The Mets intend to make a $17.2MM qualifying offer to impending free agent Neil Walker, reports ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Around this time last month, Rubin reported that Walker would likely receive the QO so long as his recovery from the season-ending back surgery he underwent in September progressed well. It would seem, then, that Walker’s rehab remains on track.
Walker, 31, came to the Mets from the Pirates last winter in a one-for-one swap that sent Jon Niese to Pittsburgh. New York clearly got the better end of the deal, as Walker was one of the team’s best hitters, batting .282/.347/.476 and tying a career-high with 23 home runs. While his defense has been questioned in the past, he drew strong marks from both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 and was a slam-dunk qualifying offer candidate prior to undergoing the aforementioned back surgery.
While some may question the Mets’ wisdom, if Walker’s recovery from the operation is going well, he’s a strong candidate to receive a multi-year deal that will guarantee him considerably more than he’d earn by accepting the QO. A sizable four-year deal seemed likely for Walker before his surgery, and while four years doesn’t feel as likely in the wake of his operation, a three-year pact at a considerable annual value would still be a more lucrative offer than a one-year deal at a higher rate. If Walker does decline the qualifying offer, any team that wishes to sign him will forfeit its top unprotected draft pick (the top 10 overall selections in the draft are protected), and the Mets will receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round.
In the event that Walker departs, the Mets aren’t short on internal options to replace him at second base. Jose Reyes’ league-minimum option will be exercised by the team, and Wilmer Flores has plenty of experience at second base as well. Beyond that, rookie T.J. Rivera emerged from Triple-A Las Vegas and showed well in September this season, giving the Mets a variety of options to vie for playing time in 2017.