Pirates could explore long-term deal for Neil Walker

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The Pirates’ efforts to sign Neil Walker to a long-term contract last summer went nowhere, but Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that they could give it another shot this offseason.

The timing is right for negotiations, as Walker is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter as a Super Two player. The 27-year-old batted .280/.342/.426 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and a .768 OPS in 129 games this past season. Walker’s .770 OPS is eighth-highest among second baseman since 2010 (min. 1,500 plate appearances), so while he’s not a star, he’s been plenty productive for Pittsburgh.

Walker missed some time with a back injury down the stretch and was diagnosed with a herniated disk in September, so the Pirates will surely want to get a read on his progress before they commit long-term.

Angels hire Brad Ausmus as special assistant to the GM

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Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that the Angels have hired former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as a special assistant to GM Billy Eppler.

Ausmus, 48, managed the Tigers for four seasons, accruing a 314-332 (.486) record. The Tigers fired him after the 2017 season and hired former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in his place.

Ausmus will assist with scouting and evaluations of players in the Angels’ system, amateurs, and players in other organizations.