PEORIA, Ariz. -- In a move that wasn't entirely unexpected, the Padres parted ways with veteran infielder Todd Walker on Monday, informing the 33-year-old that they'll request his unconditional release Tuesday. Walker wasn't available for comment Monday, but Padres general manager Kevin Towers was insistent that the move was more a baseball decision and not a financial one -- even though the team saves almost $3 million of Walker's $3.9 million salary by releasing him before Wednesday. "Absolutely," Towers said. "We said all along that when we break for San Diego we want to break with guys who we think will be the best 25 guys to help his ballclub win. ... This wasn't an easy decision. But, to a man, I think we all felt it was the right decision."
Walker, a .289 career hitter in 11 Major League seasons, was hitting just .225 this spring. With the addition of free-agent second baseman Marcus Giles, Walker would have been a backup at second base and first base and a left-handed hitter off the bench. But the Padres determined that with Geoff Blum and Russell Branyan -- two players who, between them, can cover all four infield positions and are both left-handed hitters -- they essentially already had what Walker had to offer. "Did we look at Spring Training results? Absolutely," Towers said. "That played into our evaluation. We felt there were better fits on our club than him." By releasing Walker, the Padres owe him $987,500 in termination pay but avoid being on the hook for the full $3.95 million he was awarded last month in arbitration. With his brother Mark -- a CPA from Newport Beach, Calif. -- representing him, Walker scored a huge arbitration victory as a panel of three arbiters awarded him a $3.95 million salary for the 2007 season. The team had submitted an offer of $2.75 million. The arbitration victory was considered something of an upset of sorts because the Major League Baseball Players Association encouraged Walker to take the team's compromise proposal an hour before the arbitration hearing. "The union said we were underdogs," Walker said in February. "Out of about 100 people in my camp, Mark was the only one telling me we could win -- to the point of being the enemy. I thought he was dead wrong; I'm a peacemaker. He was the sole reason we went to trial. "It was a big, big validation for what he's done and said to me over my life in baseball. I likened it to Christopher Columbus saying the Earth was round when everybody else thought it was flat. Turns out the Earth was round." It's not known if there will be a grievance filed on Walker's behalf by the Players Association regarding his release. The players union could possibly argue that Walker's release was financially motivated.
Pitcher Chris Young, the Padres' player representative, declined to comment specifically on the issue.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.