Neil Walker was acquired as a one-year rental this offseason, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to discuss a long-term contract with Walker’s representatives at Excel Sports Management, per Roger Rubin at ESPN.com. “I have not had any conversations with his agent at this point,” said Alderson. “I expect that there will be some conversations before the end of the season. He’s been a terrific player for us on the field. He’s been excellent in the clubhouse.”
The on-field and clubhouse results for Walker have to be encouraging for the Mets, who in retrospect got the better of the trade that swapped Walker for lefty Jon Niese (who has since been reacquired), but the Mets now have extra incentive to explore a long-term arrangement with Walker after dealing presumptive second baseman of the future Dilson Herrera to the Reds in last Monday’s deadline deal to acquire Jay Bruce.
The 30-year-old Walker is hitting .268/.330/.449 with 19 homers (already the second-highest total of any season in his career), playing average to above-average defense at second base depending on your defensive metric of choice. On a thin free agent market, he’s be one of the most appealing bats available, as evidenced by the fact that he’s been hovering around the back end of the top 10 on MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings for much of the season. A four-year deal seems like a reasonable expectation for Walker on the open market, given his strong year-to-year results at the plate, though there’s been no indication of any kind of asking price. It seems unlikely that with free agency now fewer than three months away, Walker would be open to much of a discount, especially considering the fact that the free agent market is especially thin at second base.
The other question facing the Mets is how well Walker will fit into the club’s payroll next season. Yoenis Cespedes seems likely to opt out of the remaining two years on his contract in pursuit of a larger deal, and one can imagine that the Mets will have interest in retaining him. Bartolo Colon and Alejandro De Aza, too, are each coming off the books. However, there are also numerous payroll increases facing the Mets. Bruce’s $13.5MM option figures to be exercised, while Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed are due for substantial raises on their respective salaries of $4.1MM and $5.3MM. Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, is in line for one of the richest paydays ever for a first-time arbitration-eligible player.
While there are certainly obstacles to Walker himself sounds open to the idea. The second baseman spoke to Rubin about the possibility of forgoing free agency and called the notion a “double-edged sword” but also acknowledging that the idea of an extension at the very least intrigues him. “…when you look at the big picture and you look at what’s going on here and you look at how I fit in here and how happy I’ve been … this is a really good fit for me.”