There hasn’t been “too much” talk between Christian Walker’s representatives and the Diamondbacks about a contract extension, though the first baseman told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he “loves” playing for the team. However, Walker is also interested in the idea of testing free agency next winter after the humble beginnings of his career, as he bounced around to multiple teams and didn’t become a real big league regular until 2019, his third season in Arizona. “To look back, it’s a sense of accomplishment. Like, wow, we’ve created this leverage; it’s a thing now,” Walker said. “We have the ball in our court. It hasn’t always felt that way….I think it’s motivating to keep wanting to head in that direction.”
Walker will be 34 on Opening Day 2025, so hitting the market at something of an advanced age is likely to limit his chances at an overly lengthy contract. He is a first base-only player, yet with the benefit of being baseball’s best defensive first baseman, as the winner of the last two Fielding Bible Awards and Gold Gloves at the position. To go along with his superb glove, Walker has also hit .253/.332/.463 with 115 homers over 2619 plate appearances since the start of the 2019 season, translating to a 112 wRC+. (Over the last two seasons in particular, Walker has 69 homers and a 112 wRC+.)
It will be interesting to see if the D’Backs could work out a way to re-sign Walker, as the team is projected for a club record $143MM payroll heading into 2024, but a decent chunk of money is coming off the books next offseason. This could provide an opening for a reunion between the D’Backs and the underrated first baseman, if an extension isn’t reached before Walker even gets to free agency.
More from around the NL West…
- Keaton Winn’s sore right elbow has “calmed down” after a bout of nerve irritation, the Giants rookie told reporters (including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). Winn didn’t need a cortisone shot and has been cleared to start throwing again, so he believes he’ll have plenty of time to ramp up in time for Opening Day. The 26-year-old right-hander made his MLB debut in 2023, and is one of several young starters the Giants are counting on through at least the early part of the season before Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray are slated to return from the injured list.
- Newly-signed Padres reliever Yuki Matsui is day-to-day with back spasms, manager Mike Shildt told reporters from 97.3 The Fan (X link) and other media outlets. The problem doesn’t appear to be too serious, but Shildt said the team is just taking a precautionary measure this early in camp. After an outstanding career in Japan, Matsui made the jump to the majors this winter, signing with the Padres to an interestingly structured five-year deal that will pay the left-hander $28MM in guaranteed money.
- Top Rockies prospect Adael Amador had an injury-shortened 2023 season and has only played 10 games at the Double-A level, so it might still be a while before we see Amador in the Show. However, his development this season will not only hasten his own potential path to the majors, but if Amador plays well, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post feels it might make the Rox more open to trading Brendan Rodgers to clear room at second base. It wasn’t long ago that Rodgers was also seen as something of a building block in Colorado, though Rodgers played in only 46 games last season due to shoulder surgery and didn’t hit well after returning to action. Since Rodgers is only under team control through the 2025 season, there has been some sense that Amador is already viewed as the long-term replacement, and the Rockies have explored dealing Rodgers in the past. Of course, this all might hinge on how well Rodgers plays in the early part of the 2024 campaign and whether or not he can rebuild his stock either as a trade chip or as part of Colorado’s future plans.