Neil Walker Extension Shouldn't Be A Priority

For some reason - I think probably because the Pirates' 2012 payroll currently appears to be at rock bottom, and fans aren't sure what to make of that - the subject of a Neil Walker extension has come up once again.

I wrote about a possibility of a Walker extension back in August. It's certainly not the worst use of the Pirates' money and time, but I don't think it should be a particularly pressing issue either. Walker is already 26 and doesn't exactly have amazing upside (although he's good enough and young enough that a spike in performance is certainly still possible), and many young players who get extensions through their arbitration years are better than he is. The Pirates also control his rights for five more years, and given that Walker is a flawed player and a second baseman and is already 26, there's no value in getting him to sign a long-term deal in order to control his rights beyond that time period. (That is, Walker will be 31 by the time he's through with the arbitration process anyway, and there's no reason to sign him to a long-term deal now in order to control his age-31 and age-32 seasons. Even if they're just team options, it's questionable what the Pirates would really be getting out of such a move.)

So there's really no reason to go nuts. The only really good reason to sign Walker to an extension is to take advantage of his local ties, and to hope that his desire to stay in Pittsburgh is worth more to him than money.

Walker is a good player, but not a great one. He's improving as a defensive second baseman, but not so much that his glove has value there. He hits line drives, but doesn't hit that many homers. He doesn't draw enough walks. He's good enough that we should be thrilled to have him around for now, but not so good that the Pirates should be planning on building around him for the next five years. One recent message-board post even proposed signing him for five years and $30 million, which is insane in the membrane, given that the Pirates control his rights at the league minimum next season. If the Bucs were to sign him to an extension for half that, that would be fine. But I wouldn't make it a priority.

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