Associate Sports Editor
The Pirates have made a trade that has upset many fans of the 124-year-old franchise. For teams that are coming off of a successful year like the Pirates, the main goal is to retain your core squad of players. The Pirates did the opposite, trading away a player that many consider a key member of the team that reach the playoffs last season.
Yesterday, the team traded away their second baseman, Neil Walker to the New York Mets in exchange for left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese.Walker has been a staple of the Pirates squad since becoming a regular starter in 2010.
Walker was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 2004 ameteur draft. Since then, the switch hitter has averaged a .272 batting average over his seven year professional career. Walker is also responsible for 93 career home-runs, most came in 2014 when he hit a career high 23 in a single season.
Walker, a native of the Pittsburgh area, graduated from Pine-Richland High School. He and his wife, Niki, are both working through the mixed emotions of leaving an area that they have both called home for most of their lives.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, obviously, with the success the Mets have had this past year,” Walker told ESPN’s Adam Rubin. “Obviously there’s mixed emotions being a born and bred Pittsburgher.”
The Pirates welcomed Niese to the team on Facebook publicly for the first time. The fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates were more irate that Walker was with the trade. Fans then voiced their displeasure in the comment section of the announcement.
One Pirates fan said, “I am not a happy Pirate fan tonight. I can’t believe you let Neil Walker go! .Getting rid of the hometown kid is a major blunder with this community!”
Others voiced their concerns stating that Niese did not fill any needed gaps. The Pirates also lost starting pitcher, A.J. Burnett, to retirement after the 2015 season ended, but the Pirates still have Fransisco Liriano and Jeff Locke to sure up the rotation with left-handers. Another Pirates fan concluded that Niese was, “a more expensive Jeff Locke”.
Another possible player that could be traded away from the Pirates this off-season is closer Mark Melancon. His situation looks similar to Walker’s. Melancon needs a new contract and the Pirates seem reluctant to ink-one with the 30-year-old right-hander.
Now the question is who will cover second base next year. Speculation is that second base will be covered by 23-year-old Alen Hanson. The Dominican Republic native batted a .263 average last year in AAA baseball. Whether or not he can deal with pitchers in the big league will be discovered during spring training in a few months.