The Pittsburgh Pirates have been quiet for the first couple days of the annual Winter Meetings. That is until Wednesday rolled around.
Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington made his first major move of the offseason when he shipped second baseman Neil Walker to the New York Mets in exchange for left-handed starting pitcher Jon Niese.
The deal is pending a medical review, but all signs point to it being a one-for-one deal.
Walker, a former first-round pick and local product was expected to earn in excess of $10 million through arbitration this year. The Pirates have tried in the past to reach an extension with Walker, but no deal could be made.
The 30-year old Walker is coming off an average season in which he hit .269/.328/.427 with 16 homers and 71 RBI. There have also been plenty of question marks surrounding his declining range at second base. For the Mets he will fill the void left by Daniel Murphy and was a fallback plan as New York failed to sign Ben Zobrist.
In the 29-year old Niese, the Pirates get a major-league caliber starter with eight years of major league experience, who can jump right into the Bucs thin starting rotation.
Niese owns a career 3.91 ERA and is coming off a 2015 campaign in which he posted a 4.13 ERA in 33 games, 29 of which were starts. Prior to this season Niese was a lot better pitcher, posting a 3.49 ERA in 521 innings during 84 starts from 2012-14.
He is scheduled to make $9 million in 2016. His contract contains a $10 million club option in 2017 and an $11 million club option in 2018.
The Pirates will likely shop for a second baseman. Josh Harrison could likely see a lot of starts at the position in 2016, but it is likely he will have to play third base until Jung-Ho Kang returns from injury. Alan Hanson could be the teams future second baseman, as early as this season, but it is unlikely he opens the season with the big club.
Photo Credit: Associated Press