Mets acquire Neil Walker from the Pirates
After losing out in the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes on Tuesday night, the Mets acted swiftly to fill their need on the middle infield, agreeing to acquire 2B Neil Walker from the Pirates on Wednesday.
The Mets will be sending LHP Jon Niese to the Pirates in exchange for Walker.
The deal is pending physicals.
This deal makes a lot of sense for both clubs.
First off, the money is about even, as Niese will earn $9 million in 2016 (and has two club options after that) and Walker is projected to earn between $9-11 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility. The Pirates need a starting pitcher, the Mets need a second baseman, and this allows the Mets to give Dilson Herrera another year of seasoning – which some in the organization believe he needs – or go back to the markets next winter for second base help.
The Mets can now search for a less expensive swing-man solution, such as Bartolo Colon, and allocate those savings to their needs in the outfield and bullpen.
Walker, 30, is under team control until 2017, as he’s entering his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility this winter. super-two player in 2014, which gave him four years of arbitration. He earned $8 million in 2015, and he could earn between $9-11 million in 2016 through arbitration.
Walker, a switch-hitter, would probably be considered a moderate downgrade to Murphy offensively, only because he strikes out more. But he’s still an above average offensive player who is a switch hitter with good power from the left side.
He struggles defensively, as he’s consistently a below average second baseman year after year. He doesn’t commit a lot of errors, but he lacks in both range and foot speed, much like Wilmer Flores does at both second base and shortstop.
But he was probably the best option available to the Mets after Zobrist, and the cost in trade was hardly prohibitive and again, may open up some other doors for them through the rest of the winter.
Walker could be used in a platoon with Herrera if the Mets want to give their young second baseman a shot in the big leagues in 2016. He posted a .793 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2015, whereas his .575 OPS against left-handers – and from the right side of the plate – was mostly ineffective.
In other words, the Mets may be able to piece together the position and create quality left-handed/right-handed matchups with Walker in the fold.
All-in-all, this isn’t a bad route for the Mets to take by any means. And they’ve filled their need at second base with only a minimal net increase to their payroll.
As for Niese, he showed a lot in 2015. It wasn’t a particularly good year for him, but he showed he can be versatile in and out of the bullpen, which could help his future value, especially if his option is not exercised in 2016. He also moves much closer to his Ohio home by going to the Pirates, and will have an opportunity to start all year.
It’s a win-win for Niese, who was headed for the bullpen in July when Zack Wheeler returns in what was likely going to be his final year as a Met anyway.
He was a solider for the Mets through a lot of lean times, and was a really serviceable mid-rotation starter for them throughout his tenure with the Mets. He learned and grew with the Mets every year, and it’s really nice he was able to positively contribute for the Mets in the postseason. He did what he was asked to do for a lot of years with the Mets, and that is all anyone can ask from a player.
This also ends Daniel Murphy’s tenure with the Mets, which is beneficial in the sense that they will net a draft pick when he signs with his new team, giving them two picks before the second round of the 2016 amateur draft.
That’s significant, considering they gave up their first-round pick in 2015 for signing Michael Cuddyer, they traded so much talent away to acquire both Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard last summer, and could thin out even more in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday.