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.
If it were up to him, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would finish the remainder of his career in Toronto. In fact, he’d be “ticked pink” if the club decided to sign him to a long-term deal. Whether the Blue Jays share that sentiment is still unclear, as Donaldson said Saturday that the team has yet to engage his agent in extension talks.
“I’ve said that I wanted to be here,” he told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. “That’s pretty much all I can say. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, nor would I try to put them in the position to do that. Like I said, I believe the situation will become more fluid when the time is right.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean an extension is out of the question. The Blue Jays reached an unprecedented one-year, $23 million agreement with the three-time All-Star in arbitration, and have been reticent to field trade offers despite continued interest from the Cardinals this winter.
Donaldson, 32, is poised to enter his eighth season in the majors and fourth with the Blue Jays. In 2017, he batted .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 496 plate appearances, ranking sixth among all major league third baseman with 5.0 fWAR. He’s scheduled to enter free agency following the 2018 season.