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.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.