By: Noah Wright
The Pirates have gotten solid production from almost every position. Whether it’s been offensive production or defensive production, the Bucs have a solid player at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field. Every position, except from third base. Entering the year, Colin Moran, and Jung Ho Kang (before he got injured) made up the platoon at third base. Neither have been too great offensively, and both have had their troubles with the glove.
They don’t really have an immediate solution either right now in the minors. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a solid prospect, but he needs more time to develop in AAA. Jose Osuna has been solid in the minors, but he’s coming off of injury. Although Kevin Newman has been solid, he’s only played 1 game at third base in his career, and that came this year. Kevin Kramer is another option, but did not do well in his short time last season in the MLB.
On the market, there are a handful of players that they could trade for. Logan Forsythe is one that comes to mind. However, there is one name that should be familiar with the Pirates, for multiple reasons. One, he was their second baseman from 2010 to 2015 and two, he’s a Pittsburgh native. I’m talking about infielder Neil Walker.
Back when the Pirates and Walker split ways, Walker was a second baseman. He had only played third base a couple of times in the majors, but no other positions. After his trade to the NY Mets, the Mets utilized Walker at other positions besides second base during his second year with the NY ballclub. He saw a few innings at first base, and saw a handful of more innings at 1B post trade to the Brewers. He was even utilized at third base a couple of times during 2017 as well. After 2017, Walker latched on with the Yankees, and played a handful of different positions. The most games he played at in ‘18 was first base, but also saw time at second, third, and even right field.
Now, Walker is on the Marlins, and guaranteed $2 million for 2019. So far, Walker has not seen any other position on the field but first base. But he has been a pretty solid batter. Heading into today, Walker has a .294/.379/.431 line in 124 plate appearances. Walker owns a decent 127 wRC+ and 128 OPS+ as well. Walker will also improve since he will be moving away from Marlins’ park. At home this season, Walker has an OPS of just .667, but away from Miami he has a .987 OPS. Walker will also bring some pop to the line-up. I’m not saying that he’ll get traded to Pittsburgh and blast 30 home runs, but he hasn’t had a season where he’s hit fewer than 11. That came last season, and even that was in just 398 plate appearances. If he were on the Pirates, the switch hitter could bring about 12-15 home runs into the line-up.
Plus, Neil’s positional versatility will bring some positional versatility to the Bucs roster. Adam Frazier has been has so-so offensively to start the season, and Corey Dickerson has been out longer than expected. Walker could provide some depth to both 2B, his primary position for most of his career, and left field, after playing some in the grass with the Yankees last season.
There is absolutely no reason the Pirates couldn’t acquire Walker. It’s not like he is a superstar on a 10 year, team friendly deal. Walker is a rental. A $2 million rental unless the Marlins extend him before trading him (which is highly unlikely). The Pirates would not have to give up a Mitch Keller or Oneil Cruz to acquire him. At most, it might cost a mid-level prospect such as a Tahnaj Thomas, or Gage Hinsz. Then, the Pirates could also throw in a Clay Holmes, Michael Feliz, or Dovydas Neverauskas to the deal. This is a deal that the Pirates should really consider. Not only would fans be happy to see a hometown kid back in Pittsburgh who was a fan favorite for his tenure here, but also provide some solid offense and defense at third base, a position that has been the weakest part of the team so far into 2019.