that would mean that they aren’t as good and have less talent at 2B and 1B in the system. I hope he comes back to the Pirates when he’s 35-36 and finishes his career as a bench guy with the Pirates.

    • That pick is true, but the pick would probably be 4 years away from the big leagues.

  • I’m hoping Josh’s September/Oct was a sign he was just off last season. He certainly looked more like the 2014 JHay over the final 5 weeks. But, for the Bucs to have any shot at the division in 2016, he, like Cutch, needs to show up in April. Still doesn’t get Bucs any game winning HR heroics, but if Harrison’s gap power is back, that should equate to equal or better offensive production from 2b, with better defense.

    • He did help down the stretch, and he is a natural 2B, but I hope the Pirates take advantage of bringing up both Bell and Hanson for the IF, and at least 2 SP’s from AAA. With the departure of both Alvarez and Walker, the stage is set for a transition that could help for a long time.

      • Seems hopefully too obvious to ignore Hanson at this point. They’ll need someone to fill in for Kang over a short term period, and then need a backup IFer to replace some value that Harrison brought off the bench.

        While its reasonable to expect them to keep Hanson down until after the service time date, Super 2 seems less of a concern with him as it would with higher upside players.

    • Josh started slow, then dealt with injuries- he was doing very well right before he got hurt- I think everyone is underestimating him just like they have his whole career. He could very well be an all-star second baseman this year.

  • Lol, if you ask my wife, he really isn’t from Pittsburgh, he is from the burbs. Good luck to Neil.

    • when in another state and asked where your from, do you say north hills????

    • The burbs are the heart and soul of real pittsburgh…..any real pittsburgher knows that. Noone is really from the city, noone lives there other than ghetto.

  • Remember 1992, we knew weren’t going to sign Bonds and Doug Drabek. We kept both players didnt win they both walked and we got nothing in return. 2015 we knew we weren’t going to sign Walker Hanson is future 2nd basemen, he got something we needed to help the team win.

    Side note about 1stbase why don’t we try and get Scott Van Slyke, decent defense, good bat, 3 years left 2 are arbitration. But he can play in the outfield as well when Bell comes up.

    Also Tyler Clippard is still available, if we trade Mark M I hope we get Tyler to be the next set up guy.

    • I like Van Slyke.

      • Me, too!

        • SufferinBuccotash
          December 10, 2015 9:37 am

          Me three, but he’s right handed, and they already have $8 million committed to a RH first baseman next year.

          • That’s true, but over all Ibrhink he fits what Pirates try / want to do. Get guys that can multiple positions, and play them effectively. Would also be a good bat off the bench, and opinion if something happens to Marte, Cutch or Polanco.

          • Morse can hit RH pitching better than LHers. Van Slyke can play vs lefties.

            I don’t think it will happen, but I still like Van Slyke.

          • dodgers ate like 3.5 million of morse’s contract so it’s only $4.5 this season

          • i don’t think that matters- they view Morse as a bench bat replacing the sunk cost of Tabata

    • I thought Bonds left because he and Billy Virdon got into a tiff in ST.

      • Barry Bonds wanted to be like his dad and God Father. The Pirates where in his rear view mirror. I’m pretty sure he turned down a deal w the Pirates in 1990 or 91, don’t remember exactly I was only 9/10 years then. We could of traded Bonds for a huge haul and maybe not lost for 20 years.

        • And if they traded Bonds and Drabek they would not have played in the NLCS that year.

          • My point was they knew they were not going to sign either of them and rolled the dices to try and win for that 1 year, and didn’t look down the road. I’m glad they are looking down road now, and not just 2016

            • Right. And my point is that if they didn’t roll the dice chances are good they wouldn’t have played in that gamer or sniffed the World Series that year

              By the way, it was a pretty memorable year that year. Only an improbable play kept them out of the World Series and Pirates fans have been talking about that season and that game for years. You only get so many shots. I’m glad they took theirs.

              Now, they didn’t win the World Series. But, You don’t know for one second that they would’ve done any better over the next 20 some years had they traded Bonds and/or Drabek. They were one of the most poorly managed franchise for decades. What makes you think they would have traded wisely or that things would have turned out differently?

              It’s a silly comparison too. Walker is no Bonds and Happ is no Drabek.

              • Not comparing Walker to Bonds or Happ to Drabek. My point was Bonds would of got at least 3 players w team control for 6 years. Yes you have roll the dice, but you have to know when to double down also. Walker wasn’t staying here and we got something we needed for wash in money. Walker can’t stay healthy, but it was nice to have a local kid on the team when we got good again.

  • I was AT the game in Allentown when he was benched. In fact, when he came out of the game, the people I sat at with the game thought he was being pulled to be sent to Pittsburgh. But, It was NOT just a pop up. It was an Infield Fly rule out. The Ump called it almost as soon as it left his bat.The second baseman could have fallen and let the ball hit him on the head, and walker could have flown like Marte, and he was still out. No matter what, he was out. It was like, not seeing a guy fly down the line on a strike out.

    It is something that bothered me then, I saw no reason for it. It made no sense. I wasn’t in the Pirates Clubhouse, I don’t know if he is an obnoxious jerk, and they just wanted to pull his chain. But pulling a guy for not running out an Infield fly means.. A, you do not know baseball; B, the guy you are pulling is a total ass, and you want to put him down; or C, the guy who wanted him pulled has a real vendetta against someone.

    I am not sure I believe DK, but I DO know about the Infield Fly Out incident, because I was at the game

    • I just looked up that game, and now I’m confused. Walker was pulled from the game after that play, but he was in the lineup the next night and was never suspended. He played every single game until he was called up.

      Not debating the infield fly situation, and how quickly you could judge it, but skipping to the decision. That would be on the manager, and not the front office. It’s an in-game decision. If Walker would have been suspended beyond that, it would have been due to the front office. He wasn’t, so I now find it impossible that this incident started a long standing rift between Walker and the front office.

      • They pull guys all the time. Polanco got pulled at least once for sliding head first, which they don’t want prospects doing. And, yeah, that’d have to be the mgr’s call on the spot. The whole conspiracy thing sounds like birther stuff to me, trying to construct something out of little bits and snippets of info taken out of context.

      • It was not really on the mgr.
        The Bucs/Stark had a policy that if U didn’t run everything out U got benched. Applying that to Walker’s InF Fly was ridiculous. It was not a well thought out rule.
        1 example of Guys Learning on the job.

        • He literally missed 3 innings.

          • And six years later we’re saying that ended his career in Pgh. We all know that’s BS and that the real reason is that he was born in Kenya.

            • it did NOT end his career, it ended that game.

              I was at that game, thought it curious, and reported it on the old PBC blog. For all I know, that is where DK first heard of it.

              But at the time, there was talk Walker was being promoted, so when he was pulled, that is what the fans next to me, and even the Iron Pigs announcers thought. ( my wife DVR’d the game at home in hopes of seeing me)

              I agree running out balls in play. But that wasn’t one. If anyone thinks THAT incident got Walker traded, they are delusional.

              But I reported it the way it happened

            • No, that’s Obama

        • If you have a policy that says “all players must run out every ball in play, and failing to do so will result in being benched”, then if you fail to run out a ball in play, you get benched. I don’t see what’s so hard about that. If you start down the path of “well, that was an infield fly, so you don’t have to run on those balls in play”, then you’re defeating the purpose of the policy – at least part of which is, “You do what the club tells you to do.”

          It’s not your job to think; that only hurts the ballclub. If the ballclub says you wear high socks and black cleats, you wear high socks and black cleats, you don’t start lawyering about exactly how low you can wear your uniform pants and whether these dark grey cleats are black enough.

          • Except.. It is NOT a ball in play. It is an out automatically.

            Unless the Pirates manager does not know the rule book..

            • Or you don’t.

              “An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an
              attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied before two are out.,..

              “The ball is alive…”

              The ball is in play. Yes, the batter is automatically out as soon as the umpire calls an infield fly, but the ball is in play.

              • This discussion is pointless- baseball players are not soldiers and they are paid to think, in fact baseball requires so much thinking on almost every play that your statement is absolutely absurd

      • Oh, agree… I just think it VERY odd he was pulled for that. It seemed more like the kind of message to give to a kid who you think is too big for his britches.

        As to the rift, that seems , perhaps, to be the reason for the pulling, not the pulling for the rift.

        If there even WAS a rift!

  • Have to give Pirates brass the benefit of the doubt with this trade. A bit surprised Walker was dealt with Kang injury, and dealt for a seasoned vet instead of young inexpensive talent, too.

    I’d like to say thank you to RDNW for his years as a Pirate. He was a class act, good ball player and an outstanding member of the community. I wish him all the best in the future.

    • I think this trade shows us the Kang will be ready for the opener. I heard he is sliding down water slides in Korea. If the brass didn’t think he would be ready, they don’t make this trade.

  • Walker was a good soldier and he did well for the Pirates. He switched positions when asked and did so without a lot of BS. At times in 2015 he helped carry this team, but the trade was a necessity and both teams were winners. I might be biased, but I think the Pirates did very well in this trade.

    • He switched positions when asked because it gave him an opportunity to make the major leagues and become a starter. It’s not like it was some sacrifice he made for the good of the team. He was behind Alvarez on the third base depth chart, so his choices were either to switch positions and possibly have a major league career, or insist on playing third and ride the bench in Indianapolis until Alvarez got promoted and then hope for Alvarez to bust.

  • FWIW, I think you covered this topic well Tim.
    I’ve been a proponent of Neise since midseason. Hopefully he will be injury free and turn out to be a good pickup.

  • Tim – Dejan also wrote that he couldn’t write about 99% of the things he knows about this rift between the front office and Walker due to it being told to him “off the record.” I also have s hard time believing they were looking to dump Walker just to rid of him. Even if they didn’t like him personally, they aren’t going to intentionally make the team worse out of some vendetta. It’s Huntington’s livelihood at stake here.

    • That’s the key thing — I don’t think it was a factor here.

      Even if we concede that there was a rift between Walker and whoever, that just makes this like every single workplace ever. An employee hating a supervisor? A supervisor not liking an employee? These aren’t uncommon for any organization. The idea that everyone must live in harmony and agree with every decision and approach the team makes is unrealistic.

      Rifts are only a problem when they impact the way a team is run. In this case, there’s no evidence at all that any rift led to Walker being handled differently. Every step of his career and every move that was made can be explained by smart baseball decisions.

      • Yes and everyone also knew Walkers days were numbered based upon the logical progression of baseball. If they extended him and he didn’t produce complaints would be loud and constant about the F O.

        • Bingo Like and subscribe to DK but (1) he is hugely biased on some FO people (2) Tim you are right. It may be a fact that walker wasn’t always happy with some people in management but that’s hardly news in sports today. And saying the trade was made purely for that reason is ignorant.

    • If Dejan knows stuff he can’t report, he should not report that fact. What makes investigations rational are their verifiability. Others can prove or disprove the claim. What can we look at in this case? Not much because Dejan did not report what the Pirates had against Walker, and claimed that the Pirates would not publicize their complaints.

      So he leaves us with innuendo that assassinates Walker’s character.

      This is bad journalism, especially in matters as trivial as a game.

      • Strongly Agree.

      • DK has had a hard on for the Pirates brass forever. It should come as no surprise he’s taking this opportunity to create animosity towards them today.

        Thankfully most fans see through his words to his heart and will file them where they belong, in the dumpster.

      • I couldn’t agree more. Well said.

      • Nailed it. Beyond bad journalism. When a guy says “I can’t even tell you all the stuff I know.” he has smartest guy in the room syndrome.

      • Steve you’ve got it backwards the character being assailed was Kyle Stark and to a lesser degree Huntingtons not Walkers.

        DK for years as been out in front of what he refers to as the Hoka Hey campaign against Kyle Stark since the Seals training scandal a few years ago.

        Since I have no insider access to the team, like most of us, I rely on the opinions of others who do, DK being one of them. That said DK did seem to have something of a personal issue with Stark and some of the Pirate hierarchy in his comments yesterday. I for one prefer to compile my own opinion on information from many sources such as this site as well as DKonPittsburghSports which I generally provides excellent coverage and opinions.

        • I did not care for the Seal training business, but Dejan attempted to turn that molehill into a mountain. Dejan attempted to tar someone. He was wrong to do so.

    • It’s quite likely that Walker was frustrated by the Pirates not wanting to extend him. That could certainly lead to hard feelings, but they had legitimate baseball reasons (disappearing range, back problems, inability to hit LHPs, not being a good enough hitter to be a potential long-term firstbaseman) for taking that position. If perfectly sensible decisions lead to a “rift,” that’s just life and a team shouldn’t be expected to go against its better judgment to avoid it, or to make Dejan happy by keeping one of his favorite sources in Pittsburgh. (And, frankly, the “hoka hey” firestorm turned out to be such a complete pile of BS that Dejan has absolutely no credibility with me on any subject having to do with Kyle Stark. The Pirates have one of the best farm systems and one of the best development operations in the game. They’ve somehow done this under two people — Stark and Larry Broadway — that Dejan claims are unqualified and incompetent. There’s a serious credibility issue here, and it’s not Stark.)

      Anything beyond that is simply contradicted by the objective evidence. Walker remained a starter throughout his time with the team. Nobody benched him and he was never the subject of trade rumors until now. In 2015, he started becoming a liability on defense and he had his worst offensive season as his power dropped off a lot. The latter could be the result of the back problems, which tend to sap power. He was about to become very expensive and would have been a free agent in a year. They had a hole in the rotation and they have other alternatives for filling the position, some of which (Harrison, Hanson) may result in immediate defensive upgrades that could cancel out the lost offense. All I see here are baseball decisions being made for plausible baseball reasons. No need for unverifiable conspiracy claims to explain anything.

      • Wilbur you hit it out of the park!

        • And I’m not crazy about the trade, either. But this conspiracy stuff is too much.

          • Wilbur, I’m with you. Lost the right side of our infield and 43 hrs and around 150 rbi’s. Walker was steady at 2nd with little range. But, with defense positioning, he completed most plays hit in his direction. I hope Niese is better that a 4-5 starter. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats and even ground balls get through the infield.

      • Dale Deabenderfer
        December 10, 2015 7:41 am

        Well said

      • Great points all. +1 on the “Hoka Hey” manufactured garbage. I saw a tweet by Dejan yesterday afternoon referring to a forthcoming article that “some people won’t like”. As many have pointed out, for a variety of reasons this is not good journalism. Rather it’s “clickbait” for Dejan’s site. I hate to see Neil go but it’s a business and I do like the potential value of Niese here. I believe, once again, the Pirates’ front office put the team in the best position to succeed going forward.

      • Totally agree. Walker is the hometown boy and barely has had to play on a team more than 5 hours from Pittsburgh since drafted. He lived in his parents home right down the road early in his career…he is gonna be a little miffed about the Pirates not offering an extension and continuing the Cinderella story…even if he thought the offer was low and didn’t accept it. It’s a little bit of a sad ending to a great career for the hometown boy…but it is what it is. It’s just business and I’m sure everyone will soon be over it. One .290, 20 HR season in NY and Neil will make more money than he could have imagined in Pittsburgh from endorsements and an extension.

      • Both Walker and Niese have flaws in their baseball. I don’t know about Niece, but Walker’s personally should not come into the conversation. I’ve have seen him as an asset to Pittsburgh and the community. He will be missed and I hope he doesn’t make his home in New York. Now, that will mess him up.

    • I heard Oakland traded Donaldson because he got in the face of the GM. The GM says no one does that to me. Now he has no face and no Donaldson.