Neil Walker Loses Arbitration Case

The Pittsburgh Pirates and second baseman Neil Walker headed to arbitration on Friday and the results of the trial came in on Saturday with the Pirates winning their case. Walker had asked for $9M in arbitration, while the Pirates submitted an $8M offer. MLB Trade Rumors projected Walker to make $8.6M this year.

Walker made $5.75M last year in his second year of arbitration in 2014. He was super-two eligible in 2013, so he will go through a fourth year of arbitration next year unless he signs a long-term deal. He hit .271/.342/.467 and was recently named the fourth best second baseman in baseball, tops among all National Leaguers at the position.

Both Vance Worley and Pedro Alvarez still need to go to hearings.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Does win / loss in arbitration affect free agent contracts?

Obviously Bonds had a bitter taste in his mouth after winning an NL MVP award with the Pirates in 1990 and being forced to go through arbitration in 1991.

Is this sentiment still prevalent among players or was Bonds a unique case? From the article:

“For a welcome change, Bonds was silent. But he had said it all two or three weeks ago when he told the world that if he lost in arbitration, ‘I wouldn`t play for them (the Pirates) if they offered me 100 million dollars.’

Scott Kliesen

If Walker is upset he lost out on $1mm, then I hope he takes out his frustration on Cardinal, Brewer, Cubs and Reds pitchers!


He had nothing to lose and a mil to gain. Why not art

John Lease

Thank goodness, another million dollars in payroll ‘flexibility’. If they win Pedro and Worley, then they can start entering limbo contests.


Only 8 million !? My gosh! How is he supposed to feed his family on a mere 8 large? The travesty! The inhumanity! Just kidding folks, so nobody start throwing bricks,ok. Seriously though, enough of this, let’s play ball already! Somebody wake me up when pitchers and catchers report.


Key season for Walker – he needs to stay in the lineup and up his OPS. THEN the LT contact might make sense. I am still not sold on Hanson – attitude and maturity are worries


All this means is Neil gets a big raise but not as big as he asked for. He will get another big raise next year unless he gets hurt or slumps horribly. Long term, this means nothing. Pirates not wanting to spend huge long term guaranteed money on a 2B who is going into his 30’s and has had a herniated disk. Those do not go away. They do tend to get worse with age. Definitely do not blame Neil for going for as much as he can earn while he can. Do not blame the Pirates for not wanting to spend a ton of guaranteed money on a 30 something 2B with a disk problem in his back. Pirates are doing the right thing and looking to get a younger long term solution to 2B and Neil will get a big FA paycheck from some team desperate for a 2B and deep pockets to take a risk.


If they couldn’t come together on this, what makes anyone think they’ll be able to work out a long term deal ? They weren’t that far apart and not far off projections. Walker wants every last dollar he can get. Nothing wrong with that. The Pirates want to spend as little as possible on him. Nothing wrong with that either. But those 2 things aren’t compatible.


I don’t think the arbitration case will have any impact on a long-term deal. Basically, any kind of long-term deal with Walker will probably come down to 2 things, moreso than money:
1. years (Walker will probably want more than the Pirates)
2. the development of Alen Hanson and Josh Bell. If Hanson and Bell continue to take big strides forward, then there is no need for Walker (I threw Bell in there, because I could see a remote case where the Pirates could sign Walker with the thought of moving him to first base in the post-Alvarez years.)


All that being said, I’m not too terribly worried if Walker prices himself out of Pittsburgh (even if Hanson fails).

There’s a pretty decent crop of 2B who become free agents next year (Daniel Murphy, Asdrubal Cabrera, Howie Kendrick and even everyone’s favorite SS who could become a 2B, Stephen Drew!!).

These guys wouldn’t be a drastic step-down from Walker and could be had for “reasonable” money…if Walker wants too much.


I think if Kang demonstrates enough ability, Harrison would be moved to 2B with Mercer possibly going to 3B. I worry that Mercer’s big frame will become an eventual liability at SS.

dr dng

So much for any “good will.”

Walker now knows his time in Pittsburgh is limited.

(just my opinion)


If any player is looking for “good will”, they should probably retire from the business of baseball. People act like players are going to be surprised or hurt to find out that they are merely entertainment commodities. Giving Walker 9 million dollars today would have no impact (positive or negative) on his willingness to sign with the Pirates if the money/years are right.


Every comment is somebody’s opinion.
The sky is falling……just my opinion.


I agree with dr dng. Bucs are being penny wise and pound foolish if they are really telling the truth about wanting to sign Walker long term. If, however, their comments in the media about signing Walker are a ruse in order to maximize his trade value and curry favor with Pirates fans, this makes perfect sense. Not an honorable way to treat the Pittsburgh kid though.


Everyone seems to be forgetting that the Pirates allowed Walker to reach Super-2 status, something they clearly try to avoid. That decision will make Walker upwards of $10m more than if he were held back.

Seems pretty “honorable” to me…


If it is dishonorable for the Pirates to treat him that way, then why isn’t it dishonorable for “the Pittsburgh kid” to treat his hometown team that way.

Personally, I don’t think that “honor” has anything to do with it, it is simply business, but I don’t understand the asymmetry in expected loyalties.


I don’t have a problem with his opinion…he may be right…. or wrong………. but that is just MY opinion.


I’ve gotta say I expected the Bucs to lose this case. I guess his durability issues swung the arbiter. He’s a very useful guy as the Bucs are currently constructed, but I predict that next season will be his highest annual salary in MLB; I don’t think he will break the bank as a FA in the winter of 2016/17.


One would think Neal could have gotten a little bit more if he does not go to Arbitration, but maybe he wanted the whole 9mil? I don’t think “file and trial” had much to do with it other than the fact the Pirates were saying no more negotiating once the file is recorded, but they had plenty of time to negotiate up to the file. Neal might have been named the 4th best 2nd basemen, but is he in the Pirates eyes? He only got the 2nd base job because the Pirates had to give up on a one legged Japanese player.

Mark Georg

Hard for me to understand how this wasn’t settled for 8.5 once figures were submitted. At least one party was willing to risk a million vs. half a million.

Tony Ventimiglio

From what I have read is that the Pirates stop negotiating once the figures are submitted.

Mark Georg

Thanks Tony, that would explain it.

Bill Harvey

John, where was the “file and trial” phrase started? I have never heard of it before reading it on this site. An arbitration case is not a trial, so the term confuses me a bit.

As for the final decision, if the arbitrator decided that Walker’s maximum value was $8.999 millionhe would have no choice than to award the $8 million dollar price tag. It does no goodto pay anyone a penny more than they are worth.

My opinion, if Walker put up the exact same stats in 155 games he would have received his $9 million. Arbitrators can’t conceivably award people that miss work.


Looking at last year’s salaries for qualified second basemen here:

Total salary paid to 2B (last year) = $133.51 million
Total WAR for 2B (last year) = 57.70

Average cost per WAR for 2B last year = $133.51 / 57.70 = $2.31 million

Walker was a 3.6 WAR last year
3.6 WAR x $2.31 million = $8.32 million

Given that most players reach peak performance at around age 30 and then decline, $8 million is probably a slight discount for Walker. As a free agent, he could get more, but not much more.

The big overpays are the usual suspects – Utley (Phillies), Prado (Yankees), Cano (Mariners), and Hill (Arizona).

The head scratchers – Infante made $5 million last year for a 0.7 WAR though his defense may not be fully accounted for. Lowrie made $5.25 million for a 0.8 WAR.


John: The Pirates do not play games. They analyze and make a fair & generous offer. A $2.25 mil increase on a $5.75 mil contract is equal to about a 40% increase – a very fair offer. Walker was asking for a 57% increase.


I never really analyze these arbitration numbers. To me they are sort of anti-climatic unless the difference is so big it changes the way the team can spend in the off-season. As a fan, you should want to see the team win all three cases, as they had to plan for the worst going into them, but if they win all three, that could change things for the payroll and what they can do this year. MLB Trade Rumors goes through the process pretty well and their estimates are usually very close.


Raise the jolly roger!

Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel


Lee Foo Young

Nice ‘loss’….’only’ $8 mil.


Yeah, so if Walker puts up even just a regular solid year, he’ll be asking for 10 or 11 next year? So does that make an extension like 4/$60? That’s a tough call!


4 years at $60 million would be a tough nut for any team to swallow for someone that has managed 500ABs twice in 5 seasons. Even if you move him to first base to limit the stress on his back, his bat doesn’t play as a $15 million a year first baseman (IMHO).


Of the top 15 worst contracts, 5 are first basemen
#15 – Adrian Gonzalez
#14 – Prince Fielder
#4 – Mark Teixeira
#3 – Ryan Howard
#2 – Albert Pujols

And so it would appear that the market overpays for first basemen.


You got it.

And those don’t even include the Reds still on the hook for more than $200m owed to Joey Votto.

If the Pirates are paying a 1B $15m/yr, he’s gotta be better than Neil Walker or else the money will almost certainly be better used elsewhere. Not really a knock on Neil, mind you. He’d be a fine 1B on a team with money to spare. That team just isn’t the Pirates.

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