Pittsburgh Pirates: The future of Neil Walker

Neil Walker is congratulated by manager Clint Hurdle (Photo Courtesy of Al Behrman- AP)

Neil Walker is congratulated by manager Clint Hurdle (Photo Courtesy of Al Behrman- AP)

Neil Walker signed a one-year $5.75 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last week, which is a raise from the $3.3 million salary he made last season.

With that in mind, is Walker’s value becoming too high for the Pirates? Should Pittsburgh try and lock Walker up with a long-term deal?

After the 2014 season the Pirates will have rights to the switch-hitting second baseman for two more seasons. The “Pittsburgh Kid” has stated before that he would like to remain in a Buccos uniform for his entire career, but if he continues to perform he will be making between $8 million and $9 million next year and probably in excess of $12 million in 2016. That is a substantial chunk of change, especially for an organization like Pittsburgh.

While some may think its crazy, the Pirates need to try and lock Walker down before he becomes too expensive.

The biggest challenge for Walker is remaining healthy. He is a key part of the Pirates offense, but he was plagued with injuries over the last two seasons.

Last year Walker’s numbers dropped as he battled numerous injuries, but the “Pittsburgh Kid” is a good candidate to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season.

Walker was struggling mightily prior to going to the disabled list in July, with an average of only .209 in June. He bumped his average up to .245 in July and followed that with a stellar August, where he hit .305 with 10 RBIs.

Walker did have a disappointing post season like many other members of the Pirates. He had only two hits, both which came in the Wild Card Game, in 24 At-Bats.

Walker hit a career-high 16 homers, drove in 53 runs and batted .251 in 133 games last year, which is down from his career .273 average. Most of Walker’s struggles come when he bats from the right side of the plate. While Walker’s struggles have drawn criticism, his career batting average as a right-hander is not much worse than his career average as a lefty. Walker just needs to regain his form from the other side of the plate that he has shown in the past.

The 28-year-old works hard and knows how important winning is to the city of Pittsburgh, a city that has known losing for far too long.

He is solid in the field and he might be the best second baseman since Bill Mazeroski, who is probably the greatest second baseman of all-time. Maz is the leader in home runs by a second baseman, going deep 137 times in 17 years. Walker has 54 homers in four full seasons with the big league team.

Walker has come a long way from his Pine-Richland High School days, and Pittsburgh might be sorry if they let him get away.