Less than 24 hours after the Mets lost the Zobrist sweepstakes, Assistant GM John Ricco and the rest of the New York front office acquired second baseman Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Jon Niese.
The money is a wash—both players were set to make essentially the same salary this year—which means the Mets were able to add talent without increasing their payroll. Well done, Mets. Niese, although a little emotionally attached with Mets fans (Niese was the second-longest-tenured player with the Mets next to David Wright), looked to be an expendable piece. Following an impressive postseason, I think it was the right time to trade Niese: while his value was relatively high in a market desperate for starting pitching.
I love this deal for the Mets. Walker, a former 11th overall pick, will fit very nicely into the Mets lineup for a cheap price. He is a similar player offensively to Murphy (who we can now be sure won’t return to Queens), hitting .269 last year with 16 home runs and 71 RBI’s. His most impressive season came in 2014, when he worked to a similar .271 batting average, however with 23 home runs and 76 RBI’s. In the field, Walker is dramatically better, who holds a lifetime .989 fielding percentage at second base compared to Murphy’s .975. Walker’s 2.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is similar to Murphy’s 2.5, however fangraphs.com predicts Walker’s to be considerably higher this upcoming season. Walker’s one downside? He has very little experience at third base. He has played 15 career games at the position as opposed to 802 at second, so it seems obvious that a Juan Uribe-type bench player will be pursued, which would not have been necessary had the Mets signed Zobrist.
Furthermore, this puts young prospect Dilson Herrera‘s future with the organization in question. It was once thought that Herrera was the second baseman of the future for the Mets; but with Walker now set to be the starting second baseman at $8 million in 2016, this again questions the Mets’ future plans for Herrera. Many often cite Herrera as ‘unproven’, however he has only scattered 149 major league at-bats through 2 MLB seasons. In the 2015 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, Herrera held is own, to put it mildly, batting .331 and cracking 11 homers. In 2014, Herrera hit.307 with Single-A Port St. Lucie with 14 stolen bases, and .340 with Double-A Binghamton with 10 homers. A career .304 minor league hitter, I think Herrera has sufficiently proven himself as best as he can, and don’t understand how he’s expected to when he is constantly blocked by Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and now Neil Walker. I think Herrera has some real talent, and I’d rather have him traded for an outfielder than to see it go to waste.
All-in-all, a great ‘now’ move for the Mets. This is a step in the right direction at the very least. At 30, Walker puts a veteran presence in an otherwise young middle infield, and sufficiently fills Murph’s shoes.
Next on the agenda, with Niese gone, is a fifth starter. Yes, the Mets are deep in talks in bringing back Bartolo Colon as a bridge to Zack Wheeler and/or Rafael Montero, per multiple reports. Outfielding and relief help is also on the Mets wish list, and have been linked to outfielder Gerardo Parra and lefty reliever Jerry Blevins—two players who, again, would be a step in the right direction.