During the Winter Meetings last week, the Pirates sent second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets for left-hander Jonathon Niese in a straight one-for-one trade. There was no money or prospects involved.
Rob Biertemfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review caught up with Walker soon after the trade, and while Walker went out of his way to praise the Pirates and the staff, he did seem upset about the way contract extension talks went down.
Walker, 30, is a Pittsburgh native and he will be a free agent next offseason. Last winter the Pirates offered a three-year deal worth $27 million that Walker said was "not realistic." His side made a counter-offer and never received a response. From Biertempfel:
“I just felt there some kind of justice due me,” Walker said. “I don't want to come off as (having) any kind of huge ego here, but to play 12 years in the same organization, grind out six-plus years (in the majors) and go through arbitration three times ... I really didn't think what I was asking for was very unreasonable.”
First things first: baseball is a business and the fact Walker is from Pittsburgh is insignificant. It might make him more popular with fans, but it doesn't require the team to treat him any differently on the business side of things.
That said, if the Pirates did indeed decline to respond to Walker's contract extension counter-offers, then that's not great. The team should have at least offered a courtesy "thanks, but no thanks." It's a business, yeah, but relationships do matter.
The Pirates and Walker went to an arbitration hearing last offseason -- the team won the hearing, so Walker made $8 million in 2015 rather than the $9 million he was seeking -- and arbitration is an ugly process. The team details the player's shortcomings in an effort to give him less money.
Walker is projected to earn upwards of $11 million in 2016 after he goes through arbitration for the final time. His contract next offseason will depend on his 2016 performance more than anything. I assume Walker's camp will pay close attention to Howie Kendrick's contract this winter.