Neil Walker Rumors
Over the course of 48 hours last week, teams handed out nearly a half-billion dollars in long-term deals to Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright and Paul Goldschmidt, Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes. But not all of those expensive contracts go well, which leads to, for example, last week trade of Vernon Wells from the Angels to the Yankees. "We're becoming like the NBA," says Brewers GM Doug Melvin. "Instead of old-fashioned baseball trades, we're trading contracts. I can see more of these in the future. And that's concerning." A sidebar to Nightengale's article lists how much each team will be paying other teams this year, much of it for contracts gone bad. The Angels are paying the most money, most of it going to the Yankees for Wells. The Pirates are receiving the most money, much of it coming from the Yankees (for A.J. Burnett) and Astros (for Wandy Rodriguez). Here are more notes from around the league.
- Two bad months -- a bad August 2011 for the Red Sox, and a bad August 2012 for the Indians -- helped create the 2013 Indians, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Without the Red Sox's bad month, Cleveland wouldn't have been able to hire manager Terry Francona, and without the Indians' 5-24 August, the team's ownership might not have felt the need to make a splash in the offseason. That month of "zombie baseball" led to the acquisitions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds, Hoynes argues.
- The Red Sox will see former star Kevin Youkilis as he makes his regular-season debut with the Yankees on Monday, Peter Abraham of the Boston Glove notes. Youkilis signed a $12MM deal with the Yankees in the offseason. "It’ll be weird," says Boston's Jon Lester. "I wouldn’t never thought that it would happen. But he made that choice for him and his family. I’m sure he’s excited about it."
- Pirates second baseman Neil Walker also says he isn't likely to discuss a long-term contract with the team during the regular season, Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter). The Bucs have not made a new offer to Walker, either, Sanserino says. Walker will make $3.3MM in 2013 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Manager Dale Sveum is prepared for the possibility that the Cubs could be sellers again at the July 31st trade deadline, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Sveum said he hopes to be in contention but will understand if the team needs to re-focus on 2014. "If your team is out of it, to start building and getting a healthier organization, unfortunately or fortunately, that's part of the business," he said. Here are some more notes from around the National League...
- Tom Singer of MLB.com explains that the Pirates would probably like to lock up core players such as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. While Walker would presumably like to stay with the Pirates, his hometown team, retaining him will be expensive, as Singer outlines. Alvarez, a New York native, might like the idea of playing for the Yankees in Singer's view.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that Kip Wells looked good throwing for Phillies people yesterday (Twitter link). Wells, who started seven games for the Padres last year, had good off-speed pitches, Heyman writes.
- Adrian Gonzalez said that he couldn't be happier to be playing for the Dodgers, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. "I'm really really happy and excited to be here and really excited about where the team is heading and what we have an opportunity to do here," Gonzalez said. The Dodgers acquired Gonzalez from the Red Sox in a blockbuster trade last August.
Jered Weaver isn't worried that he might have lost out on a bigger contract when he signed a five-year, $85MM extension with the Angels in 2011, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles times writes. "I don't give a [expletive]," says Weaver. "You can quote me on that." If not for the extension, Weaver would have been a free agent this past offseason, in which Zack Greinke received a $147MM contract from the Dodgers. Here are more notes from around the majors...
- Giants president Larry Baer is discussing long-term contract extensions with general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Sabean and Bochy are signed through 2014, but, after having won World Series in 2010 and 2012, Baer appears to be planning to keep them in San Francisco much longer, saying their extensions "won't be for one year."
- The Dodgers have discussed an extension with manager Don Mattingly, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times notes. "I think you might see something come up before the end of the year," says Dodgers chairman Mark Walter. Mattingly is in the last year of a three-year deal. Walter also says that the Dodgers, who already have a $230MM payroll in 2013, still have the financial flexibility to add substantial talent at this year's trade deadline, should the need arise. "I think in terms of who the players are, what we need and what our options are, rather than a total budget," Walter says. An extension for Clayton Kershaw could also be on the horizon.
- The Pirates and second baseman Neil Walker avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal in late January, but "it could be a matter of when, not if" the two parties reconvene talks on an extension, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Walker will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, at which point he will be 31 years old.
Earlier today the Pirates extended manager Clint Hurdle through the 2014 season. Hurdle's contract contains an option for the 2015 season as well. Here's more news on the Buccos for your Monday reading pleasure...
- Neil Walker could be the next Pirate in line for a contract extension, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pirates president Frank Coonelly said an extension for Walker was "absolutely" a possibility and called the second baseman part of the team's core going forward.
- Despite Coonelly's comments, Walker told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he's not aware of any recent conversations between his agent and the Pirates about a long-term deal (Twitter link). Walker is client of Hendricks Sports, as shown in MLBTR's Agency Database.
- More from Morosi, who tweets that Jason Grilli's final contract decision came down to the Pirates, Blue Jays and Cubs. All three teams offered similar deals, but Grilli elected to return to Pittsburgh on a two-year, $6.75MM contract.
8:38pm: McDonald will earn $3.025MM while Walker's deal is worth $3.3MM, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter link).
5:58pm: The Pirates have agreed to new contracts with right-hander James McDonald and second baseman Neil Walker, avoiding arbitration with the two players, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports (Twitter link). Both players were arb-eligible for the first time and are both are represented by Hendricks Sports.
McDonald, 28, held a 2.37 ERA through his first 17 starts in 2012 but a 7.52 ERA in his 13 outings and was even sent to the bullpen by season's end. Since coming to the Pirates from the Dodgers in July 2010, McDonald has a 4.10 ERA, 2.07 K/BB ratio and a 7.8 K/9 rate in 72 games, all but one a start. McDonald was looking for a $3.4MM salary while the Bucs countered with a $2.65MM offer.
Walker's contract will pay him in the neighborhood of $3.25MM in 2013, as Singer reports (Twitter link) that Walker will get around $300K more than what other arb-eligible second baseman like Daniel Murphy, Gordon Beckham and Ryan Roberts received from their teams. Walker wanted a $3.6MM deal while the Pirates offered him a $3MM contract, so he should end up with around the midpoint between the two figures.
Like McDonald, Walker also had a roller-coaster of a season, posting a .648 OPS through May, then a .933 OPS over his next 52 games that included a whopping 1.097 OPS in July. The Pittsburgh native fell off again down the stretch, due in part to a herniated disc in his back. The Pirates discussed a long-term extension with Walker last offseason and could revisit the subject during Spring Training. Walker, 27, has three more arb-eligible years left as a Super Two player.
As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, the Pirates have now come to terms with all of their arbitration-eligible players.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk paid tribute to Roberto Clemente who lost his life 40 years ago today in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico. Clemente was on a mission of mercy delivering emergency supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. David Maraniss, in his biography Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball‘s Last Hero, wrote, "The mythic aspects of baseball...usually draw on cliches of the innocent past. (Clemente's myth) arcs the other way, to the future, not the past, to what people hope they can become." (h/t Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). Here are more remembrances of the first Latin American inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
- David Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes Pirates' second baseman Neil Walker can thank Clemente for being born. Tom Walker, Neil's father, was a pitcher for the Expos and wanted to accompany his friend Clemente on that fateful flight. Clemente told Tom Walker to go enjoy New Year's Eve instead.
- FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi tweeted a quote from Tom Walker, "If there had been 6 seats on the plane I would have gone. There were 5."
- Alfredo R. Berrios of ESPNDeportes.com offers his own recollections of that night in 1972 and those of other Latin American sportswriters and sportscasters who covered Clemente.
- Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today discusses Clemente's impact throughout Latin America. Ortiz adds Clemente's athletic legacy may have waned in Puerto Rico, but his dignity and devotion to those less fortunate continues to resonate.
- Jim Lachimia, in a special to MLB.com, spoke with Roberto Clemente Jr. about his father.
- MLB Network has posted a video, hosted by Bob Costas, paying respect to Clemente's life and the lives he impacted in baseball and around the world.
The Tigers' re-signing of Anibal Sanchez puts them right there with the Angels as favorites to win the American League in 2013, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Some are wondering if the Halos’ combination of Mike Trout, Hamilton and Albert Pujols is the best ever, but the Tigers can’t be too far behind with Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder. Here's more Friday night linkage from around baseball..
- If the Padres trade for a starting pitcher, Corey Brock of MLB.com (via Twitter) doesn't can't see how they don't part with Luke Gregerson or Joe Thatcher as part of a deal, since they are reluctant to move prospects. San Diego is said to be interested in Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello.
- Second baseman Neil Walker just became arbitration eligible, but he said at today's fan event that he would be open to a long-term deal with the Pirates, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This is the city I want to be in,” Walker said. “I‘m excited about my first year of arbitration, (but) I can‘t really speak too much more on that. I hope to be a Pirate for a long, long time.”
- The Twins will be among the teams at pitcher Brandon Webb's throwing session after the holidays, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The former Cy Young winner hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 because of shoulder issues.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times spoke with Josh Hamilton's "accountability partner" Johnny Narron, who worked with him for five years with the Reds and Rangers.
- McCutchen turned down two contract offers before agreeing to terms with the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
- The Pirates figured that Walker would be easier to sign than McCutchen earlier on in the negotiating process. A source close to the Walker-Pirates talks tells Biertempfel that a lot of work needs to be done on a possible agreement.
- It sounds like the Pirates won't work out an extension with Walker in the immediate future, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington said Pirates fans don’t have to worry that the club will flip McCutchen for prospects, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. “We are now well beyond the talent-accumulation phase,” Huntington said. “We're into the championship, Major League team-building phase." Huntington also pointed out that in baseball there’s no LeBron James or Sidney Crosby to come in and save a franchise more or less on his own.
- Heyman writes that he doesn't consider McCutchen a $51.5MM player yet, though Pirates people expect him to become one.
The Pirates put a finishing touch on their offseason yesterday, agreeing to terms with Andrew McCutchen on a six year, $51.5MM contract extension. Here's the latest on the Pirates, starting with some reactions to the McCutchen deal...
- Neil Walker told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh is lucky to have McCutchen under long-term control (all Twitter links). Walker, an extension candidate himself, told Sanserino that he'd also like to sign a long-term deal with the Pirates. So far extension talks haven’t gone very far, according to Walker.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs agrees with Walker, writing that Pirates fans should "dance in the streets" to celebrate the contract that will keep McCutchen in Pittsburgh for his prime.
- Nate McLouth and Charlie Morton were also pleased to see the deal completed, MLB.com's Tom Singer writes.
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the yearly breakdown of McCutchen's contract (Twitter link).
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney told Joe Giardina of Pittsburgh Sports Report that the Pirates are having trouble luring free agents to Pittsburgh. "They seem to be picking from just a different menu than some of the other teams," Olney said.
- Olney added that Pedro Alvarez is the most important player to the 2012 Pirates since he could break out into a star or continue to struggle.
With Andrew McCutchen's extension completed, the Pirates will focus their attention on second baseman Neil Walker, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Biertempfel believes a Walker extension may be "pricier than they originally expected," but the team will still pony up. What would be a fair deal for the 26-year-old Walker?
Walker currently has one year and 166 days of big league service, meaning he'll be arbitration eligible as a Super Two player after the 2012 season. A direct comparable for Walker may be difficult to find, as few infielders with less than two years of service have signed extensions in recent years. Walker is only six days shy of two years of service. If we look at second basemen who signed extensions with between two and three years of service, we get Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, Aaron Hill, Ian Kinsler, and Robinson Cano. Their contracts ranged from four to six years, guaranteed $12-40.5MM, and had at least one club option.
Walker owns a .280/.338/.423 line in 1171 plate appearances across 286 games, with 24 home runs, 149 RBI, 138 runs, and 12 steals. Kinsler's numbers through '07 are better, aside from RBI, but not wildly different. Kinsler signed a five-year, $22MM contract that paid $13MM for his three arbitration years and $7MM for a free agent year, plus a club option on another. The contract is four years old, however. Zobrist seems another decent comparable. He had much more service time than Walker, but a similar number of career plate appearances. Zobrist trumps Walker's home run total and platform year but was similar career-wise. But even coming off an MVP-caliber year, Zobrist signed a four-year deal worth $18MM with a pair of club options. He received $14.5MM for his three arbitration years.
Neither Kinsler nor Zobrist was a Super Two player. Walker must be compensated for four arbitration years, perhaps at $18-20MM total. If the contract is to include one free agent season it'd probably be around $8MM. A five-year, $27MM deal beginning with the 2013 season could be fair for Walker. From the Pirates' point of view, Walker doesn't have the power or service time of Kinsler of Zobrist, perhaps justifying the inclusion of two club options for the Hendricks Sports client.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.