Orioles interested in Neil Walker

I heard a few weeks ago that the Orioles had some interest in Pirates infielder Neil Walker and were checking whether he might be non-tendered. As it turns out, they took it a step further and engaged in trade talks during the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

I’m told that nothing came of it, with the Pirates apparently seeking more than the Orioles were willing to surrender and Walker figures to be tendered a contract as a Super Two in his final year before reaching free agency.

Early speculation has Walker making around $10 million next season after the former first-round pick earned $8 million in 2015.

duquette-smiles-sidebar.jpgWalker, 30, is defensively challenged, but he’s played second and third base in the majors and some scouts believe he could transition to first, where he appeared in 10 games in the minors. The Orioles also could use him as a switch-hitting designated hitter.

Walker, a catcher in his first three professional seasons, is a career .272/.338/.431 hitter in seven major league seasons since the Pirates made him the 11th overall pick in 2004. He smacked a career-high 23 home runs in 2014, with two 16-home run seasons sandwiched around them.

The Orioles and Pirates could resume talks at the Winter Meetings that begin Dec. 7 in Nashville. It’s assumed that Pittsburgh is seeking young pitching, which the Orioles already surrendered last winter in Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault to acquire outfielder Travis Snider.

Snider was designated for assignment and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates on Aug. 20. He’s currently a free agent.

Walker batted .269/.328/.427 with 32 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs and 71 RBIs in 151 games last season. The Orioles see plenty of him each spring training, with the Pirates’ camp in Bradenton providing the shortest trip from Sarasota.

The Pirates’ relationship with Walker appears to be strained after the sides failed to reach agreement on a multi-year extension and the infielder lost his arbitration hearing last winter. He sought $9 million.

It’s believed that the Pirates would prefer to trade another former first-round pick, Pedro Alvarez, whose issues at third and first base have exhausted the organization’s patience.

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