The Mets and second baseman Neil Walker have yet to engage “in any substantive discussions” about a multi-year extension that would keep Walker off the free agent market, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports. The next step between the two sides seems to be tomorrow’s deadline (at 4pm CT) for players who have been issued qualifying offers to decide whether to accept or reject the one-year, $17.2MM offer.
Walker is one of ten players to receive QOs this offseason, and seemingly the only one who may yet accept his deal. In late August, Walker underwent season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk, a procedure that will keep him from resuming baseball activities until around the middle of December. Walker’s surgery wasn’t considered to be particularly dangerous nor were his chances at a full recovery in any way limited — the fact that the Mets issued him a qualifying offer at all is a good sign that the club expects him to be healthy. Still, if Walker has any doubts about how his injury status could impact his market, he could accept the QO to remain in New York, pocket a nice one-season payday and then look to re-enter free agency next winter on the heels of another good season and a clean bill of health.
Both Walker and the Mets expressed interest earlier this year in continuing their relationship into 2017 and beyond, though any notion of extension talks apparently went south in the wake of Walker’s back surgery. From the Mets’ perspective, they could’ve approached a Walker extension as they did their deal with Yoenis Cespedes last winter; a multi-year contract with a player opt-out after the first season, so Walker would’ve had the option of exploring free agency again if he was healthy.
It’s hard to know if Walker would’ve been amenable to a deal like that since, injury aside, he is still expected to land a healthy contract. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts Walker for three years and $36MM, so with that kind of market out there for his services, there wasn’t necessarily any urgency for Walker to rush into an extension with his former club. (New York probably also felt there wasn’t a real chance they could re-sign Walker to a team-friendly extension.) While Walker’s injury adds some uncertainty to his situation, it is still quite uncommon for major free agents to reach extensions with their teams so close to hitting the open market.