9:10pm: While a long-term deal with Walker remains possible, it doesn’t seem likely that the Mets will pursue extensions with any of their young starters, Carig reports in a full column. None of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz or Matt Harvey has approached the team about a long-term deal, and the Mets haven’t been especially proactive in initiating talks given recent injury issues for most of their young arms.
With the exception of Syndergaard, who reportedly pitched much of 2016 with a small bone spur in his right elbow, each of the other three arms is fewer than nine months removed from notable surgery.
Harvey underwent an operation to remove a rib in order to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome last summer, while deGrom had his ulnar nerve repaired shortly thereafter. Matz went under the knife to remove more significant bone spurs than the one that briefly troubled Syndergaard, and he had shoulder issues late in the 2016 season as well.
10:54am: When he accepted the Mets’ $17.2MM qualifying offer last fall, second baseman Neil Walker resolved his status for the coming season, but both he and the club left open the possibility of reaching a longer-term accommodation. While there’s no agreement as yet, the sides have continued to discuss a new contract in the ensuing months, Walker told reporters including MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (Twitter links).
Citing the “potential” for a long-term accord, the 31-year-old switch hitter seemingly suggested that there will be an ongoing effort over the course of the spring to pursue a deal. As Marc Carig of Newsday notes on Twitter, it appears that the “situation looks favorable” for the sides to come together and once again keep Walker from reaching the open market. Indeed they almost reached a three-year pact when Walker was weighing the qualifying offer, according to a report from Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. And the sides continued talking later in the offseason, Carig adds via Twitter. Both reporters peg the general contract chatter in the three-year, $40MM range.
The veteran second baseman also noted that he’s preparing to try out some other infield positions this spring. He’ll spend at least some time at both third and first base, it seems, which could expand his and the organization’s options in the near term and beyond. With David Wright’s health still a question mark moving forward and Lucas Duda set to hit the open market after the 2017 campaign, Walker could conceivably become a factor in the corner infield at some point.
Beyond those two spots, the Mets are largely unsettled in the middle infield beyond the coming season. The club holds an option over shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and will hope to see continued strides from prospects Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini, though it’s still possible to imagine a need at that position in 2018. Both Walker and Jose Reyes are slated for free agency next fall, and the club dealt away one possible replacement in Dilson Herrera. Though Wilmer Flores remains an option around the infield, he has mostly been utilized in a part-time role, and it’s likely that the organization sees other possibilities such as T.J. Rivera and Matt Reynolds in a similar light.
Given that mix, it’s not surprising to hear that New York has interest in retaining Walker for the future. He has a lengthy track record of steadily above-average offensive production, drew some of the best grades of his career for his fielding in 2016, and says he’s feeling better than he has in quite some time since undergoing season-ending back surgery late last season. Of course, the sides will need to settle on a price and term of years; the single-season QO value is a lofty target for an average payout, though perhaps Walker could command something approaching that level over three or (much less likely) four years. Recent deals that could provide guidance include those reached between Justin Turner and the Dodgers (four years, $64MM), Daniel Murphy and the Nationals (three years, $37.5MM), and Ben Zobrist and the Cubs (four years, $56MM).