Inbox: Would Bucs move Walker to 1B?

Reporter Berry answers Pirates fans' questions

Inbox: Would Bucs move Walker to 1B?

Why not move Neil Walker to first? With Jung Ho Kang at third and Josh Harrison at second, I am sure they can find other backup infielders for depth.
-- Kevin G., Hamburg, N.Y.

At least a dozen people sent in some version of this question, so it's worth exploring. Pirates fans would much rather see Walker, the Pittsburgh Kid, try to play first base than be traded elsewhere this offseason.

Moving Walker would allow the Pirates to part ways with Pedro Alvarez, and they could use Michael Morse as a bench bat or occasional platoon partner. Makes sense, right? Maybe not.

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"It's more that we're talking about a young man that's one year away from free agency. He's a very dependable, reliable defender at second base. It would be a challenge," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "It would be an awful lot to ask of a young man to move positions one year away from free agency. It's not something we've completely ruled out, but we're not sure it's completely fair to Neil. We're not sure it's the best thing for him or for us."

Walker could hit the open market next winter as a potentially hot commodity -- a switch-hitter capable of playing second base every day. His bat, above average for a second baseman, may not look as appealing in the hands of a first baseman. Besides, what if Walker struggled during the transition to first base, like Alvarez did last season?

It's a nice thought, and it seems like a good way for the Pirates to get their best players on the field. But it might not be the best move for the team -- or for Walker's future.

With J.A. Happ off the market, which pitchers can you see the Pirates targeting?
-- @NHXSmith720

Happ seemed like a top target, but he's off to Toronto after signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays over the weekend. It's a great deal for Happ, who rode an incredible 10-start stretch for the Pirates all the way to $36 million. But now, Pittsburgh must look elsewhere to fill out its rotation.

Hot Stove Tracker

Perhaps the Pirates will turn instead to the trade market, looking for a younger starter with a few years of club control. But if they are looking at free agents, it might make more sense to target the next Happ -- or, if you will, the next Edinson Volquez or Francisco Liriano.

In other words: Buy low, and let pitching coach Ray Searage and the coaching staff go to work.

The Pirates' reputation for turning around careers could be more attractive than money to some pitchers. ESPN.com recently reported that right-hander Trevor Cahill is considering Pittsburgh, among other clubs, as he looks to rebuild his value.

I don't understand how the Pirates can keep the inconsistent Jeff Locke and half-consistent Charlie Morton in the rotation, with due respect.
-- @rtruskeyjr

Morton has a guaranteed contract, so he'll be back. Locke is projected to make $3.5 million in arbitration. He took the ball 30 times last season and he's typically been a solid first-half pitcher.

Morton goes six strong

Fourth and fifth starters just have to give the team a chance to win on a consistent basis, and Locke and Morton have done that at various times. Plus, the Pirates lack Major League-ready starting depth, so there's little reason to move either to the bullpen right now and even less sense in non-tendering or releasing them.

No. 1 prospect Tyler Glasnow could be ready to step into the rotation by midseason, and Jameson Taillon might not be too far behind. Still, there would be some value in bringing on a true reclamation project -- perhaps the recently acquired Allen Webster? -- and Triple-A starters with Major League experience if Morton and Locke continue to struggle.

If they can acquire two starters at a reasonable cost this offseason, why not? But spending on two bona fide big league starters, especially in a market where Happ got three years and $36 million, doesn't seem like a good long-term move.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.