Neil Walker has been traded from the only team he's ever played for, but it didn't come as a surprise to him, as he knew his days as a Pittsburgh Pirate were numbered.
Walker, who was drafted in the first round of the 2004 amateur draft by the Pirates, was recently traded to the New York Mets in exchange for starter Jon Niese, a move that Walker knew would come after he and Pittsburgh's front office failed to agree on negotiations for a long-term contract.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the two parties' disagreement on the future began in 2010, when Walker reportedly rejected a multiyear deal, which served as a precursor to a handful of failed contract talks leading up to Walker's arbitration year last offseason.
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The Pirates reportedly offered Walker a three-year, $27-million contract prior to his arbitration hearing, but he and his camp believed he deserved more. The two sides never agreed on an extension, and Walker begrudgingly entered arbitration, where he received $8 million for 2015.
"The offer wasn't very realistic," Walker told the Tribune-Review. "And there was no negotiating in between. It was, 'Here it is.' When we countered, there was no response, so we went to the hearing."
"I just felt there some kind of justice due me," he added of the result of his arbitration hearing. "I don't want to come off as [having] any kind of huge ego here, but to play 12 years in the same organization, grind out six-plus years [in the majors] and go through arbitration three times ... I really didn't think what I was asking for was very unreasonable."
Following the hearing, Walker was well aware that the lack of cohesion between him and the Pirates' front office would make it virtually impossible he'd spent the remainder of his career playing for his hometown Pirates.
"That was probably the point when I lost all faith in the organization," Walker said.
In his six-plus seasons with the Pirates, Walker was a consistent force in the team's lineup, hitting .272/.338/.431 and averaging 18 home runs and 81 per 162 games.
After over a decade in the Pirates' organization, the second baseman is saddened to part ways with his longtime teammates, who have become like family to him.
"We've grown up together. We've seen the good, the bad and the ugly with our careers and our personal lives," the 30-year-old said. "You try to disassociate yourself from the situation and say this kind of stuff happens every year. But when you start to think about how you've played hundreds of games with the same shortstop, the same center fielder, the same third baseman ... it hits home pretty hard. There's always a chance for a reunion somewhere down the line, but it certainly stings now."