The subject of contract extensions continues as the elephant in the locker room of the Pirates, who dearly want to retain control over the team’s engine.
It began with Jose Tabata in August 2011, GM Neal Huntington got his a month later, it continued with Andrew McCutchen last February and last week even Clint Hurdle got in on it.
So all eyes have fallen on Neil Walker, and possibly Pedro Alvarez.
But it may not happen any time soon for either — and not necessarily because of any foot-dragging by the front office. Rather, those players may not be gung-ho about getting locked into long-term contracts now.
These are purely my thoughts, no inside or outside sourcing, but they are worth considering.
Walker would most certainly love security with his hometown team, but is in a unique situation. As the odd four-time arbitration guy thanks to Super Two status, he’s in line for three more substantial raises that would take a major preemptive offer to skirt.
The second baseman recently agreed to a $3.3 million pact for 2013, his first experience with arbitration. There is a predictable blueprint for that proces and, with that starting point, Walker stands to earn a total of about $23 million the next three seasons.
Very few Super Twos have gone through all four years of arbitration. Philadelphia second baseman Jimmy Rollins signed for $3.85 million in his second year of arbitration, then agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal in June 2005. But Rollins was 26 at the time; Walker already turns 28 late this season.
To make it work with Alvarez, the Pirates might have to dramatically over-write and bump up one of the most team-friendly contracts around. This is a guy who is earning $700,000 this season after jacking 30 homers last year — and who would earn the same $700,000, the option still on the books, next season.
If the contract runs out as-is, at the end of it Alvarez would be only two years removed from free agency. At that point, he might prefer going through arbitration those two years, then hitting free agency.
Alvarez knows Alex Rodriguez is either out or well on his way to being out, and that the Yankees have no long-term solutions at third base. The New York native would love playing in the Bronx, and the Yankees would love having his left-handed power swing in the shadow of Yankee Stadium’s right-field porch.
BRADENTON — I might be in big trouble — and not for betting the farm on the Pirates having a winning 2013 season. (Just kidding — I don’t have a farm; I bet my pension on it.)
What better way to start off this Spring Training than by recalling last Spring Training’s personal, recurring nightmare: As some of you may remember, I developed this nasty mental block about referring to Alex Presley as Alex Sanchez — apparently making me the only one unable to get out of his mind the outfielder who hit six homers in 427 games four four different teams between 2001-2005.
Now here’s the rub: I couldn’t unplug that brain drain, even though the Pirates did not actually have anyone in camp named “Sanchez.”
And now there are three of them: Gaby, Jonathan and Tony.
Heaven help me if comes an exhibition with Jonathan throwing to Tony, while Gaby plays first and Alex is in left field. Odds on me leaving Alex out of the Sanchez quad-fecta are longer than of the Pirates having a winning season.
Dang. I should’ve saved the pension for that bet.
Right off the bat … hats off to Kevin Correia. His reaction to his first removal from the rotation — “I’m a starter. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt here. So maybe I should be moved elsewhere.” — brought some fans down on him who perceived it as being selfish.
Some selfish. Here’s hoping he puts in a knockout five, six innings on the Padres tonight in San Diego — the day after making a great relief contribution to yesterday’s 19-inning win in St. Louis. Special seasons are built on such special episodes.
Speaking of San Diego … I ain’t there. Travel plans put in place long ago. This could be a problem. Those following me on Twitter are aware of a weird/disturbing trend I couldn’t help but finally share with Clint Hurdle late Sunday in St. Louis.
The Pirates had just won a 19-inning game in unimaginable fashion. They’d lost their last 19-inning game also in unimaginable fashion. I hadn’t been in Atlanta on July 26, 2011, but I was in St. Louis yesterday. So …
Me: “I’ll see you back in Pittsburgh. I’m skipping San Diego.”
Hurdle: “Okay, travel safe.”
“I need to tell you something I haven’t mentioned before because, well, it’s too weird.”
“What have you got?”
“You know you’ve got a pretty good record overall … but know what you are in games I’ve missed?”
“10-20. Do the math for games I haven’t missed.”
“Is that right?”
“Like I said, weird. When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh … ”
“Yeah, I know the background … ”
“Wait — I was convinced the Bucs couldn’t win if I wasn’t in Forbes Field. But that was just a juvenile superstition. Eerie for that karma to pick up forty years later.”
“Well, you gotta get to San Diego.”
“Nah. Plans are firm.”
“Who do I have to call?”
“Just go to San Diego — and prove me wrong.”
To be continued.
Neal Huntington might need a lot of help getting out of this one. Can Captain Jack give him a hand, if there is such a thing as a brotherhood of Pirates, of the Caribbean and of Pittsburgh?