Mets and Neil Walker Remain Interested in Long-Term Extension

Though he accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer this offseason, second baseman Neil Walker remains open to the possibility of a long-term deal with the club.

Earlier this offseason, second baseman Neil Walker agreed to return to the New York Mets on a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer. However, both sides are apparently interested in continuing the partnership even further. According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Walker believes there is a chance for an agreement on a long-term extension.

Newsday’s Marc Carig adds that the situation appears “favorable” because Walker and the Mets already did much of the groundwork on an extended deal earlier in the offseason, before the infielder ultimately accepted the QO. Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports that “the sides came close a couple times to a three-year deal” until Walker took the one-year pact for just north of $17 million.

He was reportedly aiming for a multi-year deal in the range of $40 million; it remains to be seen whether Walker and his team will stick to that figure in any future negotiations.

Walker, 31, was traded from the Pirates to the Mets in December of 2015 in exchange for pitcher Jon Niese. It’s safe to say New York received the better end of that deal. Walker got off to a fast start in the 2016 season, hitting nine home runs in April to tie a Mets franchise record. Though injuries limited him to 113 games, he slashed a robust .282/.347/.476 with 23 homers and 55 RBI.

Walker’s solid offensive production, especially considering his position, is nothing new. In just over six seasons with Pittsburgh, he sported a .272/.338/.431 slash with 93 home runs and 418 RBI. Since 2010, his 116 wRC+ ranks seventh among all major league second basemen, only trailing the likes of Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve and Dustin Pedroia. He hasn’t rated as the best defender, owning a career -11 DRS (defensive runs saved) and -3.9 UZR/150, though he did post an 11.1 UZR/150 at second base last year.

However, Walker is interested in learning other positions to give the Mets some additional flexibility. DiComo says that Walker also brought first and third baseman’s gloves to spring training this week. Given the uncertainty surrounding veteran David Wright at the hot corner, that potential versatility could prove a valuable asset for the Mets. It’s unknown how first baseman Lucas Duda will fare returning from his back injury as well. Asdrubal Cabrera figures to hold down the fort at shortstop, with Jose Reyes also in the infield mix.

The Mets are hoping a healthy rotation will lead them back to the World Series in 2017, but they are also counting on a productive lineup to help make such a run. Another strong season from Neil Walker would go a long way toward ensuring that.

The traditionally frugal club may be looking beyond the immediate future, too. They have already locked star slugger Yoenis Cespedes into a four-year, $110 million deal. While Walker obviously wouldn’t cost nearly that much, the Mets could once again decide to keep an important part of their lineup intact for the next few years.

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