Rob Biertempfel talks to Neil Walker about the brief contract negotiations Walker and the Pirates had before the Bucs shipped him to New York. This article is all over Twitter. Here's the money quote.
"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."
I wasn't a huge fan of the trade of Walker to the Mets. But I'm having a really hard time seeing any sort of injustice here.
Biertempfel reports that, before last season, Walker asked for a long-term deal and the Pirates offered him a three-year, $27 million extension. Based on Walker's arbitration timeline, that deal was certainly light -- basically, it would have guaranteed Walker his final two arbitration years at their current prices and tacked on an extra $9 million for a third year at the end. That $9 million certainly is less than he ought to get in free agency if his 2016 season is even decent.
Walker then asked for a two-year, $19 million deal, which sounds superficially similar, but actually is very different, because it wouldn't have bought out any of Walker's free-agent years. When the Pirates asked for a team option to be included, Walker's camp rejected it and made some sort of counter-offer. The Bucs apparently ignored it, and they and the Pirates went to a hearing.
Arbitration hearings are never nice. Basically, what the team is trying to do in those circumstances is explain why the player shouldn't get the salary he's asking for.
So none of this sounds all that pleasant. But let's keep in mind a few things.
1. The Pirates were under no obligation to extend Walker, and given his age, his injury issues, and questions about his defensive position, I'm not sure he was a very good candidate for an extension.
2. Not all players who want long-term deals actually get them.
3. The Bucs took more players to arbitration before last season than any other team, but other teams take players to arbitration hearings too. It's part of the system.
4. The core of the supposed injustice here is that the Pirates only offered Walker a three-year deal, and at somewhat less than he probably would have gotten on the market. Which really doesn't sound like much of an injustice, just a difference of opinion.
That should tell you most of what you need to know. The world is full of injustices. This isn't one of them. I wish Walker were still in black and gold, and he's free to think what he likes. But I have a hard time seeing the Pirates as villains here.