Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates are “likely” to non-tender or trade second baseman Neil Walker this offseason. Walker will be entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility after earning $8 million in 2015.
Walker has played in 138 games but has been bothered by lower back issues. He has a .270/.332/.426 triple-slash line which, when adjusted for league and park factors, is a step down from his output the previous three seasons. In 558 plate appearances entering Sunday’s action, Walker has hit 14 home runs, driven in 62 runs, and scored 65 runs.
The Pirates will have a healthy Jung-Ho Kang next season as well as the versatile Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison. From the team’s perspective, it wouldn’t behoove them to spend $8 million on a 30-year-old player at a position at which they do not lack depth.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington is already bracing for blowback from the fans when the club does part ways with Walker. Via Biertempfel:
“I anticipate it will be incredibly negative because he is a hometown guy and because he’s a good player,” Huntington said. “I’ll be accused of being tone deaf. But we’re not going to shy away from controversial decisions that we believe are the right ones for the organization. … That’s the nature of the beast in this industry. It’s a bit more challenging when you lose that type of player who has hometown ties.”