Washington Nationals Trade Target: Neil Walker


With Ben Zobrist now off the board, could the Nats look to the trade market to find their next second baseman?

Last night, the Washington Nationals main position player target in free agency came off the board when Ben Zobrist signed a four-year deal for $56 million. The Nats do have depth at the middle infield positions at the major and minor league level, but could they still look to explore an upgrade at the position?

One of the teams that could be an option to fill that need for the Nats is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network reported that the Nats along with the New York Mets have shown interest in trading for second baseman Neil Walker. But, William Ladson of MLB.com is reporting the talks aren’t serious yet:

This past season, Walker had a slash line of .269/.328/.427 with 16 home runs, 71 RBI’s, and 32 doubles in 151 games. In terms of where he ranks among second baseman in the National League, he was tied for third in on-base percentage, second in RBI’s (Daniel Murphy led with 73), tied for the lead in home runs (Jedd Gyorko of the Padres), and fifth in WAR (2.4).

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Walker is a switch-hitter that hits better from the right side. He had all 16 of his home runs against left-handed pitching and had a batting average of .276 (.237 against righties). His road batting average of .279 this past season was 21 points higher than his average at PNC Park (.258).

The Pirates drafted Walker with the 11th pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. Since 2011, the 30-year-old has played in 129+ games and has had two seasons in which he has played in over 150 games. His WAR has also been over two in each of the last five years, with his career high in a season being 3.9 in 2013. However, he was -2 in defensive runs saved last year (according to Fangraphs)

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Walker will be entering the final year of his contract in 2016 and will make $8 million, so it wouldn’t cost a hefty price to get Walker to DC in terms of prospects with only one year of team control left. However, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Nats might not be the best match for the Pirates:

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All in all, the Washington Nationals have the depth in the middle infield, but Walker would bring another power bat to the Nation’s Capital and will be an upgrade at the second base position. Plus, it would allow the team to look at trading either Yunel Escobar or Danny Espinosa. With both the Nats and Mets chasing another second baseman, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I don’t see this trade happening for a player who is a free agent after 2016.