Most baseball fans -- or Americans in general -- may not understand how a professional athlete who will make $8 million for the new season instead of the $9 million he seeked "lost" an arbitration hearing. That, however, is what has played out in the case between the Pittsburgh Pirates and second baseman Neil Walker.
MLB.com's Tom Singer reports that the Pirates have won their arbitration hearing with Walker, assigning him a 2015 salary of $8 million. Walker asked for $9 million. Still, he receives a raise of $2.25 million over what he earned in 2014. Walker went to the arbitration hearing for only the first time; his previous two eligibility periods saw him settle with the team before entering the process.
Walker, age 29, has played for only the Pirates in his six-year Major League career that began with 17 games in 2009. He became the full-time second baseman the next year and has made himself a mainstay in the Steel City. He has a career line of .273/.340/.432, 77 HR, 347 RBI, and 14.2 WAR. He has averaged 134 games per year as a full-timer with injuries to his back, right hand, and trunk keeping him from playing more.
In 2014, Walker missed two weeks mid-season because of an emergency appendectomy. His return after the minimum 15 days, though, shows the shape that he and all professional athletes are in. Only the best in the world make it to the highest leagues, and that is why they make the money the do.
Singer reminds us that Walker ranks as the #4 second baseman in the Majors on MLB Network's list -- and #1 in the National League. He ranks that high because of consistant power for a second baseman over the past two years. In 2013-2014, Walker averaged .262 with 20 HR and 64 RBI. He hit a career-high 23 home runs last year.
Walker is still under team control through 2016; he becomes a free agent for the 2017 season barring a contract extension or a very unlikely release before then.