Neil Walker Rumors

Pirates Notes: Walker, Grilli

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.

Pirates Avoid Arbitration With McDonald, Walker

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.


Roberto Clemente: A Remembrance

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.


Odds & Ends: Tigers, Padres, Walker, Webb

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..


Pirates Notes: McCutchen, Walker

The Pirates have officially announced their contract extension with Andrew McCutchen, which makes Neil Walker the next candidate for a long-term deal. Here are some links pertaining to the Pirates… 

  • 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.

Pirates Notes: Walker, McCutchen, Alvarez

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.

Extension Candidate: Neil Walker

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?

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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.


Central Notes: Neil Walker, Royals, Oswalt

The latest on several Central division clubs…


Pirates Discussing Extension With Neil Walker

The Pirates are deep into extension talks with Neil Walker, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Talks between the two sides are proceeding well, but a final agreement isn't imminent. The Pirates would like to sign Walker to a long-term deal similar to the one Jose Tabata is nearing.

Walker, 25, projects to be arbitration eligible after the 2012 season as a super two player. He is on track to go to arbitration four times and hit free agency after the 2016 campaign. The former first rounder has a .271/.333/.396 line this year with 10 homers and 21 doubles in 507 plate appearances this season.


Odds & Ends: Chapman, Webb, Guerrero

Let's round up some assorted Sunday links….

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweets that the A's finished second to the Reds in the chase for Aroldis Chapman.
  • A major league source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com that the Red Sox tried hard to sign Chapman earlier in the offseason. They pulled their initial offer after Chapman switched agents and never offered another formal deal.
  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic finds it hard to imagine Brandon Webb returning to the D'Backs after 2010.
  • Jamey Newberg wonders if Vladimir Guerrero will "revive his pinball numbers by playing half his games in his favorite arcade." Vlad has a career 1.175 OPS in Texas, but Jack Moore of FanGraphs suggests this stat is overblown. 
  • Within his Sunday blog entry, ESPN.com's Buster Olney addresses the persistent rumors about a potential reunion for Johnny Damon and the Yankees. Olney says that a few executives around the league "are absolutely convinced" that Damon will end up in the Bronx, but that it would require Damon significantly lowering his asking price and initiating contact with the Yanks. 
  • FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Dodgers avoided arbitration with Jason Repko, signing him to a one-year deal worth $500K. Repko should compete for the team's fourth outfield spot.
  • Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes that injuries have slowed the development of Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, whose name frequently pops up in trade rumors.
  • Pittsburgh's 2004 first-round pick, Neil Walker, could be without a position at Triple-A this year, and is a candidate to be traded, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the Indians hope that at least one of Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan makes the 25-man roster, to add a right-handed bat to their lefty-heavy outfield.