Report: Pittsburgh Pirates interested in an ex-player
By Marty Leap
According to Jon Morosi, the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in a potential reunion with a former player.
The Major League Baseball offseason is upon us. That means it is time for free agency and all of the rumors that go along with it. Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the rumor mill.
According to Jon Morosi, the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in free agent – and ex-second baseman – Neil Walker.
As Morosi states, the status of Jung Ho Kang for 2018 remains a total and complete unknown. Due to this, the Bucs are searching for infield options. It appears one of the free agent options the Pirates are interested in is Neil Walker.
As everyone knows, Neil Walker is a Pittsburgh native and was the Pirates’ first-round draft choice in 2004. He went on to play for the Pirates for six seasons before being traded to the New York Mets for Jon Niese following the 2015 campaign.
During his time in Pittsburgh Walker owned a .338 on-base percentage, .336 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 114. However, he was always plagued by injuries and poor defense. He owned a defensive runs saved (DRS) of -11 at second base during his time in Pittsburgh while averaging a -6.7 UZR/150 per season during his time as a Pirate.
Neil Walker was always terrible in the postseason during his time in Pittsburgh. In eight postseason games (33 plate appearances) he collected just three hits, only one extra base hit, he walked just twice, and the inability of he and Starling Marte to set the table at the top of the lineup is a big reason why the Pirates were defeated in the 2013 NLDS.
Adding Neil Walker could help clarify the infield situation for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs could make the team’s everyday second baseman and slide Josh Harrison to third base. However, this would not be a smart move due to Walker’s defensive issues at second base.
Walker could also play third base for the Pirates next season. The Bucs currently have David Freese at third base, but as was proven in 2017 Freese’s offense is no longer potent enough to play on an everyday basis. Walker, however, is coming off a much better season than Freese as Walker owned a .346 wOBA and a 114 wRC+ in 2017.
Due to his .309 wOBA and 91 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in his career Walker may be best used in a platoon situation. This is something the Pirates could do by platooning Walker and David Freese in some scenario. The Bucs could just straight platoon the two players at third base, or they could start Freese at third base and Josh Harrison at second base against left-handed pitching, while Walker plays second base and Harrison slides to third base against right-handed pitching.
In theory, the Pirates and Walker may seem like a match made in heaven. Walker is a free agent, he is a Pittsburgh native, an ex-Pirate, and the Bucs need infield help. However, it may not be that simple.
There was a lot of buzz when Walker was traded that the relationship between he and the Pirate front office and gone sour over the failure to work out a contract extension. It is possible those sour feelings still exist in the Walker camp. Furthermore, Walker has spent time on the disabled list in four of the past five seasons. As always with Walker, injuries are a concern as well.
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It appears that Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates are at least interested in a reunion with Neil Walker this offseason. This could be a situation worth keeping an eye on until Walker comes off the board in free agency.