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Pirates trade rumors: Mets, Nationals interested in Neil Walker

With Ben Zobrist off the market, Walker could be an option for teams seeking second baseman.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Mets and Nationals expressed interest in free agent infielder Ben Zobrist, and after Zobrist signed with the Cubs on Tuesday night, both teams have been linked to Pirates infielder Neil Walker, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Both Los Angeles clubs could also pursue Zobrist, according to Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune, however he notes the Dodgers might be interested "to a lesser degree."

Since New York and Washington were both hoping to sign Zobrist to play second base, Walker could also be an intriguing second base option. Although Walker is younger and might not have had as much success as Zobrist, he is a switch hitter and could provide some power to both the Mets' and Nationals' lineups.

Walker, 30, has had more success against right-handed pitchers than lefties, however he is still a career .272 hitter. In 2015, he batted .269/.328/.427 to complement 16 home runs and 71 RBIs over 151 games with the Pirates last season.

Zobrist is praised for his versatility, and although Walker could probably be placed in a corner outfield spot and have success, he has not proven to be as consistent as Zobrist. His WAR also decreased significantly from 3.7 in 2014 to 2.3 in 2015.

Walker is also only under team control for one more season, so unless the Mets or Nationals are confident they would be able to re-sign him next off-season, the club that acquires him would be in a position to pursue a starting second baseman again next winter.

Since Walker is set to become a free agent after next season, the Pirates might decide to accept a balanced offer. If he is not moved this off-season, Pittsburgh could also try and traded Walker before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Bill Brink of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes Jon Niese could be one player moving from New York to Pittsburgh in a potential Walker trade. The Pirates are thought to be seeking pitching and the Mets might be open to moving one of their young starters.

If the Angels want to add Walker, C.J. Wislon might have to be involved. In such a situation, though, Los Angeles would likely also have to include cash in the deal.

Despite the fact multiple clubs are interested, the Pirates might not have a desire to move Walker. If they wait, there is a chance they receive more in return.