Walker inclined to return to Padres
Second baseman leaning toward accepting arbitration
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Padres feel they have secured their second baseman with Todd Walker apparently accepting salary arbitration, but they are not closing the door on a return to San Diego by Mark Loretta."It sounds as if Walker's going to accept," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said Wednesday night at the Winter Meetings. "He has until midnight [ET Thursday]. I talked with his agent, and he said [Walker] is going to be inclined to accept. "Of the guys out there, he's probably one of the best offensive players." Walker, 33, appeared in 44 games for the Padres in 2006 after arriving at the trade deadline in a swap with the Cubs, batting .282 with .366 on-base and .419 slugging marks. He had three homers and 13 RBIs in 124 at-bats. Walker, a left-handed hitter who also can play third and first, finished with nine homers total -- his lowest output since 2000 -- and 53 RBIs, batting .278. He is a .289 career hitter with .349 on-base and .419 slugging percentages across 11 seasons. Towers had a phone conversation Wednesday with Loretta, the Padres' highly productive second baseman from 2003 through 2005. A free agent, Loretta flourished for the Red Sox in 2006, starting the All-Star Game for the American League after the Padres dealt him to Boston for Doug Mirabelli at the 2005 Winter Meetings. Loretta could give San Diego a right-handed bat with the ability to play multiple positions -- or compete for the second-base job with Walker, given the opportunity. "I guess there's still a chance," Towers said, asked if the Padres might sign the popular Loretta. "It's probably less likely. Lo has played third, short and first as well as second, and he's a right-handed bat, which would be a plus with all our left-handed hitters. "Talking to him, he's going to exhaust all his options for a regular job." Towers has spent most of his time trying to nail down the free-agent signing of Greg Maddux, expected to be finalized Monday. "Once that's done, we'll start to look at the remaining free agents and prioritize those guys," Towers said.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.