Within five days of the end of the World Series, the Mets will have to make one of their biggest decisions of the off-season — whether to extend a qualifying offer to Neil Walker. That decision could have severe ramifications for the rest of the winter.
This year’s qualifying offer is worth $17.2 million. Coming off back surgery, it is conceivable that Walker takes the money. At age 31, the best offer Walker could probably expect is a three-year deal, likely at a Daniel Murphy-like $36 million. He can make nearly half of that in one season, prove he is completely healthy, and probably get the same $36 million next off-season. Having Walker back would answer the question of who’s on second (I thought who was on first!). So win-win for everyone.
However, let’s get back to that $17.2 million. That’s a big number, especially for a team which might not have that much spare money to throw around. Giving that money to Neil Walker could preclude the Mets from spending to improve other areas of the team, like catching. And if Walker is not healthy? That is big DL or ineffective money, especially if David Wright and his $20 million end up joining him on those lists. So the risks may be too great.
Would Neil Walker at $17.2 million be that much more of an improvement over Wilmer Flores at an estimated $1.5 million in his first year of arbitration? Walker is a better player than Flores, but is he $16 million better? Could that money be better spent elsewhere? These are questions with which Sandy Alderson is likely struggling.
In the end, I think they will make him the offer; the lure of getting an extra draft choice is too enticing. And Walker will likely turn it down; the lure of the possibility of many more millions is even more enticing. Still though, both decisions can easily go the other way. Such is the fun off the MLB off-season.