Mets Should Sign Neil Walker
Certainly, when you look at any free agent, there are a number of things you can look to pick apart. When looking at former Mets second baseman Neil Walker, you need not look at his recent health history. He needed back surgery in 2016, and last year, he missed a large chunk of time due to a partially torn hamstring.
Even with the injury issues, Walker has been a productive player when on the field. In 111 games last year, Walker hit .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers and 49 RBI. The one caution you would have with him is that he showed 2016 was a blip as he returned to struggling against left-handed pitching.
To that end, Walker would be the perfect fit for the current Mets roster.
Based upon their production there last year, the Mets have three players ill-suited to playing second base everyday with Asdrubal Cabrera (-6 DRS), Wilmer Flores (-1 DRS), and Jose Reyes (-5 DRS). What is interesting about this group is all three of them struggle against right-handed pitching. Heading into Opening Day, Cabrera is the starter, but based upon recent history, we can count for the Mets playing dozens of players at the position.
Given the defensive issues and platoon splits, it would behoove the Mets to add Walker to the mix. He’d be another body who can give them games, and he’s a well suited platoon candidate with any of the aforementioned incumbent second baseman.
Realistically speaking, that will never happen. The Mets are paying Cabrera $8.5 million, and based upon how the Mets operate, they are not likely going to put that on the bench. The organization also has a soft spot for both Flores and Reyes. So no, the Mets are not going to bring a player to play second base over them; not even Walker, who was productive as a Met when he was on the field.
However, the team does not owe the same loyalties to Adrian Gonzalez.
The soon to be 36 year old first baseman is coming off an injury riddled year himself where he hit just .242/.287/.355 with three homers and 30 RBI in 71 games. With him starting off the Spring going 2-15, he’s not exactly inspiring confidence he will bounce back.
With the Mets being a month away from Spring Training, you have to really question if he’s ever going to rediscover who he was three years ago. With him looking more and more like a player who is closer to retirement and Dominic Smith having a Spring which has combined being late and injured, the Mets should at least investigate the free agent market.
If he wants to pull a Todd Zeile, Walker could sign on with the Mets to play first base. If not, Todd Frazier has experience there, which would allow the Mets to put Walker at third base. When Dom is ready, or when injuries inevitably befall the Mets, the team would have some versatility with Walker. He likely could slot in at any infield position but short.
With Walker still on the market and likely available for a discount, this is something the Mets should definitely be considering. Ultimately, it may prove to be a better option that rolling the dice on Gonzalez and the three internal second basemen.
Editor’s Note: Hat tip to Rob Piersall whose tweet inspired this post