Bob Smizik: Is Neil Walker getting too expensive?

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Is Pirates second baseman Neil Walker pricing himself out of Pittsburgh?

That’s a legitimate question in view of the one-year deal the Pirates and Walker made today that will pay him $5.75 million. The agreement was one of six the Pirates made to sign all their arbitration-eligible players before any official figures were presented.

As a Super 2, Walker is eligible for four years of arbitration. He made $3.3 million last season in his first year of eligibility. That represents a pay increase of $2.45 million without any kind of extraordinary increase in production. If anything, Walker, a switch-hitter, became more one-dimensional at the plate and sometimes was out of the lineup against left-handed pitching.

If he’s making $5.75 million this season, it stands to reason if he career path continues on at least its same play he will be making between $8 million and $9 million next year and probably in excess of $12 million in 2016.

Based on how they have handled contracts in the past, the Pirates are not likely to be paying a somewhat above average second baseman that kind of money.

The size of the deal itself was a surprise. Walker had been projected to receive $4.8 million by, which has a good track record of predicting these figures.

In other signings (all players are on a regular three-year arbitration track):

• In his first year of arbitration, third baseman Pedro Alvarez signed for $4.25 million. That could easily triple by his third year of arbitration.

• Reliever Mark Melancon, in his first year, signed for $2.5955 million.

• First baseman Gaby Sanchez, in his second year, signed for $2.3 million

• In his first year, outfielder Travis Snider signed for $1.2 million.

• In his first year, reliever Vin Mazzaro signed for $950,000.

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