Could Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles match up in a Neil Walker trade?


The Pittsburgh Pirates may be in line to make some major roster changes this offseason. We know that the Pirates are officially fielding offers for Mark Melancon, and we also know that Pedro Alvarez isn’t ideally who the team wants as their starting first baseman next season. Next on the block: Neil Walker. We know that long-term extension talks between Walker and the Pirates are all but over at this point, and it seems that Walker is now officially on the trade block. Eduardo Encina, Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Sun, sent out this string of tweets Tuesday evening:

To other teams with the need for a second baseman, Walker is a clear trade option. He’s heading into his final year of arbitration, he’s scheduled to make close to $10 million next season playing for a small market team, and he has a track record of success in the majors. For the Pirates, Walker is also a clear trade option. Tensions between Walker’s camp and the Pirates are growing every day he doesn’t have a long-term extension in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates have Alen Hanson or Josh Harrison as options to take over at second base in the short or long-term. For the Orioles, Jonathan Schoop is the team’s second baseman for the foreseeable future, but Encina notes that Baltimore could see him as a fit at first base with Chris Davis all but moving on and Steve Pearce also exploring free agency. And in the American League, he could also be used as a designated hitter. We’ve heard speculation over the years that Walker could be a fit at first as his defense naturally declined with age, so the Orioles trying him out there isn’t surprising.

Could the Pirates and Orioles realistically match up in a trade involving Neil Walker? I don’t see why not. The Orioles and Pirates matched up in a trade involving Travis Snider last offseason, the Orioles have the ability to find a place for Walker on their team, and the Pirates have a desire to shed some salary and to possibly move on from Walker. In return, the Pirates would likely target starting pitching, bullpen help, or bench options. Unfortunately, the Orioles don’t have much in the way of starting pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez is due over $13 million each of the next two seasons and has underwhelmed during his time with Baltimore, and both Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are coming off of down years in which they held ERAs close to five, even though both have the potential to bounce back to their pre-2015 form. It’s also hard to envision the Orioles giving up Kevin Gausman, who’s young and figures to be a part of the Orioles’ starting rotation moving forward. Encina notes that the Pirates could target young position players as well, but unless than Pirates get creative with their infield configuration or include Walker in a bigger trade involving more players, they may not have starting room on the infield in 2016.

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If the Pirates want to shoot high, they could target Dylan Bundy, who was once a big-time prospect but Tommy John surgery, among other injury issues, have held him back (similar to Jameson Taillon) or Zach Britton, a dynamic lefty out of the Orioles’ bullpen who could help replace Melancon at the back-end of the Pirates’ rotation should he be moved. Brad Brach and Brian Matusz (the latter of whom has drawn interest from the Pirates in the past) are both good relief options who could be a part of a package for Walker. Maybe the Pirates could dangle Pedro Alvarez as a DH for the Orioles, in a role that many have thought he could be a good fit.

It’s clear that the Pirates will move Walker for the right return. It’s important, however, that the Pirates don’t move Walker just for the sake of moving him and shedding salary. The power and run production he brings to the table are not easily replaced, and you can’t assume someone like Alen Hanson can step right into a major league role and produce. A plan has to be in place to replace Walker if he should be moved, especially if the team also has plans of moving Pedro Alvarez. It will be intriguing to follow the moves by the Pittsburgh Pirates during the upcoming Winter Meetings. If I’m a betting man, Neal Huntington gets something done in that time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Walker is moved.

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